Here's a great main dish option for Thanksgiving dinner. It's somewhat like chili, though more about the squash than beans. In Native American mythology, squash, corn, and beans are known as of the "three sisters" — the very crops that the harvest festival of Thanksgiving is meant to celebrate! If you bake your pumpkin or squash a day ahead, the stew will come together in a snap. And if you're not accustomed to dealing with winter squash, or don't have the time, see the shortcut following the recipe. Photos by Hannah Kaminsky.
“Three Sisters” Stew
- 1 small sugar pumpkin or 1 large butternut squash about 2 pounds, or see shortcut following recipe
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 2 to 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 medium green or red bell pepper cut into short narrow strips
- 14- to 16- ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes with liquid
- 2 to 3 cups cooked or canned drained and rinsed pink or pinto beans
- 2 cups corn kernels from 2 large or 3 medium ears, or frozen
- 1 cup homemade or canned vegetable stock or water
- 1 or 2 small fresh hot chiles seeded and minced, or one 4-ounce can chopped mild green chilies
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons chili powder or mesquite seasoning or more, to taste
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup minced fresh cilantro or parsley
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Remove stem from the pumpkin or squash and cut in half lengthwise. Cover with aluminum foil and place the halves, cut side up, in a foil-lined shallow baking pan. If your knives aren't sharp enough, just wrap the pumpkin or squash in foil and bake it whole. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until you can pierce through with a knife, with a little resistance.
- When cool enough to handle, scrape out the seeds and fibers (clean the seeds for roasting, if you'd like). Slice and peel, then cut into large dice.
- Heat the oil in a soup pot. Add the onion and sauté over medium-low heat until translucent. Add the garlic and continue to sauté until the onion is golden.
- Add the pumpkin or squash and all the remaining ingredients except the last 2, and bring to a simmer. Simmer gently, covered, until all the vegetables are tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- If time allows, let the stew stand for 1 to 2 hours before serving, then heat through as needed. Just before serving, stir in the cilantro. The stew should be thick and very moist but not soupy; add additional stock or water if needed. Adjust seasonings to your liking. Serve in bowls.
Shortcut: If you're short on time or simply can't deal with chopping and peeling pumpkin or squash, you can get peeled, cut raw butternut squash. At this time of year, it's easy to find in the fresh produce department of supermarkets or natural foods stores.