Beans, corn, and squash are considered the three sisters of Native American cuisine, a reference to their planting method. But what’s notable about Indigenous recipes isn’t so much what we cook or how we cook it, but our relationship with it. These spiritual connections have always been honored and reflected in ceremonies and dances, one of which is the Bean Dance, vital to the coming-of-age ceremony for Hopi children. The dance involves a hope for rain and a promise of sustenance and productivity—though the details are kept close, sacred to the community. Recipes like the one below are more than a rustic taste of Native America; they’re an aspect of spirituality, culture, and community. Keep that in mind as you prepare this comforting stew, best served with grilled or roasted meats, or spooned over wild rice for a delicious vegetarian dinner. I prefer the combination of kidney, cannellini, and black beans, but substitute what you have or what you like: pinto, Great Northern, or cranberry. If you like a little heat, add roasted chilies. Their smoky spice pairs beautifully with the sautéed onions and garlic.
Three Sisters Bean Stew
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 small onion, peeled and minced
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 2 sprig fresh thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 carrot, peeled and finely diced
- 1/2 stalk celery, finely diced
- Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 cup (177 g) cooked kidney beans
- 1 cup (155 g) cooked cannellini beans
- 1 cup (185 g) cooked black beans
- 1/2 cup (90 g) diced tomatoes
- 2 1/2 cups (600 ml) chicken or vegetable stock
- In a large, heavy-bottom pot over medium heat, add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, carrot, and celery. Season with a pinch each of salt and pepper and allow the ingredients to cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the cooked beans, diced tomatoes, and stock. Bring to a light boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for several minutes; the stock will thicken. Adjust the seasoning if necessary, remove the thyme sprigs and bay leaf, and serve hot. This stew can be refrigerated for three to four days or frozen for four to six months.