A blog of hopeful, inspired living: cooking & baking & growing & harvesting & preserving & gleaning & eating & sharing food... while bringing positive change to my kitchen and our food system.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Three Sisters Chowder

Wow -- time has flown since I last posted. Well, I have a good excuse: last weekend Bill and I went on a lovely camping trip in the redwoods with our trusty Westie, complete with beautiful weather, starry skies, delicious food, a most-beautiful all-day waterfall hike and... a wedding proposal! The only answer was 'YES!!!', of course. So we have been reveling in the engagement bliss while also succumbing occasionally to full-on wedding planning (well, half of us have succumbed, that is).

We love the redwoods -- you may remember this excursion, complete with homemade marshmallows. Big Basin State Park holds a special place in our hearts, though. It is the place we went on our first date, with a hike on empty trails in the rain, hours of non-stop chattering about everything from fish to Phish, lots of banana slug and California newt sightings, and a trip to a local brewery to warm up afterward. The perfect first date -- and then subsequent dates -- and now engagement! We even had our trail map and notes from our first visit, thanks to Bill's awesome organizational skills (and keen insight into the importance of small things).

As I've gotten totally wrapped up in thinking about all things wedding, I am working on pulling myself back to the present and to the day-to-day things that need to get done (you know: work, the laundry, taking out the trash), and back to the simple (and profound) enjoyment of being engaged to the man I am totally, deeply in love with.

I remembered a book that I used a few years (five?!) ago when I was teaching a class on Buddhism: After the Ecstasy, the Laundry, by Jack Kornfield. It's a great book that includes bits of wisdom from spiritual leaders and other people of many faiths, with reminders about how to experience 'ecstasy' or spiritual fulfillment in all aspects of our lives even the small, mundane or tedious ones. How to be totally ecstatic and not let the dirty laundry and scrubbing the toilet harsh your experience, but rather be an extension of that experience. I like the title, I like the book, and I like thinking about this message as I start getting back into the everyday household tasks. The original title of this post was going to be 'Ecstasy Soup', but that sounded too drug-induced. But I was thinking more along the lines of Jack Kornfield and his Buddhist teachings... 

This hearty soup is instead called Three Sisters Chowder, because it contains all the ingredients from the Native American three sisters' companion planting practice:  beans, squash and corn. It is thick in consistency and richer in flavor, like a chowder, even with skim milk. The sage has a lovely, smoky and deep flavor. The corn adds sweetness. The red pepper heats it up. Mmm -- a great combo. Call it what you like, it is delicious. Bill has declared it his favorite soup and insisted on doing the dinner dishes so I could write down the recipe as soon as possible so we can repeat it often.

fresh sage
Red kuri squash

Three Sisters Chowder
4 - 6 servings

3 T butter
1 large shallot, chopped fine
2 T fresh sage (or less if using dried sage)
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more or less as you prefer
1 small butternut, red kuri, kabocha, or other winter squash, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 - 4 small Yukon gold potatoes, no need to peel, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 15-ounce can white beans (cannellini or other), drained and rinsed
1 heaping cup corn -- fresh or frozen (no need to defrost if frozen)
16 ounces vegetable or chicken broth
1 1/2 - 2 1/2 cups milk (skim, full or even part cream, if you want -- I used skim and it was delicious)
salt and pepper to taste

1. Melt butter in a large soup pot, add shallots. Cook shallots until soft, 4 or 5 minutes on medium-low heat.
2. Add potatoes, stirring to coat with the butter, cook 3 or 4 minutes, then add the squash. Cook for about 5 more minutes
3. Add sage, red pepper flakes and salt, stir to coat. Cook for another minute or 2.
3. Add beans and corn, stirring to coat
3. Add broth. Increase the heat to boiling, reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 15 minutes. 
4. Check the potatoes and squash for tenderness. If they are soft and can easily be cut with the side of a fork, add the milk. If not, simmer a few minutes longer before adding the milk.
5. After you add the milk, let the mixture come back to a simmer, another 5 or so minutes.
6. Using an immersion blender, or carefully blending in batches (careful to let the steam release from the top of the blender so you don't get burned by an explosion of hot soup!), blend to desired consistency (some chunks make it a nice 'chowder' texture). Serve with fresh grated black pepper.

Enjoy with a nice rustic loaf of bread... and in awesome company!  


  1. Mmmmm. This is looks like a wonderful way to warm up a cool fall evening. I might try it with butternut squash, since I have one sitting here at home. Congratulations to you and Bill!!!! Great photos too. :)

  2. Best post ever!

  3. This makes me so happy! I love you, Eron, and reading this warmed my heart and soul in the kind of way that you know how to. I might try this recipe if I find the energy to do more with it than just slice it in half and throw it in the over:) Much love to you and Bill!

  4. Super congratulations to you both! May you have years and years of delicious cooking adventures and peaceful Westie trips together!

  5. going to try this recipe this week!

    1. Yay! Let me know how you like it! :)