Last weekend, I finally got a chance to read my Gravy: Special Louisiana Edition, the Spring 2011 Issue of the Southern Foodways Alliance’s “Food Letter” to its members. (Better late than never!)
On page 6 of the downloadable PDF, you will find a story about – and a recipe by – Susan Spicer of New Orleans. Titled “Eggplant, Oyster, and Tasso Gratin: A New Sort of Trinity,” the introduction to the recipe refers to the “trinity of Louisiana cookery: onions, celery and bell pepper.” Susan, a “self-described eggplant freak,” created her own trinity with eggplant, oysters and Tasso – recipe included. (You will also find this recipe and text on pages 35-36 of the Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook.)
While I was reading about Susan and her trinity, I kept thinking of the Indian legend of The Three Sisters. If you aren’t familiar with this story, it is really just a beautiful explanation of companion planting told in story form. The tale explains that corn is planted on a mound and provides the stalk for the beans to climb. In turn, the bean vines embrace the corn stalk and provide stability. The squash planted on the mound shades it from direct sunlight and prevents moisture from evaporating. Native Americans encourage eating the three “sisters” together, since together they offer the elements to sustain life: the corn delivers carbohydrates, the beans provide protein, and the squash contains essential vitamins.
With this story on my mind, I visited the farmer’s market on Saturday and felt happily overwhelmed with the wide variety of beans, zucchini and okra. I started thinking of new ways to combine these foods. And while thinking on threes, the bowl of beans pictured above inspired me to come up with my own trinity that matches my new “clean living” philosophy (without eggplant and corn) but still provides nourishment for the soul.
Good Things Come In Threes
3 cups fresh beans (any sort will do)
3 cups fresh okra
3 medium-sized zucchini
1 cup cooked wild rice
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 cup cooked amaranth
1 bunch fresh onion (as much or as little as you like)
1 clove garlic
Cover beans with water and cook with salt, pepper, and spices just until soft. (I like to use Organic Gourmet Vegetable Bouillon Cubes to flavor my beans – which is cheating a little as they contain a tiny bit of yeast extract and corn starch. C’est la vie.)
Remove the heads from okra and slice down the middle with one cut resulting in two long pieces. Wash onions and remove outer skin. Place cut okra with onions in cast iron skillet, add salt and pepper and bake in a 425° oven until okra is brown and crispy and onion is soft. The onion greens will become slightly burnt during baking, but make a wonderful aroma that helps flavor the okra.
While beans are cooking and okra baking, slice zucchini into 1/8” strips long-ways (as my grandmother would say) and grill in a hot pan on the stove.
Mash your softened onion in a bowl, slice grilled zucchini into 1/2″ strips cross-ways (as my grandmother would also say), and combine together in a large bowl. Strain cooked beans from their water (you may want to save this for tomorrow’s soup) and add to onion and zucchini mixture.
Chop crispy okra into small pieces.
Ladle zucchini, onion, bean mixture over a trinity of quinoa, wild rice and amaranth. I used leftover rice and amaranth from earlier meals and tossed them together with quinoa, a splash of flax oil, lemon juice, finely grated fresh garlic, a tiny bit of sea salt, pepper and fresh oregano.
Sprinkle chopped okra over the top and serve.
(And will also be delicious with Susan Spicer’s Tasso when my detox is complete!)
P.S: If you are not a Southern Foodways Alliance member, you might consider joining, if for no other reason than to have Gravy – in all its printed glory – delivered to your door on a regular basis.