Scott Iserhoff’s Takwakin Three Sisters Salad is a crowd-pleaser for diners lucky enough to be treated to a meal catered by Pei Pei Chei Ow, his Edmonton, Alberta-based operation. 

“The distinct flavours and textures of the ingredients make it work,” said the Omushkegowin (Swampy Cree) chef. “I use a honey lemon vinaigrette that brings the dish together.” And those ingredients are critical. The three sisters—corn, beans and squash—are common among many Indigenous cultures. Planted together, the beans use the corn stalks to climb and grow while the squash provides ground cover to retain moisture. 

“These three foods not only work together as they grow, but also when being consumed,” Iserhoff said. “Squashes contain a multitude of vitamins, iron, fibre and antioxidants, while beans contain protein, fats and immune-boosting nutrients. Corn provides potassium, healthy sugars, carbs and other elements.”

The highlights of Iserhoff’s catering menu include bannock bites with duck liver with black currants, crispy sage and black currant balsamic vinegar, ribs marinated in three berries barbecue sauce and Kukom’s blueberry cheesecake. His use of ingredients is governed by the calendar. “I usually enjoy working with what is available seasonally in order to be more sustainable. In the fall, it would be the Three Sisters and root vegetables.”

Takwakin Three Sisters Salad

(Takwakin means autumn in Omushkegowin)

Salad:

1 medium butternut squash (about 4 cups)

2 Tbsp canola oil

2 cups white kidney beans (soaked overnight or canned beans)

2 cups corn, fresh, frozen or canned

1/2 cup chopped parsley

Salt to taste

Vinaigrette:

1 cup canola oil (or substitute with grapeseed or olive oil)

1/2 cup lemon juice

2 Tbsp honey

Place soaked beans in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer for 45 minutes. Do not salt the water!

Once the beans are done (they should be soft and delicate but not falling apart), salt the water to your liking and set the pot to the side, this will allow the beans to absorb some bean liquid instead of drying out by straining them right away.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Peel and remove seeds from butternut squash. Cut into 1/2 inch cubes and season with salt, drizzle with canola oil and toss. Layer squash onto a parchment paper-covered baking tray and roast for about 25 minutes.  

Note: I like getting some char on the squash as it adds more sweetness to the dish.

If you’re using frozen corn, blanch it in boiling water, strain, place in an ice bath and strain again. There’s nothing worse than having excess water in your salad. In the summer, I like to use grilled fresh corn on the cob.

Strain beans and let them cool in the fridge.

For the vinaigrette, combine oil, fresh lemon juice and honey and mix together with a hand blender to emulsify the dressing. Or use a tightly sealed jar and shake vigorously. 

In a large bowl, combine roasted squash, beans, corn, parsley and half of the dressing. Toss well. If the salad looks dry, add more of the dressing. Season with salt. 

Shel Zolkewich

Shel writes about the outdoors, travel and food when she’s not playing outside, on the road or eating. She has weaknesses for 100-year old McClary cookstoves, fine white linens and puppies named Sammy. Her home base is a farm in Manitoba’s Interlake region. Follow her at @shelzolkewich