24 October, 2006

“Three Sister Casserole” with Pumpkin Pesto.

The colder days are here and it is time to cook in the oven. I made this casserole Saturday night. I used pumpkin instead of squash, and white kidney beans instead of pinto beans. The result was mmmmmmmmm yammyyyyyyy.
Note: My squash mix was pretty liquid. I hesitated, but pour the leftover “juice” before covering with the second layer of polenta. The result was very good.

A Native American expression “three sisters” refers to the practice of growing beans, corn, and squash together. This filling casserole can be frozen for an upcoming party or made fresh for diner.

Image from Vegetarian Times

Polenta Topping
1 ½ cups yellow cornmeal
1 tbsp chili powder
¾ tsp salt
3 tbsp olive oil divided
1 small onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 large yellow or red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch dice (about 1 cup)
1 lb kabocha (sweet mama) squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes with chilies
2 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 tsp)
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp salt
1 15-oz. can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed

To make the topping: 
  • Whisk together cornmeal, chili powder, salt and 4½ cups water in double boiler, or in the large metal bowl over barely simmering water (bain maraine)
  • Cook 40 minutes, or until polenta is thick and stiff, stirring 3 or 4 times
  • Remove from heat

To make the filling
  • Preheat oven to 375F. 
  • Heat 2 Tbs. oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, and cook 7 minutes, or until soften, stirring often
  • Add bell pepper and cook 5 more minutes, stirring often
  • Stir in squash, tomatoes, garlic, coriander and cumin. Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Stir in ½ cup of water and salt. Bring mixture to boil, reduce heat, and simmer, partially covered, 10-15 minutes, or until squash is tender
  • Stir in beans and corn, and cook 5 minutes, or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally
  • Coat 8x11-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Spread 2 cups polenta over bottom.
  • Spoon squash mixture over polenta. Smooth remaining polenta (~ 2½ cups) over top
  • Score casserole into 6 squares with knife. Brush top with remaining 1 Tbs. oil. Bake 30 minutes, or until heated through and top is lightly browned.

Pumpkin Seed Pesto.

The pumpkin oil tends to be expensive (mine was ~12$ for a small bottle). The recipe advices to substitute it with olive oil.

1 cup unsalted hulled (green) pumpkin seeds
1 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
½ cup toasted pumpkin seed oil
¼ cup fresh lime juice
1 tsp salt
Pinch cayenne

  • Toast pumpkin seeds in a large skillet over the medium heat 4-5 minutes, or until puffed and golden, stirring constantly
  • Transfer seeds to food processor. Add remaining ingredients, and process until smooth.
  • Store in airtight container in a refrigerator for up to a week.

Yield: 1 cup


  1. Now, is it me or is that a hole lot of food...

    I will say publicly though that your food rocks!