Archive for the Historical Cooking Category

Three Sisters Soup

Posted in Historical Cooking, Native American, Recipes, Soups and Stews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 22, 2011 by thekytchnwytch
Photo of Three Sisters Soup

Three Sisters Soup

We have an upcoming event this weekend where I work as a mestiza cook! “Giving Thanks” is one of our biggest events and we always appear on our local news station. Today, we showcased an Apalachee-style recipe called “Three Sisters Soup.” My co-cook, Helena, always does really well in the televised cooking segments and I am happy that she agrees to do them. We try to show something different every year. In the past, Pollo Moruna was one we showed.

The “Three Sisters” refers to the three vegetables in this soup: corn (maize), beans, and squash. The Apalachee grew these three crops well before the Europeans ever visited what is now Florida. The Apalachee were well-known for their prolific farms, which was one of the reasons the Spanish came to the territory. The reason they are called the “Three Sisters” is because of their method of cultivation. These three crops are grown together. The corn is planted first and each stalk is planted on its own mound that is about 18 inches wide, about 4-6 inches high. When the stalk is about knee-high, the bean is planted right at the base. The type of bean grown locally was a  Phaseolus vulgaris. The kidney bean is a well-known member of this species and is a vine rather than bush bean. As the vine grows, it uses the corn stalk as a pole for support. The bean returns the favor of support by supplying the corn with nitrogen that it adds to the soil. Corn grows best in nitrogen rich soil. Let’s not forget about the third sister, squash! Squash is also a vine and has nice broad leaves. As the squash grows along the ground in and among the corn and bean mounds, it acts as a natural weed suppressant. It shades the soil, filtering the sun and making weeds grow slower. It also helps to slow water from evaporating from the soil. That’s a very helpful action considering the Apalachee were watering immense fields by hand. The National Center for Appropriate Technology’s (NCAT) Sustainable Agriculture Project has a great publication you can download for free that goes further into this method of companion planting. To view the section that discusses just the Three Sisters, go here. It’s funny how we sometimes think that our methods of conservation are “new” and “innovative.” Sometimes we just need to look at the past and learn from what has already been done and make further improvements on those methods rather than trying to reinvent the wheel. But I digress.

This recipe is as simple or as complicated as you want to make it. Native American recipes of yore weren’t as seasoning-heavy as today’s recipes sometimes are. Most of the spices that we use today were introduced by the Europeans, e.g. cinnamon, black pepper, and nutmeg, so none of them are represented in this recipe.

The term “sage” is, actually, quite general. It can refer to several different plants that aren’t very similar. Plants that contain the term “sage” cover several different families and not all are edible. Salvia officinalis is an herb that is in the mint family. This is the “rubbed sage” you might have in your kitchen cabinet at home. This is the species represented in the recipe below as it is the most readily available species in grocery stores, but it is not native to the New World. It comes from Southern Europe and the Near East. Salvia apiana, however is what is native to the New World and it is found in North America’s Southwest region. This is the sage that is sacred to the Native Americans and is the one that is burned in ceremonial settings. To simplify things, and I love simplification where it’s appropriate, we will be using Salvia officinalis in this recipe. What local herb(s) the Apalachee may have chosen in this recipe, I don’t know. We probably won’t know either due to the fact the Apalachee didn’t have a written form or record of their language until after the Europeans came and what we do know has largely been lost or wasn’t deemed “significant enough” by the Spanish to merit recording.

Now that we know a little of the history of this recipe, let’s talk about the recipe itself. This recipe is very forgiving. You really don’t need to worry much about exact measurements and substitutions can easily be made. There are more tips after the recipe.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: about 1 hour


•2 quarts water

•1 cooked turkey thigh OR 2 cooked turkey wings (smoked turkey tastes best) OR 1 ½ cups cooked turkey meat

•2 cups prepared corn

•2 cups prepared and rinsed kidney beans

•1 cup cubed pumpkin/squash

•1 medium onion, chopped

•Several fresh chopped sage leaves or 2 teaspoons dried/rubbed sage

•2 teaspoons salt (or more to taste)


1. Put the 2 quarts of water and turkey into a large pot and bring it to a boil. Boil for about 15 minutes.

2. To the same pot, add the corn, beans, and pumpkin/squash. Lower heat to medium-high and allow them to continue to gently boil for another 15 minutes. Add a little more water if necessary.

3. Add the onion, sage, and salt. Lower to medium heat and allow to cook for a further 30 minutes.

4. If you used meat still on the bone, remove turkey from the soup and place on a plate. Remove the meat from the bones and tear or cut into small pieces. Be careful, it’s hot! Discard the bones and return the meat to the soup.

5.Serve and enjoy!

Pro Tips:

It’s a good way to use your Thanksgiving leftovers.

You can use sweet potato rather than pumpkin or squash.

Our recipe is very basic. It is very versatile and can easily be changed to fit your tastes.

This is a perfect recipe for the crock pot. Just put everything in at once and let it cook for a few hours on “low.”

Any kind of bean works well: lima, pinto…or even a mix!

Add a few Tablespoons of mashed potatoes as a thickener.


Moorish Chicken (Pollo Moruna)

Posted in Historical Cooking, Mediterranean, Recipes, Saint Martha's Hearth, Spanish with tags , , , , , , , on November 13, 2011 by thekytchnwytch

The combination of dried fruit and meat was wide-spread in the kitchens of well-off Moors in 13th, 14th and 15th century al-Andalus – the Arab name for the part of the Iberian Peninsula that was conquered by the Moors.  We confess that the addition of Spanish pimentón, made from red peppers which arrived from America in the 16th century, makes this a slightly modernized version of the 800 year old recipe. This was the second recipe we prepared in my cooking workshop “Saint Martha’s Hearth.”

Serves 8


4.5 lbs chicken cut into chunks (you can use boneless, skinless breasts)

¼ cup olive oil

Salt and Pepper

1 cup slivered almonds

½ cup olive oil

5 Vidalia onions cut into thin slices

1 small red chili pepper left whole

2 Tablespoon Spanish Smokey Pimentón

1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 cups water

1 bay leaf

1 cup raisins

2 Tablespoons honey

2 Tablespoons Balsamic vinegar

Modern Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Wash and dry chicken.  Season with salt and pepper.

3. In a large (stove and oven proof) casserole dish, heat on the stovetop ¼ cup olive oil until shimmering.  Brown the chicken pieces in batches and set aside on a plate.

4. To the same large casserole dish, add the Spanish Pimentón, cinnamon and black pepper. Heat the spices on low heat, then add water and bay leaf.

5. Return chicken to the casserole dish, bring to simmer. Then place in the oven and bake covered for 60 minutes.

6. While chicken is baking, in a heavy bottomed frying pan heat ½ C. olive oil until shimmering. Add almonds and toast on low heat for 5 minutes until browned. Set almonds aside on a plate.

7. Add onions and the chili pepper to the same heavy bottomed frying pan. Sauté 20 minutes until onions have caramelized.

8. To the caramelized onions, add the almonds, raisins, honey, and vinegar. Discard the chili pepper.

9. Remove chicken from the oven. Stir in the onions, almonds, and raisins mixture. Set the combined dish aside to sit for at least 15 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

Catalan Roasted Vegetable Platter (Escalivada)

Posted in Historical Cooking, Mediterranean, Side, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on October 17, 2011 by thekytchnwytch
Toasted Vegetable Platter (Escalivada)

Catalan Roasted Vegetable Platter (Escalivada)

Serves 4

Today, red bell peppers are a favorite vegetable to include in this recipe.  I omitted it from our recipe because sweet peppers (capsicums) didn’t become very popular until the very early 20th century. If you choose to add sweet bell peppers, remove the seeds and stem at the same time as you peel them. Add a little more oil.  You really cannot use too much olive oil.  Whatever remains can easily be used for dipping bread.


2 large eggplants

8-10 Medium-sized tomatoes

1/3 cup (3 fl oz/90ml) a fruity, good quality extra virgin olive oil

Salt (to taste)

1/2 teaspoon Cayenne powder (or to taste)

2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped (optional)


1. Bake or grill the eggplants and tomatoes.  Set aside for 10-15 minutes in a covered dish (this makes them easier to peel).

2. Peel the vegetables.  Trim the stalks off the eggplant and discard the seeds and juice of the tomatoes. (You might want to reserve the skins and juices with which to make a vegetable stock.)

3. Cut the vegetables into strips, then arrange them on a serving dish with oil and salt.

4. Optional: sprinkle chopped garlic.

5. Serve.

For our workshop, I opted to exclude the garlic from this dish as the soup already featured it.

Garlic Soup (Sopa de Ajo)

Posted in Historical Cooking, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on October 17, 2011 by thekytchnwytch
Sopa de Ajo (Garlic Soup)

Sopa de Ajo (Garlic Soup)

This soup has long been touted as a hangover remedy.  While I cannot personally vouch for that virtue, I can say that it has substance without being too much.  It, as with many other things, tastes best when it is cooked over an open fire.

If you make this recipe, please let me know how you prepared it, any substitutions (or omissions) you made, and what you thought of it.


Serves 4


4 cups (1qt/1l) water

¼ cup (2 fl oz/60 ml) olive oil (not extra virgin; extra virgin olive oil has a tendency to scorch easily as it has a lower smoking point than regular olive oil)

4 whole cloves of garlic, peeled (you can use more if you love garlic)

10 oz. (315 g.) cubed French bread (10 oz. of your favorite croutons will work as well)

1 t. paprika (smoky paprika can be a nice substitute if you are cooking this on the stove)

Salt (to taste)

4 eggs (optional)



1. Put water into a saucepan to boil. You can also use an electric teakettle to boil it, but be sure that the water doesn’t evaporate too much!

2. Heat the oil and fry the whole garlic cloves in a large skillet. Add the paprika and stir it to flavor the oil. Add the cubes of bread and brown them. Stir them frequently to make sure that they are evenly browned.

3. When the bread is evenly browned, pour in the boiling water. Cook for 15 minutes. Add salt*. Serve.

4. If desired, break an egg for each person into the soup in the final few minutes of the cooking time. Wait until the white sets before serving.

*Salt can sometimes be a tricky ingredient with soups. I prefer to let my guests add salt to their taste.  Since the flavor and texture of this soup is so different from those typically served in the U.S., it is good to let folks try it this way first and decide how much salt to add.  It can be very easy to oversalt this one.

Garlic Soup (Sopa de Ajo)

Posted in Breakfast, Historical Cooking, Recipes, Spanish on August 16, 2010 by thekytchnwytch

This recipe is not mine, but it’s one I would really like to try.    It’s considered to be a peasant soup and one that is desirable to have after an evening of overindulgence of the liquid variety.

4 cups (1qt./1L.) water

¼ cup (2 fl. oz./60 mL.) olive oil

4 cloves of garlic, peeled

10 oz. (315 g.) dense-textured French bread, thinly sliced

1 t. paprika


4 eggs (optional)

Put the water on to boil.

Heat the oil and fry the garlic in a skillet or heatproof casserole.  Add the slices of bread and brown.  Stir in the paprika, then pour in the boiling water.  Add the salt and cook for 15 minutes and serve.

If desired, break an egg for each person into the soup in the final few minutes of the cooking time.  Wait until the white sets before serving.

From: The Heritage of Spanish Cooking by Alice Ries and Lourdes March;  ISBN-10: 0679416285; ISBN-13: 978-0679416289