Cooking With the Three Sisters

Bean patties as we emotionally prepare for fall, zucchini panzanella and clams as we relish the waning days of summer.

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By Melissa Clark

As I sat down to write this, I saw a crinkly beige leaf float from the London Plane tree outside my window. This shocks me every summer — that there are a few rogue leaves falling weeks ahead of any autumnal chill. It always makes me want to eat as many tomatoes, watermelons, ears of corn and drippy cones of soft serve as I possibly can before the arrival of Labor Day clicks our brains into Fall Mode. Only a few days to go!

Of course, there will be plenty of good eating in the fall. And as much as I loathe giving up zucchini panzanella and caprese salads (like this one with stone fruit!), I’m also getting pretty excited about roasted brussels sprouts and butternut squash soup.

If you are, too, bookmark these three sisters bean patties with raspberry aioli (above) from Ethan Tyo. The three sisters — corn, beans and squash — are a cornerstone of the cuisines of many Native tribes across the East Coast. And they’re part of Kevin Noble Maillard’s story about the Indigenous food sovereignty movement, which aims to make Native communities self-sufficient through a network of tribal farms, community gardens and home gardening. It’s a fascinating read.

Chicken has no season, though, and we devour it all year long in all kinds of ways. My colleague Tanya Sichynsky has collected 14 of our most saved chicken recipes of the year so far, each one a winner of a dinner. On my short list: Kay Chun’s sticky coconut chicken and rice, Nicole Taylor’s peach and molasses chicken and Genevieve Ko’s roasted orange chicken, with a secret — it’s really made with tangerines.

If that’s not your thing, how about some seafood? Ali Slagle has this easy and super speedy ginger-mint grilled shrimp for you to consider.

Or are you more of a bivalve enthusiast? I’m spending these last days of summer on the North Fork of Long Island doing some clamming. Does anything beat gathering dinner with your toes in the sand? I made spicy clam dip with the first haul, and I’m hoping to grill small clams with fried garlic for the next batch (the bigger ones are better for chowder or steaming, as in these clams with celery and toasted garlic).

That’s my big Labor Day weekend plan. What are you going to do? If you want to let me know, I’m at [email protected]. And you can check out my clamming adventures on Instagram @clarkbar.

Follow New York Times Cooking on Instagram, too, if you don’t already. We’re also on YouTube, and on TikTok, where you can watch our Vaughn Vreeland make honey deuce melon ball punch, the official drink of the U.S. Open.

You’ll need a subscription to access his recipe. If you’ve been meaning to subscribe, now is an excellent, back-to-school time to do it. We’d love to have you join us.

Now, in my “Invite any famous people to a dinner party” fantasies, I always try to come up with someone who could keep the conversation sparking while I fuss with the hors d’oeuvres (yes, I’m still cooking in these scenarios).

I think I found that person in Adam Shatz of the podcast Myself With Others. His conversations with cultural pioneers like Claudia Roden, who I profiled in the Times; Vivian Gornick, a personal hero; and William Parker, a new-to-me jazz icon, match my ideal of dinner dialogue. They are welcome at my table anytime. Now what should I cook?

Maybe Kim Severson has some ideas. She’ll be here on Friday, and I’ll see you next Wednesday.

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