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Seasonal recipes blending corn, squash, and beans

Farmed and cooked together, the “three sisters” are a hallowed combination.

Three sisters with chili butter.Photograph by Jim Scherer / Styling by Catrine Kelty

At a food conference last year, I was introduced to the traditional Native American concept of the three sisters — a trinity of corn, squash, and beans, farmed and cooked together. It's a classic example of the old saw "if it grows together, it goes together." As our harvest-time gardens and farmers' markets overflow with corn, squash of various stripes, and beans, we have a perfect opportunity to apply that wisdom.

The first dish is an easy saute finished with chili butter — really a succotash by another name; the second, a surprisingly quick and hearty meat-free stew with both summer and early-fall varieties of squash; and the third, a Southwestern-style salad in which the corn and squash are grilled.

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THREE SISTERS WITH CHILI BUTTER

Makes about 8 cups

Adapted from A Platter of Figs by David Tanis.

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 medium-large serrano chili pepper, toasted in a dry skillet until spotty brown, seeded and minced (about 2 teaspoons)

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

Salt and ground black pepper

1½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound zucchini or similar summer squash (about 2 medium), trimmed, quartered lengthwise, and cut into ½-inch-thick pieces (about 4 cups)

1 medium onion, finely chopped

3 medium ears corn, husks and silk removed and kernels cut off the cobs (about 3½ cups)

10 ounces green beans, ends trimmed and beans cut into 1-inch pieces (about 3 cups)

4 scallions, white and light green parts thinly sliced (about ½ cup)

Lime wedges, for serving

Using a fork in a small bowl, mash together the butter, serrano chili, cumin, and a pinch of salt until very well blended, and set aside. In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, heat 2 teaspoons of oil until shimmering. Add the zucchini in a single layer and cook, undisturbed, until browned on the bottom, about 3 minutes; transfer it to a bowl and set aside.

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Return the skillet to medium-high heat, add the remaining oil, and heat until shimmering. Add the onion and 1 teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring, until softened, about 4 minutes. Adjust the heat to medium, add the corn and ¼ cup water, stir to mix, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 minutes. Add the green beans, stir to mix, replace cover, and cook until the beans are bright green and tender-crisp, 5 to 6 minutes longer (add another couple of tablespoons of water if the pan looks dry at any point). Add the browned zucchini and cook, stirring, to warm it through, about 1 minute. Off heat, add the chili butter and black pepper to taste, and stir to melt the butter and coat the vegetables well. Add most of the scallions and stir to mix. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and black pepper, if necessary. Transfer to a serving dish, sprinkle with the remaining scallions, and serve at once with lime wedges.

DOUBLE SQUASH THREE SISTERS STEW

Serves 6

Along with warm corn bread and a green salad, this hearty stew makes a great meatless meal.

1 tablespoon safflower, canola, or vegetable oil

2 medium onions, chopped

Salt and ground black pepper

1 tablespoon minced or grated garlic (about 4 large cloves)

1½ teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican

2 cups vegetable broth

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1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes

1¾ pounds delicata squash (about 3 medium), scrubbed, ends trimmed, halved lengthwise, seeded, and halves cut crosswise into fifths

3 medium ears corn, husks and silk removed and kernels cut off the cobs (about 3½ cups)

1 large can (about 1 pound, 13 ounces) pinto beans, drained

9 ounces poblano chili peppers (about 3 medium), charred, peeled, seeded, and chopped (about 2/3 cup)

1 pound zucchini or similar summer squash (about 2 medium), trimmed, quartered lengthwise, and cut into ¾-inch-thick pieces (about 4 cups)

2 tablespoons masa harina (or 1¼ tablespoons cornstarch)

1½ teaspoons fresh lime juice, plus lime wedges, for serving

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat until it's shimmering. Add the onions and 1 teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring, until just softened, about 4 minutes. Adjust the heat to medium-low, cover and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the onions have released their juices, about 8 minutes. Remove the cover, adjust heat to medium, add the garlic, cumin, coriander, and oregano, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 40 seconds. Add the vegetable broth and tomatoes, adjust the heat to high, and bring to a strong simmer, stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom of pot to loosen and dissolve any fond, about 1 minute. Add the delicata squash, corn, beans, and poblanos and return to a simmer. Adjust the heat to medium, partially cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the zucchini, replace cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes longer.

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Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the masa harina or cornstarch with 2½ tablespoons water. Add this mixture to the vegetables and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, the delicata, corn, and zucchini are tender and the beans are heated through, 5 to 8 minutes longer. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt, if necessary, and black pepper to taste. Add the lime juice and most of the cilantro, stir to mix, and serve hot, with lime wedges, sprinkling each portion with some of the remaining cilantro.

GRILLED CALABACITAS (SQUASH) AND CORN SALAD WITH BLACK BEANS

Makes about 8 cups

1½ tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon minced or grated garlic (about 1 large clove)

¾ teaspoon chili powder

Pinch brown sugar

Salt and ground black pepper

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing vegetables

2 pounds zucchini or similar summer squash (about 5 small), trimmed, halved lengthwise, brushed with olive oil, grilled over medium-high fire until grill-marked and tender, about 12 minutes, and cut crosswise into ½-inch-thick slices

1 medium onion, peeled, cut into ¾-inch-thick slices, threaded onto a skewer, brushed with olive oil, grilled over medium-highfire until grill-marked and tender, about 15 minutes, and chopped

3 medium ears corn, grilled, kernels cut off the cobs (about 3½ cups)

½ medium red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped (about ¾ cup)

1 15.5-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

In a large nonreactive bowl, whisk the lime juice, garlic, chili powder, brown sugar, ¾ teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Vigorously whisk in ¼ cup oil to blend. Add the zucchini, onion, corn, bell pepper, and black beans, and toss to combine. Add most of the cilantro, and toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and black pepper, if necessary, sprinkle with the remaining cilantro, and serve.

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TIP: Zucchini and yellow summer squash are the widely recognized stalwarts of the summer squash family, but you may also encounter vivid yellow zucchini and cousa (far right) and pattypan (far left) squashes. To my palate, the five are so close in flavor and texture that I freely substitute one for the next, though if you taste them side by side and concentrate hard, you could argue that pattypan is a touch sweeter and cousa a touch nuttier than their cousins.Mark Schou

Adam Ried appears regularly on "America's Test Kitchen." Send comments to cooking@globe.com.