Recipe by Chef Kirk Ermine
Story by Jenni Lessard
For Chef Kirk Ermine, cooking isn’t just about food. As he chops, peels, and dices the ingredients for his Three Sisters Salad, some traditional knowledge is shared along with culinary tips.
The vibrant and contrasting colours of the corn, beans and squash, Kirk explains, can improve a person’s mood before they even eat, explaining further that what we look at can influence how we feel and act. His humbleness is evident when he adds, “that’s what I was taught” after each piece of wisdom.
Originally from Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation in northeastern Saskatchewan, Kirk is now sous chef at Dakota Dunes Resort on the Whitecap Dakota First Nation near Saskatoon. Commercial kitchens can be hectic and stressful, but Kirk is committed to maintaining a calm and cheerful attitude no matter what challenges come his way.
For him, this sometimes means praying at the start of the day. His grandfather taught him that even simple, short prayers are important. Having been diabetic for more than half his life, Kirk is committed to creating healthy, simple, and delicious dishes while introducing diners to foods that have long been part of Indigenous cuisine.
The Three Sisters are an Indigenous companion planting technique where corn, beans and squash grow together to deter weeds and pests, enrich the soil, and support each other. Their flavours meld well together, too, and provide a good balance of carbohydrates, fibre, and protein as well as heart-healthy, unsaturated fats with the addition of canola oil.
The squash is tossed with canola oil and then roasted until slightly charred. To complete the dish, a vinaigrette of honey, vinegar, and canola oil seasoned with just a pinch of salt and pepper is tossed with corn and any variety of beans you have on hand. Kirk switches up the herbs he uses in his signature salad, depending on the season. Parsley or cilantro work equally well.
The enticing colours of this sunny salad encourage even the pickiest of eaters to pick up a fork and dig in while the pleasing textures and satisfying flavours keep them coming back for more. This salad tastes even better the second day, so don’t worry about what to do with leftovers!
Three Sisters Salad
- In a large bowl, toss squash with canola oil. Place in single layer on parchment lined large rimmed baking sheet. Bake in 400 ⁰F (200 ⁰C) oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until tender. Set aside to cool.
- In a large bowl, whisk together canola oil, vinegar, honey, parsley salt and pepper. Add squash, corn and beans; toss well. (Salad can be covered and refrigerated for up to 1 day).