By Chef Nico Albert of Burning Cedar Indigenous Foods
We were honored to have Chef Nico on Foodocracy LIVE as part of our Three Sisters Celebration where she taught us this delicious recipe. The three sisters: corn, beans and squash are the holy trinity of Native American cuisine. In this easy recipe she combines these ingredients for a modern take on ancestral traditions to create a vegan sope that nourishes the soul as much as the body.
Chef Nico Albert (ᏣᎳᎩᎯ ᎠᏰᎵ Cherokee Nation) is a self-taught chef, caterer and student of traditional indigenous cuisines based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Nico devotes her time and passion for the revitalization of indigenous cuisine to promote healing and wellness in the Native American community by providing healthy, traditionally inspired catering options and educational events. Chef Nico’s work has been featured regionally and nationally by Cherokee Nation's OsiyoTV, Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Atlas Obscura, PBS, Gilcrease Museum, Philbrook Museum, BBC’s Hairy Bikers, and Food Network, among others.
For the marinated tepary beans:
- 1 cup Ramona Farms tepary beans (white, black or brown all work!)
- 2-3 tbsp good live oil
- Smoked salt
Soak the beans for at least 2 hours in plenty of cold water. When ready to cook, drain them, place the beans in a large pot (dutch oven size) and fill the pot completely full with fresh cold water.
Place the pot over high heat, bring the beans to a rolling boil, then reduce the heat to simmer. Simmer for 2-3 hours until very tender. Drain the beans, reserving the broth for another use.
Place the drained beans in a mixing bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and season with smoked salt and fresh squeezed lime juice to taste.
For the sopes:
- 1 ½ cup of Corn Mafia Longhouse Hominy Grits
- ~ 1 ¼ cup of warm water
Using a blender or working in batches in a spice grinder, pulse the grits until they are a fine flour.
Mix corn flour and warm water in a medium-size bowl and knead until you have a uniform texture. If the dough feels dry, add more water a tiny bit at a time until the dough is the consistency of play dough.
Cover the dough with a damp towel to rest until it’s time to cook the sopes.
Heat a cast iron skillet or griddle to medium-high heat.
To form the sopes, divide the dough into 10 even pieces and roll each into a ball (making sure to always keep dough covered with a damp towel to prevent it drying out).
Press the ball into a small, thick tortilla (about 4-½ inches wide) by hand or by using a tortilla press. Place the tortilla on the hot pan/griddle and allow to cook for about one minute. Turn the tortilla after a minute, don’t let it cook longer or the dough will dry and crack. Turn again after a minute, and the last cooking will take about 20-30 seconds. Remove from the griddle with the help of a spatula.
Cover the tortillas with a dry kitchen towel and allow to cool for about 30-45 seconds, and start forming the border pinching the edges with your fingers. Cover again with the kitchen towel and keep cooking the rest of the sopes.
For the Herbed Pumpkin Seed Salsa:
- 1 cup roasted, salted pumpkin seeds
- ¼ tsp cumin
- 1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
- 1 onion, cut into wedges
- 5 tomatillos, husked and halved
- 5 garlic cloves,
- 1 jalapeño pepper cut into chunks
- 2 cups water
- 1 packed cup coarsely chopped, fresh cilantro, larger stems removed
- 1 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley, larger stems removed
Preheat oven on broiler setting. Place the onion, garlic, tomatillos, and jalapeño on a baking sheet and broil until dark brown roasted spots appear. Remove and set aside to cool.
Pulse pumpkin seeds in a blender until finely ground. Add cumin, olive oil, the reserved roasted vegetables, water and herbs. Pulse all ingredients to combine, then puree to form a smooth sauce.
To assemble sopes:
- 1 small zucchini
- 1 red bell pepper
- 2-3 scallions
Finely slice scallions on a bias. Slice zucchini and red bell pepper into matchsticks to create a slaw, combine with sliced scallions.
In the bowl of each sope, fill desired amount of marinated tepary beans. Top with the zucchini slaw, then drizzle with Pumpkin Seed Salsa!