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Eat this! Sagamité: A native-Illinoisan vegetable medley


Blind Faith Cafe’s sagamité

Blind Faith Cafe’s sagamité

What it is: A native-American dish, sagamite combines hominy corn, wild mushrooms, Jerusalem artichokes, wild rice, purslane and smoked squash in a rich, brown vegetable reduction.

Jonadab Silva

Jonadab Silva

Where it comes from: According to Chef Jonadab Silva, who’s added the dish to his new fall menu at Blind Faith Cafe in Evanston, the dish is native to the Illinois region. Silva contacted the curator of anthropology at the Illinois State Museum in Springfield and learned that sagamite was a specialty of the Peoria tribe of the Illiniwek Confederation. The tribe served sagamite at a feast for Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet during the explorers’ 1673 journey to the Mississippi River, the first recorded European visit to what would become Illinois.

What to do with it: At Blind Faith Cafe, Silva serves sagamite as a vegetarian entree, but you can also serve it as a side dish with a meat course or finish the dish with some braised duck or lamb.

Blind Faith Cafe’s sagamité
Illiniwek vegetable medley
Chef Jonadab Silva

Prepare the sauce a day before and let the flavors integrate over night. Precook or prepare all other ingredients beforehand, and finish the dish just before serving.

1 tablespoon clarified butter
1/2 cup diced winter squash
1/2 cup diced onions
1/2 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup diced green peppers
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 cup flour
2 quarts vegetable or beef stock, heated
Black pepper to taste
2 bay leaves

Vegetable mixture:
Wood chips for smoking (Silva uses applewood)
2 cups peeled, diced winter squash
1 tablespoon clarified butter
2 cups canned hominy corn, soaked, changing water 5 or 6 times, rinsed well and dried thoroughly
1/2 cup raw wild rice, cooked according to package directions
1 cup diced Jerusalem artichokes (also known as sunchokes), steamed
2 cups diced mushrooms, preferably wild mushrooms
2 cups common purslane (also known as verdolaga, pigweed or pusley, available at Latin markets, farmers’ markets and some produce stores)
12 epazote leaves (available at Latin markets)

Make the sauce: Heat the clarified butter over high heat in a medium saucepan. Add the vegetables and saute until they are golden brown. Add the tomato paste and cook for a couple of minutes, until rust-colored. Reduce the heat, add the flour and mix well, making sure all the flour gets integrated.

Cook for 2 minutes over medium heat. Be careful not to burn the mixture. Add more clarified butter if needed. Add the hot stock, stir well, and make sure to scrape the bottom of the pan. Season with black pepper and bay leaves. Simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring constantly.

Remove from the heat and place the saucepan in a bowl of ice water; stir until cooled; cover and refrigerate until serving time. Remove the bay leaves before serving.

Prepare the vegetables: Soak the wood chips in water for about half an hour. Strain and place the wet chips in the bottom of a steamer or double boiler with a perforated pan on top. Put the diced squash in the perforated pan, place on top of chips, cover well, and place over medium to low heat. Smoke for 15 to 20 minutes. (This step can be done a day ahead. Let cool, cover and refrigerate.)

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat, add clarified butter, and saute the hominy until golden. Add the cooked wild rice, Jerusalem artichokes and mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms are done.

Add the purslane, epazote, smoked squash and 2 cups of sauce. Cook until the squash is heated through. Meanwhile, heat the rest of the sauce in a separate pan.

To serve: Divide the vegetable mixture among four dinner plates. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of the heated sauce over each serving. 4 servings.

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