Monday, February 23, 2015

Three-Bean Vegetarian Southern Chili

Since most of the country is in a deep freeze, it seems appropriate to give you a stick-to-your ribs, warm-you-up-from-the-cold kind of recipe. 

When I was growing up in Kentucky, we didn’t get snow all that often.  So when we had a snow day, it was a celebration.  We’d pull on layer after layer of sweatpants and sweatshirts, gloves, toboggans and scarves, until we looked like the Michelin man.  We’d grab our plastic sleds and gleefully head outside, only reluctantly coming back to the house after snow and cold had seeped through every soggy layer to reach our icy skin.

We’d walk in the house and strip down to our long underwear in front of the fireplace, and Mom would sit us down to the table with bowls of steaming chili—the old-fashioned kind, thick with ground beef and kidney beans and seasoned with simple chili powder.  Nothing tasted better.

A thick, rich bowl of chili and a slice of cornbread is still one of my favorite meals.  And while I still enjoy the beef and bean variety, I find that more often than not, I’m making a vegetarian all-bean version, fragrant with toasted spices and a variety of chili peppers.

The ultimate weeknight family meal, chili is inexpensive and easy.  It gets better and better the longer it sits on the stove, so make this on a Sunday afternoon, and then reheat it for dinner during the week.  Even better, make an extra-large pot and freeze portions for easy lunches or dinners later.  

I hope this chili warms you up from the inside out, and that you enjoy it with the people you love.

Three-Bean Southern Chili

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 red bell peppers, diced
2 poblano peppers, seeded and diced
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted and ground
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
2, 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes
1, 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1, 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1, 15-ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cups water

Heat a large pot over medium heat.  Add the olive oil, onion and salt and cook, stirring often, until the onions are translucent and very tender, about 10 minutes.

Add the garlic, red pepper and poblano peppers and continue to cook another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are softened.

Add the coriander, cumin and cayenne pepper and stir.  Move the onions and peppers to the sides of the pot and add the tomato paste to the center of the pot.  Let the tomato paste cook on the bottom of the pot until it starts to toast and stick to the bottom.  Stir the tomato paste and the onions and peppers together. 

Add cans of whole tomatoes, including their juice, breaking up the tomatoes with your hands as you add them to the pot.  Add the beans, dried oregano and water and stir.

Bring the chili to a boil and then reduce it to a simmer.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for about an hour.  Serve with bowls of condiments, including shredded cheese, Greek yogurt, sliced green onions or any other toppings you like.

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