Forget about easing into the new month- Practically overnight, temperatures plummeted straight into sweater-and-jacket territory, wasting no time with autumn’s typically mild but brisk breezes this year. Forced to pull out my electric blanket and cranking it up to “scald,” I might as well take up sleeping in the oven at this rate! Indeed, it looks like we’re on the cusp of a rather harsh season, with the skies growing darker earlier each day. With summer quickly becoming but a distant memory, all that can be done is to steel oneself against the cold, and for that, there is only one dish that will truly suffice: Chili.
Everyone’s got their own recipes, tiny twists on the same basic concept, but those small differences and adaptations are what really makes each fresh pot so special. I think that a bowl of red can say a lot about a cook, far beyond basic knife skills or flavor preferences. What’s the protein? Beans are mandatory in my mind, while it may very well be sacrilege to die-hard omnivores and traditionalists. What about veggies? The more the merrier, please! My only limitations are what I happen to have in the fridge; Nothing’s safe when I’m cooking up a big vat of chili. Oh, and the spices! Are you a fan of intense, red hot, mouth-searing spoonfuls? Preferring flavor over heat, my approach may be defined as mild, and you know what? I’m perfectly okay with that. Spice at will, dump that hot sauce into your own portion, but this allows everyone the level of heat they can best appreciate.
And so it goes, my chili is unabashedly vegan, very healthy, nontraditional, and generally agreeable.
What does your chili say about you?
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Medium Onion, Chopped
2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
2 Medium Carrots, Chopped
2 Stalks Celery, Chopped
1 14.5-Ounce Can Diced Tomatoes
1 – 2 Tablespoons Chili Powder
1 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
1 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
1/2 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
1/4 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1 8-Ounce Package Tempeh,* Sliced into Cubes
1 Medium Yellow Squash or Zucchini, Chopped
1 Medium Red Bell Pepper, Seeded and Chopped
1 Cup Vegetable Broth
Pinch Black Pepper
1 15-Ounce Can Black Beans, Rinsed and Drained
*I used Soyboy‘s 5-Grain Tempeh, which I didn’t find the least bit bitter as is. If you’re worried about tempeh’s alleged bitterness, just steam yours for 20 minutes beforehand, let it cool, and then proceed with the recipe as written.
In a large stock pot, heat up the oil over a moderate flame, and toss in the chopped onion. Sautee for 4 – 5 minutes, until translucent, and add in the minced garlic. Let cook for another 2 minutes or so before add in the carrots and celery, along with just a small pinch of salt to help draw out the water from the vegetables. Stir occasionally, for about 5 – 8 minutes, until the veggies begin to brown around the edges stick to the bottom of the pan a bit.
At that point, you can go ahead and incorporate everything else- except for the beans. I find that they get mushy if you add them in so soon in the process, but if you’re starving and can’t stand to let this thing simmer for too long, dump them in at will. I promise that the flavors will only get better with a longer cooking time, though!
Stir well to distribute the new ingredients, turn down the heat to low, cover the pot, and let simmer gently for 30 – 60 minutes, depending on how long you can control your hunger. Add in the beans just 5 – 10 minutes before serving, to make sure they’re warmed through.
Makes 6 – 8 Servings