Welcome to the Dark Side

Maybe the most ardent shoppers are still shaking off crushing food comas from the previous night’s excess, but I’m ready to call it early: Black Friday has lost all credibility. Gone are the lines snaking through parking lots, populated by die-hard bargain hunters setting up camp up to a day in advance. 3 AM wake up calls are almost entirely a thing of the past, owing to advanced Thanksgiving day openings, if they didn’t simply leave those automatic glass doors yawning wide open all night long. Most notably on the list of offenses, however, is the fact that it’s not even a single day anymore. How can you call it Black Friday when the big ticket, door buster deals hit a week ago, if not earlier? Perhaps it’s just my heart that’s gone black this year, but I’m officially burned out on this buying and selling insanity.

No, on second thought, I take it back. It’s more than just my black heart speaking, it’s also the black stew percolating on the stove that’s keeping me away from the celebration of consumerism this afternoon.

There’s nothing wrong with a healthy dose of darkness, especially when it comes primarily in the form of rich, nutty tahini paste. Quite the rarity despite the popularity of standard blonde sesame butter, black tahini is in a category all its own. I was lucky enough to score a jar while visiting the Living Tree Community Foods offices here in the east bay, and have been somewhat obsessed with it ever since. If you thought almond butter toast was pretty snappy, just try switching up your schmear tactics and taste the difference for yourself. A subtly bitter edge offsets its sticky decadence, lending a far more nuanced flavor profile than one might expect from this silky-smooth, raw puree.

Not to throw shade on Black Friday, but it only wishes it was half as dark as this hearty concoction of black lentils, black beans, black cocoa, and of course, black tahini. Get a healthier fix this “holiday” and save your dollars for the important things that really matter… Like more sesame paste to prepare a second round, perhaps?

Yield: Makes 6 - 8 Servings

Blackout Sesame Chili

Blackout Sesame Chili
A hearty, meatless melange of of black lentils, black beans, black cocoa, black tahini, and a fiery bite of chili spices.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Medium Red Onion, Diced
  • 5 Cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1 (14.5-Ounce) Can Diced Tomatoes
  • 1 (6-Ounce) Can Tomato Paste
  • 1 1/2 Cups Dry Black Beluga Lentils
  • 1 (16-Ounce) Can Stout Beer
  • 2 Cups Vegetable Stock
  • 1/4 Cup Maple Syrup
  • 2 Tablespoons Chili Powder
  • 2 Tablespoons Black Cocoa Powder
  • 2 Teaspoons Ground Cumin
  • 1 Teaspoon Chipotle Powder
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 1/2 Cup Black Tahini
  • 2 (15.5-Ounce) Cans Black Beans, Rinsed and Drained
  • 1 Tablespoon Lime Juice
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt

To Garnish (optional):

  • 1 Cup Vegan Sour Cream
  • 3 – 4 Scallions, Thinly Sliced
  • 1/4 Cup Toasted Black Sesame Seeds

Instructions

  1. Place a large stock pot over medium heat and add in the oil. Once shimmer, add the onion and garlic, sauteing until lightly browned and aromatic; about 6 – 8 minutes.
  2. Introduce the diced tomatoes and tomato paste next, working the paste into the scant liquid to break it down into a smooth mixture. Next, incorporate the lentils, beer, vegetable stock, maple syrup, chili powder, black cocoa, cumin, chipotle powder, and cayenne. Stir well to combine, cover, and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for approximately 30 minutes, until lentils are tender. Add tahini and black beans, mixing well to incorporate.
  4. Continue to stew, uncovered, for an additional 15 – 20 minutes until thick, rich, and piping hot. Add the lime juice and salt, adjusting both to taste as needed.
  5. Depending on your desired consistency, you may want to add more vegetable stock or water, particularly if the chili is made in advance. It tends to thicken further as it cools.
  6. Ladle out into bowls and top with sour cream, scallions, and black sesame seeds. Eat to your black heart’s content!

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 208 Total Fat: 6g Saturated Fat: 1g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 5g Cholesterol: 0mg Sodium: 594mg Carbohydrates: 29g Fiber: 7g Sugar: 11g Protein: 7g
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Octo-Brrr!

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?

Yield: Makes 6 – 8 Servings

Veggie-Tempeh Chili

Veggie-Tempeh Chili
A very vegan chili that's heavy on the vegetables and unafraid of spice.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 25 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 Medium Onion, Chopped
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 2 Medium Carrots, Chopped
  • 2 Stalks Celery, Chopped
  • Pinch Salt
  • 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

Instructions

  1. In a large stock pot, heat up the oil over a moderate flame, and toss in the chopped onion. Saute 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 165 Total Fat: 6g Saturated Fat: 1g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 4g Cholesterol: 0mg Sodium: 447mg Carbohydrates: 21g Fiber: 7g Sugar: 5g Protein: 11g