The weather here has been crazy lately. One day it is a dreary 60 degrees, and the next day it is a sunny, but humid 85 degrees. My heating/cooling units are having season-identity issues for sure.
In an effort to warm everyone up from the inside out on one of those feels-like-fall days, I decided to make the vegetarian chili recipe that I came across in this month’s (May 2010) Everyday Food Magazine. The best part, or so I thought, was that I had all of the ingredients in my pantry. Well, I was wrong. After inspecting my cupboards and fridge, I realized that I didn’t even have half of the required ingredients, but I wanted to still make this recipe anyway and firmly decided that I would not be suckered into going to the grocery store for ingredients that I didn’t have on hand. You don’t even want me to get started about how much I dislike any grocery store but Wegmans!
I have to admit, I have not had chili in a very long time. Sure, I make ‘traditional’ (aka meaty) chili for my family at least once or twice a year, but, I am not going to lie; I usually go the semi-homemade route and use those little packets of pre-measured chili seasoning (gah, you have no clue how hard it is to admit that!). This was actually the first time that I have used actual individual spices to make chili.
Sautéing the veggies.
Well, since I haven’t had chili in such a long time, I think I have forgotten how it is supposed to taste. Are the flavors of the spices supposed to be so intertwined and permeated in the vegetables that they are nearly impossible to determine what you are eating by taste alone? Maybe I have got this all wrong. Maybe all of the vegetables and beans in this chili are here solely to absorb all of the flavors from the spices. Is that the point of chili? I honestly still do not know.
In this chili, the flavors blend together so much that beyond being able to identify different textures: creamy, almost buttery beans; crisp carrots; and the slightly firm squash, all of the flavors are the same. I was not able to pin point the flavors of these components individually. Don’t get me wrong. I love food with layers, but I want to actually taste the different ingredients in a dish, I don’t want it all to taste alike. What you do taste in this dish is the smoky chili powder and the earthy cumin. The almost overpowering heat that was also present in this chili was probably my fault. I only added two very small chipotle peppers to the mixture, but they added a heat like none other!
My experience with this dish has somewhat turned me off to Southwestern flavors for the time being. Part of the problem, surely, is that this recipe makes such a large batch and I was stuck eating it for the next four meals.
If I do make this again, which won’t be any time in the near future, I think that I will halve the spices and omit the chipotle and work from there. I like a good punch of flavor just as much as anyone else, but this much spice dominates the dish, whose main stars should be the veggies and beans, in my opinion.
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 ½ tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp chipotle chili powder (I used regular chili powder)
- Kosher salt & black pepper, to taste
- 1 medium zucchini, cut into ½ inch dice (I used yellow squash)
- 6 oz tomato paste (nope, no tomato paste either, used 2 tiny chipotles instead)
- 1 can (15.5 oz) black beans, rinsed and drained (I used cannellini beans in place of black beans)
- 1 can (15.5 oz) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 can (14.5 oz) Rotel (next time I will use mild, but all I had on hand was the ‘chunky’ variety)
- 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes (I didn’t feel the need for more tomatoes, so I used canned crushed tomatoes instead)
- In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat.
- Add onion, sauté for about 5 minutes
- Add garlic and sauté for 3 minutes longer.
- Add cumin; chili powder; salt; and pepper. Cook for an additional minute.
- Add squash and chipotles (or tomato paste) and sauté for about 3 minutes.
- Add in cannellini beans; pinto beans; Rotel; and crushed tomatoes.
- Add 1 cup of water (the recipe calls for 2 cups, but I wanted a thicker chili).
- Simmer chili for about 20 minutes, season with additional salt and pepper if desired.
- **For the meat version, I omitted the squash and chipotles and used dark red kidney beans in place of the black beans. Begin by browning the ground beef, then continue with the rest of the steps.