Friday, August 08, 2008

Vegetarian Chili: Red and Black

This vegetarian chili, made with three types of legumes, is amazingly tasty. It is also nutritious. If topped with grated cheese, Mexican-style crumbling cheese, or a dollop of sour cream, although no longer 'vegan' it is even more tasty. Served in a bowl over a large spoonful of rice, the chili makes a satisfying lunch or supper. Especially if accompanied by a salad or a few slices of avocado.

Chipotles are dried, smoked jalapeno peppers. They give both the heat the chili needs plus a smoky hint that would have come from bacon if this were a meat chili. The 'TVP', or textured vegetable protein, is made from soy flour, and is available in dry crumbly form at health food and natural foods stores. The lentils are the usual supermarket type of tan-green lentils, usually also available at health and natural foods stores. In terms of the black beans, they are simply what I prefer. (Pintos or white beans would work equally well.) In Athens, where our deli sells a chili something like this one, we like the idea of red and black, the colors of the University of Georgia, where many of our customers, and even some Donderos, went.

Chili doesn't really warrant a wine. It's for supper or lunch, and if any alcoholic drink goes with it it should probably be beer. The recipe serves six with leftovers for later snacks. It's worth making a double batch, requiring little more work or time than a single batch and giving another couple of meals and servings. The chili can also be frozen.

Red and Black Vegetarian Chili

1/2 pound dry black beans (1 cup), or 2 (16 to 18-ounce) cans black beans
1/2 cup dry lentils, rinsed and soaked in boiling water 30 minutes or more
1 cup TVP (small sized), rinsed and soaked in boiling water 20 minutes
1 medium onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 small dry chipotle pepper, stem and seeds removed
1 large bay leaf
2 tablespoons chili powder
1-1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomato (unseasoned), including the juice
1 medium-large red bell pepper, large dice

Prepare the beans and set aside: If using dry beans, pick over, rinse, and either soak overnight in 5 cups water or bring to a boil with 5 cups water, boil one minute, cover, remove from the heat and soak for 1 hour. After soaking, drain the beans. Cover with an inch of water, and simmer (skimming off any foam that accumulates) until tender, 40 to 60 minutes. When tender, drain, saving the liquid. Or, if using canned beans, drain, rinse, and drain again. Set beans aside until needed.

Prepare the TVP and lentils, draining the TVP after 20 minutes but letting the lentils soak as long as you have. Prepare the onions, garlic, and chipotle. Measure out and mix the bay leaf and dry seasonings other than salt.

Fry the onions with the olive oil over medium heat, stirring frequently, until onions start to turn golden. Add the garlic and fry it in for a minute. Lower the heat, and gently fry in the chipotle and dry seasonings for a minute, or until fragrant. Drain the lentils, and add them plus a little fresh water, and simmer until they are tender, adding water as needed to keep them moist. Add the drained TVP plus the tomatoes with their juice. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt. Simmer about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Test lentils and TVP for tenderness. Stir in more salt, as needed. Add the beans. If needed, add a little of their liquid if home-cooked (or a little water if using canned beans), just enough to make a medium-thick gravy. Simmer several minutes, then add the bell peppers and simmer 5 minutes, adjusting salt as needed (make it slightly salty, since the beans will soak up a little more). Remove bay leaves and chipotle toward the end of cooking.

Let sit 10 minutes. Stir, then taste for salt again. The chili can be served now or refrigerated and rewarmed for serving later. The flavor is richer if held for a day or more. After reheating, taste and adjust salt, if needed.

Serve in a bowl over a little rice. Garnish, if desired, with grated cheddar or jack cheese, crumbled Mexican-style cheese, or sour cream.


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