Monday, December 08, 2008

Delicious Chili with (surprise) No Meat

I've been slack on getting recipes onto the blog. Partly it was the Thanksgiving holiday abetted by three family birthdays. Plus we had catering in both Athens and Atlanta. But also, I'm now writing a bi-monthly recipe column in the Athens Banner-Herald.

Here's a recent creation aimed at the St. Barts Guinea Pig Contingent, a vegetarian lunch for their staff meeting during Advent. They have two more vegetarian meals coming.

"French" green lentils, grown in Canada these days as are the ordinary tan/brown ones, do amazing things. These lentils are available in bulk at natural food stores and our Dekalb Farmers' Market. These lentils are almost meaty. And a new bean discovery, at least for me, is the "cranberry" bean, which is meaty and luscious. Worked together they make a chili I would defy you to be sure didn't contain meat. Pintos would be the bean substitute.

The method is a little "tedious," needing an overnight soak for the beans and slow cooking of the chili. But the costs are minimal for ingredients, producing an amazing meal for very little. Make this when you have other things to do around the kitchen, like working on the computer.

This recipe makes enough for six, but with lots of leftovers, which taste even better on later days. I suggest accompanying the chili with some lightly salted rice (a good place to work in brown rice, if you do that kind of thing) and topping it all with a dollop of sour cream. And while I haven't tried beverages with this one yet, my culinary instincts say either a malty beer (an economical choice is Killian's Red, or Bohemia [Mexican]) or a strong red wine, not too expensive.

Vegetarian Chili Tim

1 pound dry "cranberry" or pinto beans
2 cups "French" green or regular tan lentils
2 large onions, in 1/2-inch dice
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon oregano
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup red wine
3 cups water
2 teaspoons salt plus 1-1/2 teaspoons more later
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste plus 1 can of water
1 large or 2 medium red bell peppers, seeded, in 1/2-inch dice

Pick over and soak beans in plenty of water overnight or at least 8 hours. Drain. Cover with fresh water and bring to boil, skimming off foam. Reduce heat and simmer until tender, partially covered, about 45 minutes. When tender, remove from heat.

Soak lentils at least 20 minutes in boiling water to cover by at least 3 inches. Drain.

Fry onions in oil until wilted. Reduce heat and stir in garlic for 2 minutes. Add dry spices, and stir and fry 2 minutes. Add drained lentils, wine, and 3 cups water. Bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer covered until lentils are nearly tender (20-40 minutes, depending on the lentils), stirring from time to time.

Add 2 teaspoons salt plus drained, cooked beans, tomato paste, and can of water. Simmer 5 minutes, stirring frequently so bottom doesn't stick. Add a little water, if too thick.

Stir in diced bell peppers and 1-1/2 teaspoons salt. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until pepper is tender. Taste, and add salt if needed.

Serve with lightly salted brown or regular rice. Top with sour cream.

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