I’ve been cooking vegetarian chili since the mid-1990s. In those days, Don Barnes’s QuintesSensual Chili made a big impression on me, and I used it as a starting point. With this chili I have simplified things, eliminating the fake meats and bock beer in favor of more basic, traditional ingredients. I’ve turned up the temperature to stimulate the endorphin centers of your brain. I call this chili ‘Fuego Alert’ (with a shout-out to Tabasko Sweet). Enjoy!
- beans: 1 can’s worth, including liquid, of your favorite (I like to use half great northern, half black — a “two color” light-and-dark combination)
- 1/2 yellow onion, diced
- 1/2 zucchini squash, diced
- 1/3 cup orange bell pepper, diced
- 1 tomato, diced
- 1 tsp. tomato paste
- 1 jalapeño pepper
- 1 dried chipotle pepper
- 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 pinch chili powder
- 1-2 Tbsp. olive oil (to sauté the onion)
First, soften up the dried chipotle pepper by submerging it in about 1/2 cup water in a small bowl and microwaving for 1 minute. Set aside and let soak for 10-15 minutes.
Next, the onion. I use about half of a standard, medium-to-large size yellow onion. Dice, then add to skillet with heated olive oil. Sauté over medium-high heat until somewhat caramelized — add water if needed to prolong cooking time. Add to blender.
Also to the blender, add the zucchini. This may not seem like your everyday chili ingredient, so let me explain. First, it is a native American plant, and not foreign to Mexican cuisine, I believe. Second, it will function as a kind of filler — adding flavorful body to the chili. Note: Since we’ll be cooking it thoroughly later, we can just use it raw in this step. Set the blender and its contents aside.
In a medium pot, add black beans and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil; simmer over low heat.
In the skillet, add the lighter beans (including bean juice), and heat over medium. Mash coarsely, then sauté for a couple of minutes over medium heat. Add to the pot and continue simmering.
Next, the hot peppers. You’ll want to put on some latex gloves for this, or wash your hands thoroughly after handling. Remove the core and seeds from the jalapeño. If you want a hot chili (as I’d recommend), add these to the blender; if not, discard. Dice the outer part of the jalapeño. Also, chop the chipotle pepper as finely as possible. Add the hot peppers to the pot of beans.
Now blend the onion, zucchini, and (optional) jalapeño core, along with about 1/2 cup water, on low for about 10 seconds — it’s OK if it’s not smooth.
Next, add the blended onion/zucchini/jalapeño mixture and all other ingredients to the pot. Simmer on medium-low heat, uncovered, for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add water as needed.
Yield: about 4-5 servings.