In spite of my undying love for all things porky, in fact virtually all things meat based and edible, I have feelings for the vegans among us. Admittedly mostly they are feelings of derision and pity, to which I should feel badly about, but I don't. Unless they are eating something Asian, where of course the term vegan has no meaning because it is simply eating good food without desperate cries for attention disguised as eating with political labeling. Given that, so many good things are out there that are non-meat and non-dairy based that they deserve pride of place on your tables.
Case in point is this amazing, flavorful vegetarian chili that could be made non-dairy by substituting for the butter (but again, I ask why?) and leaving off the classic sprinkling of grated sharp cheddar (ditto). The recipe is from the Cabbagetown Café Cookbook. w discovered the Ithaca, NY, café as a student at Cornell. She has thrown this steaming bowl of vegetarian deliciousness down twice now and it kills! With the weather cooling and the large stock and braising pots coming off the shelves, I highly suggest making this for those you hold dearest....soon. I swear you won't even miss the meat. Hmm, maybe those vegans are on to something. Hahahaha...just kidding!!
It's a long list of ingredients, but don't be deterred because they are all common and it comes together incredibly easily....
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adapted from The Cabbagetown Café Cookbook
1-1/2 cups uncooked pinto or kidney beans, cleaned and rinsed
6 cups water
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons light vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
2 green peppers, chopped, 2 celery stalks, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon dried or finely chopped fresh oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dries dill weed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
1 quart canned tomatoes
3/4 cup cashews
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1- Put the beans, water, and bay leaves into a medium pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered and stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Cook until the beans are tender, about 90 minutes.
2- In a soup pot, heat the oil. Add the onions and garlic and sauté about 2 minutes. Add the green peppers and celery and cook until the vegetables are tender but still crisp, 8-10 minutes.
3- Melt in the butter, then add the spices, herbs, pepper and salt. Sauté for 1-2 minutes stirring frequently so nothing burns.
4- Add the tomatoes with their juice to the mixture, and crush the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon. Simmer for 10 minutes, then remove from the heat until the beans are ready.
5- Toast the cashews in a 350* oven for about 10 minutes, or until slightly browned. Be careful not to burn them.
6- Add the cooked beans, liquid and all, to the vegetable mixture. Add the 1/2 cup of the toasted cashews and the vinegar. Simmer for 30 minutes to blend the flavors. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Serve hot, with remaining 1/4 cup of cashews for sprinkling on top with grated sharp cheddar cheese if desired.
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If like me you also find a warm square of cornbread hot out of the oven to be the ultimate starchy accompaniment to your chili, you've gotta be trying the Trader Joe's Cornbread. Sure, homemade cornbread can be really good and gives you that feeling of accomplishment, but I'm telling you this is good as almost any home baked cornbread I've ever had. Very corn-y tasting with actual bits of corn, and with a honeyed sweetness...not too sweet, but exactly right....this is the trifecta of good eating: easy, fast, and delicious!