Sunday, September 7, 2008

Summer Vegetable Chili

While ratatouille is an easy (though possibly under-appreciated) way to use up a bunch of summer vegetables, please do not overlook the possibilities that a warm pot of meat and beans seasoned with chili powder also presents. I suppose I am using the term "chili" rather incorrectly and loosely (check out the angry comments flying out of Texas below this recipe). But as inauthentic as it may be, the very vegetable-y version is pretty tasty and pretty healthy.

Anyway, this is a great way to go because
  • you only need one pot.
  • the leftovers taste even better.
  • it is very customizable.

First, heat some vegetable oil in a pot, and add chopped onion. Cook for just a few minutes.

Add your choice of meat: beef, pork, ground turkey, cubes of steak, sausage, vegetarian meat substitutes such as seitan or texturized vegetable protein, or no meat at all.

Next, add some ground spices. You can use standard supermarket chili powder, or create your own blend using any combination of chili powders (I really like ancho and pasilla), coriander, cumin, and oregano. Don't forget salt and black pepper.

Cook until the meat has browned. Add whatever beans you have around (I used canned black beans and some small white beans). Add enough liquid (reserved bean water, broth, or water) to loosen up brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pot.

And of course, vegetables: peppers (both hot and sweet) and tomatoes are the basics, but squash and corn work nicely too.

Adding some kind of secret ingredient is also fun, and adds another dimension (and an air of mystery/potential weirdness) to your chili. Possibilities include Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, chocolate, beer, and cinnamon.

Top it all off with sour cream, shredded or crumbled cheese, chopped raw onions, chopped cilantro, chopped scallions, or nothing at all.

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