Suganya is celebrating a month of Vegan Ventures on her blog. One of my favorite fall dinners just happens to be vegetarian chili, which happens to be vegan, and I teamed it up with some vegan cornbread to make a satisfying Southwest-US inspired supper.
A few weeks ago, there was a chili cook-out at my workplace. A few folks who enjoyed cooking brought big crock-pots of chili, some others brought cornbread muffins and sweet goodies. All of this food was sold over lunchtime and the modest sum of money collected was handed over to a breast cancer organization. It was a lot of fun, and a nice way to do some small-time fundraising while enjoying a variety of home-cooked food. I make chili quite often during the cold months, but wanted to try something different, so I took this chipotle-"meatball" chili to the cook-off, and everyone enjoyed it. It sold out, and I was surprised and relieved, because this is Missouri, after all. Today I made the exact same chili again and decided to post it here so I won't forget the recipe a few months from now! This chili definitely tastes much better a day after it is made. It is perfect for a make-ahead dish to feed a crowd.
Here are the main components of this hearty chili:
1. Beans: I chose to use a combination of red kidney beans (apna rajma) and Dominican red beans. The latter are a pretty new addition to my pantry. When Indosungod wrote this post and said, "When cooked they tasted a lot like boiled peanuts", I practically ran out and bought a bag of these cute pink-white beans (I found it in the Mexican section of the store- Goya brand). I love the taste of these beans and use them quite often now. Pinto beans and black beans would also work well in this recipe.
2. Soy meatballs- I buy them from the frozen section. The meatballs soak up the delicious stew and simply melt in the mouth.
3. Vegetables: Onions and peppers feel like natural additions to this chili. But I omitted green peppers and only used the ripe sweeter ones- yellow, orange, red- here. I added carrots and yellow squash for more juicy vegetable goodness. If I were not serving this chili with cornbread, I would have added some corn kernels as well. Zucchini and eggplant would also be tasty here.
4. Tomato puree, as a base.
5. Chipotle peppers in adobo: These are smoked Mexican chillies (jalapenos) preserved in a spicy sauce.
These can be found in cans wherever Mexican foods are sold. Once the can is opened, I transfer the contents to a glass bottle and use the flavorful chipotles (and their sauce) over several months.
6. In several chili recipes, I came across "secret ingredients" being mentioned in conspirational whispers. A small amount of cinnamon or unsweetened cocoa powder really does bring out deep flavors in the chili!
1. Heat 1 T olive oil in a large pot/ Dutch oven.
2. Saute 4-5 cloves minced garlic until translucent but not browned.
3. Saute 1 large onion, 1 medium carrot, 2 red/yellow/orange peppers, 1 yellow squash (all cut in large dice).
4. Stir in cooked beans (from 1 C dried beans), 2 C tomato puree, salt, 1 t cumin powder, 2 minced chipotle chillies and 2 t adobo sauce (or to taste), 1/2 t cinnamom (or cocoa powder).
5. Add 2 C water (or to desired consistency), bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes. Add 1 packet (1 lb) thawed vegan "meatballs" and simmer for 5 more minutes. Eat the next day, when the flavors really come together!
While a lot of people love eating chili on its own, I enjoy it best with some carbs (what else is new?)...either some Spanish rice, or some couscous, a corn tortilla, or some cornbread. I found a recipe for an award-winning vegan cornbread that looked delicious, and it had a delightfully short ingredient list too! There are two ingredients in this recipe that also are relative newcomers to my kitchen.
The first is ground flaxseeds. This was the first time I used flaxseeds as an egg substitute in baking, and I am very impressed. When mixed into hot water, this powder really takes on the viscous nature of beaten eggs! I often get comments and e-mails from bakers seeking to make eggless baked goodies, and I definitely suggest that they should play around with flaxseed powder- it is known to work well in many recipes. The second ingredient is cornmeal. I am happy to have found this whole-grain medium-grind cornmeal (this brand) because most cornmeal has the germ removed and is consequently less nutritious. I skipped the sugar in the cornbread because the almond milk was already sweetened. The sweetish note in the cornbread is delicious. The addition of sweet corn kernels and aromatic green onions makes the cornbread even tastier.
1. Preheat oven to 425F.
2. In a small saucepan, heat 6 T water, then stir in 2 T ground flaxseeds until the paste becomes viscous. Set aside.
3. In a bowl, combine the dry ingredients:
1 C AP flour (or white whole-wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour, or some combination of these)
1 C cornmeal
2 t baking powder
1 t salt
4. To the dry ingredients, add and mix
1/4 C oil (I used olive, but canola or another neutral oil is recommended)
1 C almond milk (or rice milk or soymilk)
5. Stir in the extra ingredients
1/2 C corn kernels (frozen, thawed)
3 green onions, minced (green and white parts)
5. Pour the batter into a greased 8x8 inch baking dish, then bake for 20-25 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes clean. Serve warm.
Serve piping hot chili with warm cornbread, garnished with green onions or cilantro, if desired.
Next time, I plan to make a chili casserole, by pouring warm chili into a baking dish, topping with cornbread batter and then baking the whole thing. That would be a delicious way to serve this combination, I imagine.
Stay warm, and a Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends in the USA, who will enjoy a Thanksgiving feast, good times with family and friends, and a couple of days off!
For a tempting array of vegan recipes, from appetizers to desserts and everything in between, go visit Suganya's round-up.