Is there any cold weather comfort food better than chili?
Everyone and their mother has their own special recipe. Here is my interpretation of the version my family has always made. Although I leave out the meat myself, the beauty of this particular recipe is that it is a terrific base to whatever adjustments you’d like.
The measurements below are just a close approximation — as always, tweak here and there to make it the way you like it.
1 large onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
4 large bell peppers, diced
5 jalapeno (or other chili) peppers
3-4 C beans (canned are acceptable, but dried preferable, instructions here)
4 C low-sodium vegetable stock
1 T white wine vinegar
2 C crushed tomatoes
2 T chili powder
1 t cumin seeds
1 t ground cumin
1 t Mexican oregano
1-2 dried chipotle peppers
1 bay leaf
1 t salt
freshly ground black pepper
Chop all the vegetables. Any color pepper will do (though green is lowest in nutrients as compared to red, yellow and orange).
Dice 4 jalapeno peppers, saving the last one for garnish. The capsaicin, which gives peppers their heat, is contained almost exclusively in the seeds and inner ribbing, so remove those parts as desired.
I usually just pull them out with my hands, rather than a knife, to leave a reasonable amount of heat behind. Remember to wear gloves and go conservative on this — you can always add cayenne powder later if you want more heat. But you can’t undo what’s already been done! 🙂
Heat oil in a large pot. Sprinkle some whole cumin seeds into the oil and cook for a minute or so. Add the onion and garlic, and then the peppers, cooking for a few more minutes.
Toss in the beans. I used black and pinto beans but it is really up to you which variety you choose. You can used canned beans, but I generally find them to have poor texture and to be lacking in flavor. See my previous post for an overview of preparing beans.
Toss in a splash of white wine vinegar to deglaze the pot and add a kick of flavor.
Cover with vegetable stock and crushed tomatoes. I had one 4-cup carton of stock, and ended up using 3-3.5 cups of it. The amount of crushed tomatoes should be about half the amount of stock — you don’t want it to taste too acidic. I used about 2 cups of crushed tomatoes that I had frozen this past summer, but you could also use canned.
Add the chili powder, ground cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, and mix together well. Toss in the bay leaf and the whole chipotle peppers (which, in the absence of meat, serve to lend a smoky flavor).
I don’t really eat soy products myself, but if you’d like, at this point you could also add some tofu crumbles or other fake meat of choice. Or even real meat, if that’s your thing. If you choose to go this route, I’d probably reduce the amount of beans used. Just move half of the chili to a separate pot if you’d like to make both vegetarian and omnivore versions simultaneously.
The consistency at this point should be relatively thin and soupy.
This recipe makes a LOT of chili, and I know I will be enjoying the leftovers all week. It’s also very amenable to freezing and should keep all fall and winter.