Badass Vegan Chili

Watching the Superbowl this year, I realized how gosh dang American the whole thing is. Now, I’m no hootin-n-hollerin patriot, but why not embrace some of that enthusiasm this year. That enthusiasm that usually expresses itself through tasty grub, and what is more ‘merican than a damn good bowl of chili? Probably a lot of things, but for the sake of this post: NOTHIN. I’m also going to prove that with 3 beans and a whole lot of spicy kick, a pot of chili don’t need no meat.

1 medium or large onion
6-8 cloves. garlic
2 medium bell peppers
1/2 lb. carrots, cut & peeled
2-3 stalks of celery
1 can (15 oz). pinto beans*
1 can (15 oz). black beans*
1 can (15 oz). kidney beans*
2 cans (56 oz). diced tomatoes*
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. hot paprika
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. sage
1/2 tsp. fennel seed (optional)
1/2 tsp. ground coriander (optional)
salt, black pepper (general rule: reseason with salt and black pepper every time you add more to the pot)
olive oil

* as much as possible, I buy canned products with no salt added, that way I can control of the amount of salt in my food, because as we learned this week, 90% of us consume an unhealthy amount of sodium.

Let’s start by getting some olive oil going on medium heat in a large pot, making sure there’s enough oil to coat the bottom. While the oil is heating up, start chopping the onion using our scoring method, and you should end up with chunks of this size:
Throw the onions in the pot and get started on the garlic, scoring the bigger cloves so there aren’t any massive chunks in the mix.
Add the garlic to the pot with the onions, add a little salt and black pepper, and let them break down for a few minutes while you assemble your spices. Cayenne, paprika, cumin, sage, oregano, thyme: these are all necessary, but I would also recommend both fennel and coriander seeds if you’re into that subtle anise flavor.
If you have a mortar and pestle, this would be a great time to bust it out and grind all of the spices and herbs together. If not, no biggie, just mix the seasonings as best you can and add it to the onions and garlic, stirring until the spices are evenly distributed.
Add a little more oil if the pot seems dry, and stir around. As I’ve said before, getting the spices in as early as possible in cooking allows them to permeate whatever oil/fat you are cooking with, and thus become more infused in the dish (props to my pals Natalie & Ehsan for that tip). While the base for your chili is getting acquainted, chop up the carrots, bell peppers, and celery into pieces of relatively the same size.
For some odd reason I found it very satisfying to cut the celery on a diagonal… don’t ask. The carrots I just cut into small rounds.

celery tree!

When the peppers, carrots, and celery are ready, toss them into the pot and stir everything well. Add salt and black pepper.
Then, open up your cans of diced tomato and add those as well, holding back depending on how thick you like your chili. Add more salt and black pepper.
Finally, it’s time to add the beans. You can use whatever combination of beans that you like, but I’d always include black beans, because their fat content adds a nice richness. Be sure to drain and rinse the beans before adding. And as usual, add more salt and black pepper.

Now, turn down the heat, cover the pot, and let that chili work! I left mine on the stove for a good 5-6 hours, stirring periodically. I served it with lime, avocado, and cilantro (the first two helping to temper the heat for those of your guests who prefer a milder chili). Chow down.


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