Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tex-Mex Vegetarian Chili

From World Vegetarian by Madhur Jaffrey. This is a wonderful vegetarian cookbook, with recipes from around the world, including some delicious foods from India and the Middle East. It is organized by ingredient, a good feature when you want to make something with... lentils, or whatever. It also has an ingredient index for learning more about unfamiliar spices and so on.

I love beans. Until recently, I would try to cook up a big crockpot, making it up as I went along. Some of these creations were barely edible. The worst was when I added a large amount of vinegar to kidney beans following a recommendation that vinegar may help make beans more digestible. That one was destined for the compost pile. So, my new-found secret to cooking beans is: use a recipe! Amazing... And this is a very tasty recipe indeed. It's more of a comfort food than a spectacular main dish. The lentils end up being more dominant than the kidney beans. I took this to a potluck this fall where it took a starring role in chili-dogs, but it's good on its own, or with shredded cheese and avocado, sour cream, olives, chips, tortillas, and so on. It's easy to make, as well.

Tex-Mex Vegetarian Chili

3 Tb canola or olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1/4 to 1 jalapeño. (Jaffrey suggests 1/4 chile for medium heat and 1 chile for spicy. Instead, I substitute a 6 oz can of mild green chiles)
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried crumbled sage
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp cayenne (optional)

4 1/2 cups water
1 cup dried lentils
1 cup cooked drained red kidney beans (I use a 15 oz can, unless making this in a slow cooker)
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes, including juice (I like Muir Glen brand "fire-roasted")
3 Tb chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 Tb yellow cornmeal

Put the oil in a soup pot and set over medium high heat. When hot, put in the onion, garlic, pepper, and jalapeño. Sautee a couple minutes until they just start to brown. Turn the heat down to med-low and add dried spices (through the cayenne). Stir briskly once or twice and add water, lentils, beans, tomatoes, cilantro, and salt. Bring to a boil. Cover, turn heat down to low, and cook for 50 minutes.

Mix the cornmeal with 3 Tb water and then pour the mixture into the chili pot. Stir to mix and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer gently for 10 minutes, stirring now and then.

Makes 2 quarts.

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