Vegetarian Chili

At least once a year, I make a big batch of vegetable chili, usually with 3 kinds of beans and loads of vegetables.  I layer in many flavors and seasonings, sometimes going a little crazy with ingredients.  I know it sounds nuts, but my best and most unusual vegetarian chili recipe seasonings are a mixture of traditional flavors such as cilantro, cumin, oregano, thyme, ancho or chipotle.  My biggest change to the recipe, depending on mood and who I'm serving it to is to add in my favorite, no-so-secret go to ingredient, PUMPKIN, and other flavors like beer, coffee and chocolate.  Surprisingly, they all work well together, as I've written in past posts and recipes.  

To bulk up the chili and to make it even more protein friendly, I'll even add in bulgar wheat instead of cooked ground turkey.  It all depends on what I have in the pantry and what strikes my fancy. Chili is an infinitely adaptable and versatile recipe.  My version always has the vegetable basic building blocks - onions, garlic, carrots, zucchini, squash, peppers, 3 kinds of beans, corn and a southwest/Mexican style blend of seasonings.  I will vary the recipe by either making it vegetarian or I'll do a batch with lean ground turkey.  

Traditional Texas Chili is meat, chilies and maybe tomato product - no beans! Shudder to think!  My chili recipe is a riff on one that I learned from Jill Horn at Vorspiese in the Reading Terminal Market as well as one that I made for Andro at Andro's Fine Foods.  From each restaurant where I worked, I took elements of the recipe and made it my own.  Now I'm passing it along to you.  Where it goes from here is up to the cooking Gods and Goddesses!  A few friends have been asking me for my vegetarian chili recipe.  I realized that I had not posted it on this blog even though I had the Turkey version posted from a few years ago.  It's not all that different, but the vegetarian version deserves it's own post.
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 Large Onion (about 2-3 cups) - peeled and medium dice
  • 5 Medium Carrots - (about 2 cups) -  peeled and medium dice
  • 6 Garlic Cloves (about 1/4 cup) - finely minced
  • 1 Large Red Bell Pepper (about 1 cup) - medium dice
  • 1 Large Green Bell Pepper - (about 1 cup) - medium dice
  • 1 Medium Zucchini (about 1 1/2 cups) - small/medium dice
  • 1 Medium Yellow Squash (about 1 1/2 cups) - small/medium dice
  • 3 Cans Beans: (Low Sodium) Black Beans, Kidney and White or Pinto Beans (15-16 oz each) – drained and rinsed
  •  2 Tablespoons Cumin
  • 1/4 Cup Ancho Chili Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon Ground Chipotle Chili Powder (optional, for additional heat and kick!)
  • 2 Tablespoons Dried Oregano
  • 1 Tablespoon Dried Thyme 
  • 2 Tablespoons Cocoa Powder (unsweetened) or Chopped DARK 70% or Higher Cacao
  • 1 Tablespoon Instant Coffee or 1/4 cup strongly brewed Coffee
  • 1 Large Can Unsalted Tomato Puree Sauce (20 ounces or more)
  • 1 - 14 Ounce Can Pure Pumpkin Puree
  • 2 Cups Water OR 1-12 ounce bottle of a good quality dark or amber beer AND 1 Cup of water
  • 2 Cups Frozen Corn
  • 1/2 Cup Packed Cilantro– minced
  • Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper—to taste
  • Zest and Juice of 1 Lime (about 1 teaspoon of zest and 1 tablespoon of fresh lime juice)
  1. Use a stock pot, Dutch oven or other large and heavy bottomed pot. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil until it shimmers over medium-high heat.
  2. Add in the onions and the carrots; saute and sweat them about 8 minutes, or until they begin to take on a hint of color.
  3. Add in the garlic, stir and cook another 3 minutes.
  4. Add the peppers, the squash and zucchini and saute for 5 to 8 minutes minutes.
  5. Next add in all of the dry seasonings, cumin through the cocoa powder (or dark chocolate if using) and stir to combine and toast.
  6. Pour in the brewed coffee or instant coffee powder, stir to combine
  7. Add in the beans, frozen corn, tomato sauce, pumpkin puree and water or beer. Stir to combine.
  8. Simmer for 40-60 minutes.
  9. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding salt and freshly ground black pepper as needed; adjust as needed additional cumin, chili powder or oregano  Stir in the lime zest and juice last, to brighten the flavors and garnish with freshly chopped cilantro.
  10. Makes about 1 gallon of chili or enough to last several meals and freeze some.  Frozen, it will last for up to 4 months.  Serve hot with cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips or with brown rice, if desired.
Notes: If you want to add bulgar wheat to this to bulk up the chili, add 1 cup of bulgar wheat  it when you add in the liquid ingredients, along with an additional cup of water. As the bulgar wheat cooks, it will absorb the liquid and more than double in size.  If the mixture is too dry, add in additional water, by 1/2 cup at a time.  Remember to stir the mixture to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. 


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