Last night I was feeling motivated to make a nice dinner for me and the roomies to warm up after a chilly (get ready for the pun) winter day. I was looking through a couple of cookbooks for inspiration, and settled on making a hearty chili (and… there it was).
You may not know this yet, but I don’t really follow recipes. I look at a few recipes, learn about the dish from a conceptual standpoint, and then dive in with my own flair and pizazz (yeah… you may want to stop reading my blog at this point… But I promise that the corniness will ease up a little).
I headed out to the grocery store and picked up a bunch of different classic chili ingredients. I decided that I wanted to build a veggie chili as I am still feeling motivated to eat more vegetables after the green smoothie cleanse (Thank you JJ Smith). I picked up two beautiful poblanos, a few giant sweet onions, and a 3 different type of beans that were on sale.
I started out with a little chop chop chop action on the cutting board. I always go pretty heavy on the onions which used to lead to a good bit of crying… until now… I used to hold a match between my teeth while cutting onions to control the tears, but that would just lead to a wet match that I could never use again. I’ve been using a new method where I burn a candle next to the cutting board which severely eased on my weekly emotional cry session.
I was definitely a bit liberal with the spices with this specific batch of chili. I added two poblanos and likely (read: definitely) too much cayenne pepper. I think I threw in a full tablespoon of it, which is three times more than I wanted to put in. Tbsp v. tsp can be tough. When cooking, I believe that you should constantly be tasting and playing with your flavors. Sadly (at least for my roommates), I love a flash of fire in my chili. I should have known that it was too spicy when I was coughing after my first taste…
For the actual cooking, my method for chili comes down to three major steps: cooking down harder veggies with spices, melding all of that flavor with the tomato base, and then adding in my softer veggies.
First, I heated up a bit of olive oil in a large enameled pot. In terms of oil, whatever you have on hand should work, I used a canola/olive oil blend this time. I threw onions, peppers, garlic, cumin, cayenne, chili powder, salt, and black pepper into the warmed oil and cooked them down until the onions became translucent.
I then added in two giant cans of diced tomatoes. I prefer this over tomato sauce as it is chunkier rather than soupier. I then brought all of those flavors together by bringing the pot to a boil then simmering partially covered, thought uncovered will work as well, for around 45 minutes.
I like my beans to still be very recognizable and chewable when I serve them in a chili, so I add the beans with about 15 total minutes of simmering left to go. You can simmer them the whole time (adding them in with the onions), but many of them pop and melt into the soup. I also threw in corn and a chopped bunch of kale that I had hidden in the freezer at this step.
Now it is time for toppings. This part is a major key. During this ending step, you can work to cover up all of the mistakes that you made throughout your last hour of cooking (lol). Did you make it too spicy? Add a dollop or two of sour cream/greek yogurt. Did you let it cook too long and it became heavy or dry? Drizzle a bit of nice olive oil on top? Are you just unhappy in general? Add cheese or some fresh herbs (in the past chives, cilantro and parsley have been my go-to chili herbs).
Pro-tip: if you are ever instagramming your chili, make sure to garnish it. Pops of color from sour cream and herbs can really make a difference. Exhibit A:
What I love about this basic recipe is that it is so customizable when it comes to staying seasonal. Here are a few ideas broken down by season:
- Winter: winter squash, cabbage, parnsips (my favorite)
- Spring: asparagus, avocado (as a topping)
- Summer: pretty much any fun ingredient that you find at your local farmer’s market including, but definitely not limited to, zucchini, fresh tomatoes, leafy greens
- Autumn: pumpkin, chai spices, sweet potatoes
When I make chili, I make a huge batch. It lasts about a week in the fridge and a couple of months in the freezer. If you choose to toss it in the freezer (space permitting), I recommend portioning it out before into meal sized containers. Let it defrost slowly in the fridge then heat up in a pot or microwave for the easiest dinner ever. It is also an awesome lunch to take to work, especially when you combine it with a bit of brown rice as shown in Exhibit B:
Here is a recipe based on the ingredients that I used last night. I toned down the cayenne to soften the “mouth burning” feeling that was aggressively present in this particular batch. Go easy with the spices if this is your first chili, tasting with a separate spoon throughout the cooking process. You will be a chili master in no time!
- 2 cans (28 oz each) of diced tomatoes
- 1 can (15 oz) of black beans
- 1 can (15 oz) of red kidney beans
- 1 can (15 oz) of white beans
- 1 cup frozen corn
- 1 bunch kale, de-stemmed, and roughly chopped
- 2 sweet onions, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, cored, deseeded, and diced
- 1 green bell pepper, cored, deseeded, and diced
- 1-2 poblano peppers, cored, deseeded, and diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tbsp cumin
- 1 tsp cayenne
- 2 tbsp chili powder
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- Salt to taste
- Pepper to taste
- 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Chopped green onions to garnish (optional)
- Shredded cheddar cheese for garnish (optional)
- Sour cream to stop the ease off mouth burning (optional)
- Cooked brown rice (optional)
- Heat olive oil over medium heat in a big pot (enameled dutch ovens also work well)
- Once the oil heats up, add in onions, peppers, garlic, cumin, cayenne, chili powder, salt, and pepper
- Stir with wooden spoon then cook until onions become translucent and pepper soften (about 4-6 minutes)
- Add in both cans of diced tomatoes and oregano
- Bring to boil then bring burner down to low heat, letting the mixture simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally
- Add beans, kale, and corn, then cook for 15 more minutes
- Serve with green onion, cheddar, and sour cream
In the comments: Tell me a story about chili if you’d like 🙂