I’ve established a couple of blog themes but the most prevalent is utilizing what I have available. Once again, I am beginning with the vegetables I prepped in a recent Knife Skills class (as I did with Minestrone). The vegetables were waiting in my fridge for me to make them into dinner. Thus I had the advantage of nearly no prep work to do, save for a couple of extra garlic cloves to mince and a chunk of tofu to dice… how easy is that? It’s a class bonus, but otherwise you’ll need 10 to 15 minutes of enjoyable knife work.
There are a couple of challenges for any chili production. One is using restraint when adding tomato products—they’re sweet and we don’t want to evoke marinara. They are also acidic and we want a chili that stands on its own without requiring dilution from a starch---rice, pasta, cornbread. Of course, any of these would be welcome, but I don’t want to depend on them as a crutch for imperfect seasoning.
This recipe has plenty of room for adjusting based on what you may have in your larder. Frankly, I was pretty surprised to discover in my fridge a jar of adobo vegetable stock base; how’d that get in there? Adobo could mean different things depending on where you may be, Puerto Rico or the Philippines, but garlic and peppers are bound to be included so I give it the go-ahead. I have also been curious to employ in a braise my jar of Cowboy Crust® spice mix form Spiceology. I’ve been pretty happy with searing and grilling meats with it, but I thought its unique coffee kick would add dimension: brooding darkness and a slight bitterness, though I did not want to over-play the coffee. We don’t always achieve that complexity without meat.
That darkness is bolstered by the sorghum syrup, which is one of my favorite sweeteners. I think of it as a more gentle molasses. I inject smoke with paprika and then cheat it up with some liquid smoke. I tend to feel a little shame when I reach for that bottle of smoke, but when used in moderation it can pull focus away from the freshness of the vegetables and balance out their sweetness.
I like the assortment of textures at play here, especially since the extended simmer time distributes all the flavors so we aren’t distinguishing each individual ingredient. I include TVP, textured vegetable protein. It, of course, with the tofu, bolsters the protein content. But it also greatly defines the texture of the dish, emulating (for better or worse) the feel of ground beef. Between that and a little bit of flour the liquid tightens up just slightly for a great feel and richness.
What began as a scramble to have a meal for the approaching dinner hour resulted in a surprisingly complex, satisfying chili. I would challenge any meat-eater to find it lacking.
Scroll down for a printable version of this recipe
Makes: 2 quarts
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, medium dice
1 carrot, medium dice
1 celery, sliced
1 zucchini, medium dice
1 green bell pepper, medium dice
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoon cumin, ground
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 Tablespoons tomato paste
2 quarts water
1 Tablespoon vegetarian stock base (adobo-flavored if you have it)
16 oz can (or box) chopped tomato
2 teaspoons dried oregano leaf
1/3 cup TVP
2 15-oz cans of black beans, rinsed
2 Tablespoons sorghum syrup, or substitute molasses
1 cup tofu, medium dice
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1-2 teaspoons liquid smoke
1 Tablespoon Spiceology Cowboy Crust® Espresso Chile Rub
- Heat a heavy pot over a medium flame. Heat oil and add vegetables. Sauté until softened.
- Add garlic and cook for one minute.
- Add flour, chili powder, cumin and pepper and cook for one minute.
- Mix in tomato paste, then water, stock base, tomato, oregano, TVP and a bit of salt. Simmer for ten minutes.
- Add beans, tofu, paprika, liquid smoke and Cowboy Crust®. Simmer on low for 30 minutes with a lid on, checking along the way for seasoning adjustments.
- Serve with preferred toppings. I chose scallion and sour cream.
For more vegetarian cooking tips, don't miss our Vegetarian Boot Camp on Saturday, June 24 from 10am-4pm at Lincoln Square. In this day-long deep dive into vegetarian cooking, we'll explore flavors and ingredients from many cuisines as well as vegetarian proteins. You'll learn how to make:
- Quick Pickled Zucchini, Lentil and Arugula Salad with Feta-Lemon Vinaigrette
- Roasted Beet and Caramelized Onion Puff Pastry Tart with Hot Honey Drizzle
- Asparagus and Leek Bisque with Herby-Greek Yogurt
- Mushroom Bolognese with Parmesan-Polenta Cakes
- Curried Chickpea-Sweet Potato Fritters with Raita Sauce
- Vietnamese Shaking Tofu with Rice Noodles, Red Cabbage, Lime and Peanut