Chili is January and February's cover girl dish, perfect for cold nights and football weekends. Speaking of which ? I am still not happy about that "non-call" in the Lions v. Dallas game. It was so fun to say "Go Lions" while it lasted. Haven't done that in years.
Anyways...the recipe below for Veggie Almond Chili comes from my book Cool Cuisine. Veggie chili is tricky because it lacks the complex flavor profile of meat, which cooks should replace with other umami contributors. Umami, a basic taste along with sweet, sour, salty, and bitter, lends a deep, savory, full-flavored mouth feel experience to eating. It is determined primarily by the amount of glutamates (an amino acid) in food, abundant in meats and other animal products, but also found in some vegetables and other non-meat ingredients.
If you are cooking vegetarian cuisine, or whatever you are cooking actually, please read up on umami and actively incorporate it into your dishes. Umami-filled non-meat foods include: soy sauce, fish sauce, sea vegetables, soybeans, carrots, cabbage, mushrooms, aged cheeses, fermented foods, dried peppers, and tomatoes.
Other ways to bump up chili complexity include secret ingredients such as red wine, cocoa and chocolate, Dijon mustard, dark beer, cinnamon, molasses.
Many of us have a chili secret or two stuffed up our sleeves.
I wonder what yours is?
Photo credit: Diane Choplin
Veggie Almond Chili
This chili has a lot of ingredients, but it doesn't take long to assemble. The key to a satisfying vegetarian chili is creating a deep complexity of flavors so people feel like they are eating chili and not vegetable soup. Chili is best cooked the day before, allowing flavors to develop.
1/3 cup almonds
1/2 cup emmer grain,* or 1/4 cup bulgur (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, sliced
2 carrots, diced medium
3 sticks celery, diced medium
1 small jalapeï¿½o, chopped
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon ancho chili powder (optional but preferable; can use regular chili powder)
1 chipotle chili, finely chopped
2 reconstituted dry or oil-based sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons dry red or white wine
1 (28-ounce) can tomatoes, liquid reserved, or 2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
6 tablespoons beer (dark is good, such as a chocolate stout or porter)
2 tablespoons molasses
1 /2 teaspoon rich-tasting olive oil
21/2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup white or yellow hominy, rinsed and drained
1 cup black beans, cooked (canned or homemade. See recipe on pages 28?29)
1 /4 cup chopped cilantro
Garnish: Chopped white onion and cilantro leaves, grated cheddar cheese (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place almonds on baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes, or until light brown. Remove from oven. When cool, finely grind in a food processor.
If using emmer: Rinse emmer and place in a small saucepan with 2 cups of water and a pinch of salt. Bring to boil, cover, reduce heat, and cook 50 minutes. Remove from heat.
If using bulgur: Place 1/2 cup bulgur in a small baking pan. Boil 1 cup of water
and pour on top of bulgur. Sprinkle in a pinch of salt. Cover and let sit for 15 minutes, until all the water is absorbed. For more flavor, use 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup stock. Add ï¿½ cup or to taste to chili and reserve the rest for another use.
Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot. Add onion and sautï¿½ on medium heat for 5 minutes, until translucent. Add garlic and stir. Add carrots, celery, and jalapeï¿½o; stir and sautï¿½ for 5 minutes. Add the next 8 ingredients (coriander through Dijon mustard). Sautï¿½ for 3 minutes. Add wine and sautï¿½ until mixture is almost dry. While cooking, blend half the tomatoes into a purï¿½e. Add the beer, molasses, ground almonds, and olive oil. Add both diced and purï¿½ed tomatoes. Stir well and lower heat; allow this thick slurry to lightly cook for 10 minutes. Add stock, hominy, emmer, and beans. Cook for one hour on a low heat. Mix in cilantro. Taste and adjust seasonings. Garnish.
*Emmer is an ancient wheat, described as the "grandfather of farro." It is a larger grain than regular wheat and has a distinct richer flavor and meaty-chewy texture?great for chili. I only know one place it grows in the country: Winthrop, Washington. Buy online at www.bluebirdgrainfarms.com.