September 7, 2017

Vegan Chili

Say hello to my sister. This is all her fault. Unless it turns out
great, in which case this is all my fault.
They say that necessity is the mother of invention. Then again, they also say that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, which is ludicrous because the relative value of a bird doesn't change just because it's in a bush. I mean, sure, maybe if it was in some super hard-to-reach bush on top of a mountain, but that was never specified. And there are pretty much bushes everywhere. But I digress. The point is that I had a great need, and thus needed to invent. Specifically, my sister is in town, and she doesn't eat a lot of the basic foods that make up deliciousness and joy. And sure, she claims that while she's here she'll eat whatever you give her and won't be picky, but she says it with the same look in her eyes that the animals have in those over the top ASPCA commercials with the ridiculous Sarah Mclachlan music. So I needed to make something without red meat, processed sugar, flour, and probably a bunch of other things that I'm forgetting. And somehow I needed to make it taste good. And by coincidence, lately it's been kind of chilly in Chicago. And so, just like every major marketing campaign ever, inspiration was born from a stupid pun.


2 standard issue Onions
3 ribs of Celery
3 largish Carrots
1 lb. Crimini Mushrooms
5 cloves Garlic
32 oz. can of Diced Tomatoes
15 oz. Black Beans (Personally, I used canned beans because I didn't have the time to deal with dried beans and their endless drama this week. But if you do, soak your beans for 6-8 hours, then replace the water and boil them for another 45 minutes in salted water. Same thing you do with communists.)
15 oz. Kidney Beans (Ditto)
1 Green Pepper
1 Poblano Pepper
1 Jalapeño Pepper
6 oz. Tomato Paste
2 cups Vegetable Stock (That you totally had left if you made my empanadas from last week. And it turns out that I made the empanadas that I made last week, so that worked out for me.)
1.5 TBSP Cumin
1.5 TBSP Dried Oregano
2 tsp Smoked Paprika
1/2 tsp Black Pepper
1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper
2 Bay Leaves
Olive Oil

The first thing you're gonna need to do is prepare yourself. Not in an overly dramatic, "prepare yourself for destruction" sort of way, although that couldn't hurt either. But there are a fair number of ingredients here, and it doesn't hurt to get them ready in advance so that you don't have to worry about preparing your next ingredient in time before the fire burns everything (especially your pride and insurance premiums) to a crisp. So, if you've got the wherewithal, spend some time now cleaning and dicing your vegetables and rinsing your beans. For the rest of you who thrive on the constant thrill of possibly burning your dinner and/or neighborhood, feel free to twiddle your thumbs while you wait for the rest of us to finish prepping. Alright, now coat a pan with oil, and sauté your diced onions and celery over medium-high heat along with a standard pinch of salt. Cook it until the onions start to get some color before adding in your mushrooms and another pinch of salt. When you sauté mushrooms, they release a whole bunch of liquid, shrink, and start smelling kind of nutty and awesome. When this happens, add in your assorted peppers and garlic. Cook for another minute or so before adding in your tomato paste, cumin, oregano, paprika, black pepper, and cayenne.

Pro-tip: For the best results put your reddish chili in a red
bowl, and then photograph it under orangish light.
Pretty much all forms of canned tomatoes that I've encountered suffer from the same problem that diet coke does. Namely, they taste like cans. But cooking them down with the rest of your ingredients helps soften that metallic taste a lot (I haven't checked to see if this also works for diet coke, but I feel like it probably does). So cook your vegetable-tomato sludge down for a couple minutes before adding in your diced tomatoes and another pinch of salt. Let it keep cooking for another minute or two, at which point your entire home should smell delicious [or possibly smoky and ashy, depending on how successful you were at chopping as you go. I didn't burn my house down (this time)]. Throw that whole mess into a slow cooker/crock pot along with your carrots, vegetable stock, beans, and bay leaves. Cook it on the high setting for 2 hours, and then on the low setting for another 2-4 hours. Then remove your bay leaves and eat it. Like, all of it. Because this sucker isn't just "good for being gluten free," or "good for being vegan," both of which are code phrases for "bad, but maybe it could have been worse." It's just good for being food.


  1. Looks amazing, and I'm going to try it out. So thanks Avi and Toby!