Saturday, February 06, 2016


   You see here’s the thing… I’m feeling like calling this “Vegetarian Chili” implies a certain amount of “less than”. And this bowl o’ red is in no way less than!  Okaaay?  Huge flavor, plenty of toothsome bite and more comfort food moments than anyone should need. And that’s before any added cheddar, pickled jalapenos, sour cream or Fritos.

  Here’s how this post came about… Last year I had the great good fortune to be hired to make the food for a client’s Super Bowl party.  Among the treats and treasures I delivered was a vegetarian chili that seemed to take the party by storm.  Rarely do I receive such accolades.  This year I was excited when then client called to schedule a similar drop off, and “Of course, we want your famous vegetarian chili!”

   Hmmmmmm………  You see I’m a sort of improvisational cook.  And short of the main framework of the dish, I don’t really have a recipe for my “Famous Vegetarian Chili”.  Until now!  And I am so happy I was pushed to recreate this dish.  Is it exactly the same?  I guess I’ll get the review Monday, but at this point of my career behind a stove, I find my instincts pretty… well “instinctual”.  So I’m feeling pretty confident this recipe is as good, or more likely better.

Vegetarian Chili

½         Cup                  French Lentils – 15 min
¾         Cup                  Wheat Berries – 35 min 
                                       (reserve cooking liquid)
1/3       Cup                  Quinoa – rinsed – 18 min
4 ½      Tablespoons      Vegetable Broth Base
6          Cups                Vegetable Broth         

3          Tablespoons     Olive Oil
1          Cup                  Diced Celery (3 stalks)
2          Cups                Diced Onion  (1 Large)
1          Cup                  Diced Red Pepper (1 Medium)
1          medium            Jalapeno – (seeds removed) minced
2 ½      Cups                Shiitake Mushroom Caps
                                      diced fine    
1          Large                Leek – white / pale green parts only
                                      split lengthwise, sliced thin
2          Tablespoons      Chili Powder
1          Tablespoon       Ground Cumin
2          teaspoons         Sweet Smoked Paprika
                                      dulce not picante
2          teaspoons         Salt
2                                 Canned Chipotle chilis
                                      finely chopped
1          Tablespoon       Adobo Sauce from chipotles
2 ¼      Cups                 Beer
1 ¼      Cup                  Strong Coffee
1 ½      Cup                  Reserved cooking liquid from wheat 
2          28 oz.               Crushed Tomatoes – see note
1          36 oz                Diced Tomatoes – see note
1 ½      teaspoons         Dried Oregano
2          Tablespoons      Brown Sugar
¼         Cup                  Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

1 ½      Cups                Diced Zucchini – 2 small
                                      seeds cut away
2          Medium            Corn – kernels cut from cob
1          15 oz               Canned Organic Red Kidney Beans
                                      drained and rinsed 
1          15 oz               Canned Organic Black Beans
                                      drained and rinsed
NOTES:  I prefer using fire roasted canned tomatoes in this.  Muir Glen has an excellent product.
When prepping the zuchinni, I suggest quartering them lengthwise and cutting away the soft seedy section  and discarding it.  Then proceed with dicing.
I find organic canned beans a much superior product.  Feel free to use conventional if you prefer.

First cook the grains.  In three separate pots put about three cups of water and 1 1/2 Tablespoons of vegetable bullion base.  I think Better Than Bullion is a great brand.  Or you can use 2 cups of vegetable broth and 1 cup of water plus about ½ teaspoon salt.   Cover and bring to a boil over high heat.
Rinse the quinoa under cold running water until the water runs clear.  Pick over lentils and wheat berries to remove any debris or small stones.
When stock is boiling add the wheat berries, lentils and quinoa into separate pots.  Lower the heat and simmer until cooked.
French lentils should take about 15 minutes, quinoa should take about 15 -18 minutes, the wheat berries should take about 35 minutes.  Everything can be slightly al dente as they will cook further in the chili.  When each item is cooked, drain the liquid and set aside the quinoa and lentils.  WHEN DRAINING THE WHEAT BERRIES RESERVE 1 ½ CUPS OF THE LIQUID FOR THE CHILI.

Now… Make the chili.  In a large 8-quart soup pot, warm the olive oil.  Add the celery, onions, red peppers, jalapenos, shiitake mushrooms and leeks.  Sauté over medium heat for about 6 minutes to soften the vegetables.  Add the chili powder, cumin, sweet smoked paprika and salt.  Stir and sauté to toast the spices and bring out their flavor.  Cook about 3 minutes. 
Now add the canned chipotles, adobo sauce, beer, coffee, reserved wheat berry liquid, all tomatoes, oregano, brown sugar and cocoa powder
Stir well and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.  Stir occasionally.

Add the corn, zucchini, corn, 2 kinds of beans and reserved quinoa, wheat berries and lentils.  Bring the chili back to a simmer and cook for 10 – 15 minutes.  Stir often to prevent scorching.

Serve hot with all your favorite accompaniments.  This will be even better 24 hours later.

   While I am clear that posting this with less than 24 hours notice of the Super Bowl, probably doesn’t help your game plan much, perhaps some of you may have the wherewithal to get this to your football friends tomorrow.  Or more likely, it’s a great candidate for a Meatless Monday, or a freezer stocker weekend cooking marathon. 

I am clear that there are a lot of ingredients and a lot of steps.  But it makes a boatload of chili, so you should get a lot of product for your investment.  Very freezer friendly I might add.  And I’m hoping that will be enough for you to welcome Big Mary back into your kitchen after such a long lasting sabbatical.  Oh hell whom am I kidding? …. After such a long lasting spell of avoiding writing!

Eat up kids!!!