Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Vegetarian but Definitely Not Chili

Last Saturday night I had the best vegetarian chili I had ever tasted. It was so melt-in-your-mouth good that it made me wonder if I could be a vegetarian. (But maybe it was just that it was steamy hot and the semi-renovated house where the pot-luck took place was freezing.)

Anyway, I asked the woman who had made the chili what recipe she had used and she said she had just made it up. The ingredients? Lots of garlic, onion, a can of black beans, a can of corn, a can of tomatoes, and some spices. But what spices? Chili powder, salt, and pepper. It sounded too easy.

So today I decided to try to duplicate that chili. I realized I had no chili powder, never having made chili in my 58 years. I looked up a recipe for chili powder, swearing to my husband that it wouldn’t be hot. So I ground up the cumin, coriander, bay leaves, oregano, a dried ancho chile, and the tiniest bit of cayenne pepper. It was at least the color of chili powder.

It was easy enough to combine the handful of ingredients while I made a pot of brown rice. It looked pretty and smelled good.

But from the first bite I knew it was not chili. It was vegetables over rice that left me longing for a piece of rare beef. Even the addition of grated cheese would not have made a difference.

What went wrong? Was it the lack of authentic chili powder? Or perhaps not enough beans? Or maybe they should have been kidney beans? Did it need a carrot or something a little sweet? Or maybe, just maybe, there was a secret ingredient that the chili-cooking woman left out. Maybe she didn’t want everyone running around duplicating her chili.

I have quite a bit of this wanna-be-chili left. I just can decide how best to fix it or whether to quit trying to make it other than beans with corn and tomatoes. But I think tomorrow I will eat meat!

(The next day)

I'm happy to report that thanks to all your helpful suggestions I have turned the remains of the veggie dish into chili. I added:

-- A can of dark red kidney beans
-- Half and onion, chopped
-- 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
-- A yellow pepper, chopped
-- A carrot, chopped
-- Cilantro
-- A jalapeno pepper, chopped
-- Chili powder
-- Chili sauce (which I am convinced, thanks to Jamy's suggestion, was the secret ingredient)

I cooked the combined old and new for about 2 hours on a simmer and then had lunch. It was fantastic chili FINALLY. Yum! Might even be worth giving up meat for this...


Blogger Jamy said...

This type of thing tends to benefit from lots of cooking. I'd simmer it on low for as long as possible. If it's too thin, some tomato paste or even ketchup might help thicken it up!

10:27 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Jamy -- Maybe I'll add a can of kidney beans, a carrot, and some real chili powder and cook it to death. Maybe then it will be chili.

The woman who made the good chili cooked it in a crock pot.

12:14 AM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

You've never made chili? Wow.

I have a great recipe for vegetarian chili - it's delicious - happy to share it. Let me know.

8:27 AM  
Blogger Kristin said...

I definitely tend to let things like that simmer. Almost indefinitely. Carrots sound like a good add. I hope you enjoy!

8:42 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Reya -- Yes, please share your recipe with me!

Kristin -- I'm starting to suspect that the chili I liked was loaded with Ketchup. It seemed just a little sweet and had the thickness of Ketchup. I love all sweet BBQ sauces that are largely Ketchup based.

I'm going to work on it today, although it would probably be smarter to chuck it in the trash, get Reya's recipe, and start over!

9:01 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

I would consider adding butter. Sautéing the onions in butter might make the difference.

Otherwise, your spicing seems correct. One thing I know about chili is that it tastes better a day or two later after the flavours have a chance to blend.

Don't throw it out. Brown some ground meat and throw it and the drippings into the chili and then simmer for a bit. Let sit overnight and it should be better.

On the other hand, it is easy to give advice, I don't have to eat it in the end.

12:10 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Richard -- The chili is improving as we speak. But no butter or meat -- this is vegetarian chili! I did use olive oil, which I think gives anything good flavor. And I added a lot of things, including chili powder and chili sauce. I can already tell it's greatly improved over yesterday.

1:03 PM  
Blogger Water Baby said...

I tried to make beef stew for the first time during a cold front that came through during October. It ended in disaster, probably because the pot I used had a bottom that was too thin... I burned it almost immediately!

1:46 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

WB -- Contrary to what your Dad the chef says, I think the pan makes a huge difference. It also helps to have a very low heat burner so the pot can simmer for a long time.

I'm hoping Steve weighs in on the chili because I'm sure he has an opinion!

2:17 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Butter is acceptable in vegetarian cooking - though not in vegan cooking.

Besides, if butter is not acceptable, then neither is cheese.

5:14 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Richard -- I don't have butter in my house because my husband is lactose intolerant. I did not serve the chili with cheese and the latest batch was still quite good.

5:38 PM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

I always add green pepper and summer squash, celery, mushrooms.just to add to the veggie group.

9:54 PM  

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