Saturday, June 19, 2010

Vegetarian Chili (Bean Stew With Vegetables)

I am seeing red - red-hued fruits and veggies. Phytochemicals known as anthocyanins (from Greek anthos=flower and kyanos=blue/purple) are the reason for the vibrant colors in nature from the gorgeous flowers and the spectacular autumn leaves to eminently edible colorful fruits and vegetables. Anthocyanins are antioxidant flavonoids that protect and heal various systems in our bodies. Current research suggests that anthocyanins contribute towards maintaining cardiovascular health as well as protecting against certain cancers. These phytochemicals are present in pigment-rich fruits and veggies. So eat up lots of red, purple, and blue veggies and fruits for a healthy body.

Chili is a flavorful one-pot meal that can be made with your favorite beans and veggies which are rich in anthocyanins. It is essentially vegan and provides abundant vitamins, minerals and plenty of fiber too. Serving with whole grains, nuts/seeds, or a little cheese will ensue in protein complementarity ensuring complete protein as well. Chili is a versatile dish - it can be served on its own or over rice, polenta, or baked potato or with a side of corn bread.

Chili is another dish that has no specific recipe - this is just a basic guideline; there is lots of room for experimentation. In addition to the traditional Red Kidney beans, other legumes such as Pinto, black, red etc or a combination can be used to make chili.

Cooking beans takes a little planning as they do best when given ample time to hydrate and plump up. But all is not lost if they are not soaked the traditional way - there is always the emergency "quick soak" method which works quite well. It takes just minutes to make your own if you have a pressure cooker as it cuts down on the cooking time considerably. For a fraction of the cost of the canned beans, for better nutrition, and last but not least for the superior taste, I urge you to make your own freshly cooked beans whenever you can.

Or as a last resort, one could use canned beans if desired. Actually, you can make a quick and healthy meal using canned beans.

Note: The grated carrots add lovely texture to this dish. Use the purchased Chili Spice Mix, Taco seasoning, or make your own with New Mexico Chile, Cumin, and smoky Paprika. Add more spices if you like a spicy dish.

8 Servings

Ingredients:

2 cups dried beans
1 or 2 dried whole Red Peppers
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Onions, preferably Red, chopped
1/2 tsp crushed Red Pepper
4 Ribs Celery, chopped
1 or 2 cloves Garlic, minced (optional)
1 or 2 Jalapeño Peppers, cored and minced (optional)
2 small sprigs each Oregano and Thyme
2 large Carrots, 1 chopped, 1 grated
2 Bell Peppers, Red/Yellow, cubed
1 Cup Yellow Corn Kernels, fresh or frozen
4 Tomatoes, chopped or 1 cup simple Marinara Sauce
2 Tbsp Chili seasoning Mix (1 Tbsp ground New Mexico Chile, 2 tsp ground Cumin, 1tsp Smoky Paprika)
1 tsp Sea Salt or to taste
1 small bunch Cilantro, chopped

Grated Vegan Pepper or Regular Jack or Cheddar Cheese, to serve (optional)
Vegan Sour cream, to serve (optional)

Method:

Sort the beans, wash well and soak them in plenty of fresh water for a few hours or overnight. Or do a quick soak: Place the beans with water to cover in a pot and bring to a boil; turn off the heat, cover and let sit for an hour.

Drain the soaking water and cover the beans with fresh water and cook with the whole red peppers until the beans are soft but not mushy.

Add the salt, stir well and simmer for 10 to 15 more minutes. Set aside. This can be done ahead of time up to this step.

Heat the oil and stir in the onions, crushed red pepper, garlic, Jalapeño, herbs, and celery with a pinch of salt; cook stirring until onions are translucent.

Add the chopped carrot and cook for a couple of minutes.

Stir in the bell pepper, corn, tomatoes or sauce and seasoning and cook for a couple of minutes more until everything is mixed well.

Pour the beans with enough of their broth into the pot, stir well and simmer for 15 minutes stirring often to ensure that it does not burn. Add more of the bean broth or water if the chili gets too thick.

Stir in the grated carrots and simmer for 10 more minutes.

Remove from heat and let rest for a few minutes.

Stir in cilantro and serve hot with a sprinkle of cheese and/or a dollop of sour cream.

Cornbread, corn tortillas, whole wheat chapatis or bread, other cooked whole grains make a fine accompaniment to chili. Enjoy!

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