Bon Appétit (February 2011)
One of our Culinary Resolutions for this year was to de-emphasize meat as a focus of our diet. We don't have any desire to go vegetarian, but there are lots of good reasons to scale back.
To our somewhat surprise, we've actually been doing really well on this resolution, and it hasn't even been that difficult. We've been doing more all-veggie meals, and when we do eat meat, it has not been as much of the star of the plate as it used to be. (Not surprisingly, those goes nicely hand-in-hand with our other resolution to buy higher quality meat closer to the source -- when you buy a $20 chicken, you want to make it last.)
We've been trying out veggie soups, winter salads and meatless pastas. (We've even been experimenting with cooking tofu! We literally had to ask a clerk at the grocery store where the tofu was.)
But the best vegetarian dish we've tried so far this year -- hands-down -- is this Black Bean Chili with Butternut Squash.
This chili is part of Bon Appétit's February feature on the "United States of Chili," featuring recipes from California, Ohio, New Mexico and, of course, Texas. You can sample the article at BonAppetit.com.
We wanted to try all these chilis because, really, who doesn't love chili on a cold winter day? We loved the sound of the Pork Chile Verde from New Mexico, and the classic Chili con Carne from Texas. But we were enamored with this Black Bean Chili, which the mag identifies with California.
As Bon Appétit says itself, "no self-respecting Texan would sign off on chili with beans, squash and bulgur." Probably so, but we instantly wanted to try it.
Making the dish is very straightforward. We were slightly concerned about sourcing one of the ingredients, the fire-roasted tomatoes (pictured right), simply because we'd never heard of them before. But there they were with all the other canned tomatoes.
The recipe also suggests sourcing higher-quality black beans, such as Midnight Black Beans from Rancho Gordo, or Heirloom Black Turtle Bean Seed from Local Harvest. We didn't do that, opting instead for a bag of dried black beans from the supermarket.
[Update: We couldn't find quick-cooking bulgur; regular bulgur seemed to work just fine.]
The dish comes together very easily, and then the flavors simmer together for a couple hours. Then you toss in the squash and the bulgur wheat and simmer another half hour until they're tender.
We can't say this loudly enough: We love this chili!
First of all, it's absolutely delicious. The butternut squash offers a really nice balance against the spiciness of the chili powder and chipotle chiles in adobo. And the fire-roasted tomatoes are like an express ticket for slow-roasted flavor.
The other thing we enjoyed was just how much chili this recipe makes. We both had it for dinner three nights last week, and we each took a bowl for lunch one day, as well. That's a lot of chili!
But the truly remarkable thing about this chili is how, well, meaty it is! With the beans, the squash and the bulgur, this is one hefty chili. In terms of texture, we'd stack it up against a Texas chili con carne any day.
Also, with these ingredients, it's like a protein-energy power-food. When we ate the chili, we opted out of the suggested sour cream and Monterey Jack cheese toppings, meaning this chili wasn't just vegetarian, it was vegan.
With hearty, satisfying recipes like this, it's easy to de-emphasize meat from your diet. And you won't even miss it!
- MAKES: 10 servings
- PREP TIME: 1 hour
- TOTAL TIME: 3 hours 30 minutes
- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 onions, chopped
- 8 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 2 14.5-ounce cans fire-roasted tomatoes
- 1 pound dried black beans, rinsed
- 2 chipotle chiles from canned chipotle chiles in adobo, minced
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
- Coarse kosher salt
- 1 2 1/4-pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 3 cups)
- 1/2 cup quick-cooking bulgur
- Sour cream (optional for topping)
- Coarsely grated hot pepper Monterey Jack cheese (optional for topping)
- Diced red onion (optional for topping)
- Chopped fresh cilantro (optional for topping)
- Pickled jalapeño rings (optional for topping)
- Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until soft and beginning to brown, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Add garlic; stir 1 minute. Sprinkle chili powder and coriander over; stir 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes with juice, beans, chipotles, and oregano. Add 10 cups water. Bring to boil, reduce heat to low, cover with lid slightly ajar, and simmer until beans are tender, stirring occasionally, about 2 hours (time will vary depending on freshness of beans). Season to taste with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. DO AHEAD Chili can be made up to 2 days ahead. Cool slightly. Refrigerate uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Rewarm chili before continuing.
- Stir squash and bulgur into chili. Simmer uncovered over medium-low heat until squash and bulgur are tender, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide chili among bowls. Serve with sour cream, cheese, red onion, cilantro, and pickled jalapeño rings.