Bean and vegetable chili

Tonight, I felt like surprising Marc with a nice, fall dish. Something warm and hearty he could eat after spending the day outside. I came upon this recipe from Mark Bittman (one of my favorite sources for recipes), and then heavily adapted it. This recipe is actually based on his book Food Matters, in which he says it’s totally okay to switch out the beans, the vegetables, or pretty much anything else you like.

I wasn’t quite sure my pot was going to be big enough, but in the end it was — just. My vegetables worked out to about 4 cups before cooking, and that’s a decent amount of vegetables! Other issues: the recipe never says when to add back the meat, so I put it in with the tomatoes and beans. I also wasn’t quite sure what to use to replace the chili pepper, so I added some chili powder and some red pepper flakes, and that seemed to work out pretty well. For the first time ever in cooking, I didn’t measure out my seasonings. I consider this a milestone. Finally, towards the end, I didn’t think it was thick enough, so I added a tablespoon of corn meal. (Thank you, Google, for the helpful hint!) Which meant it was just thick enough for a first eating, and will be super-thick when it’s reheated for leftovers.

Marc and I both really like this one. I think it’s a keeper.

Here’s my take on this recipe:

Bean and Vegetable Chili
(adapted from Mark Bittman)

Ingredients:

* 3 tablespoons olive oil
* 3/4 to 1 lb lean ground beef
* salt and pepper to taste
* 1 onion, chopped
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* 1 green pepper, chopped
* 1 medium zucchini, chopped
* 3 carrots, chopped
* 1 teaspoon ground cumin
* 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
* 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
* 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
* 1/2 of a 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes, with liquid
* 1 can (19 ounces) red kidney beans, with liquid
* 1 can (19 ounces) white kidney beans, with liquid
* 1/2 cup water or vegetable stock (as needed)
* 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, for garnish (optional)

Directions:

1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium; add the meat, season with salt and pepper, and cook until browned, about 10 minutes. Remove meat from pan and drain off all but three tablespoons of fat.
2. Heat the pan over medium-high. Add the onion and garlic; cook for about a minute. Add the vegetables, salt, and pepper; cook for 10 minutes or until they start to caramelize and dry out.
3. Add the seasonings and stir, then add the tomatoes, beans, and meat with enough of their liquid to submerge everything (use the water or stock if there isn’t enough). Bring the mixture to a boil and cook about 15 minutes. Garnish with cilantro. Serves six.

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