This past week, our weather’s taken a serious turn for fall. I’m no longer shedding clothes walking home from the train station–I’m speedwalking with my hands in my pockets and arriving in the door with my lungs invigorated from all that crisp fall air. So when a message about Kim Place-Gateau’s “how to make vegetarian chili” on Food52 hit my inbox, it was just the right timing to get me hauling out the crockpot and making my own batch of that quintessential fall food.
As the recipe name suggests, the “secret” ingredient here is chocolate, in the form of some unsweetened cocoa powder. It adds a darkness and depth to the chili that makes it even more seasonally appropriate (not to mention tasty). This is a good dish to prepare on the weekend, as the long simmering time really is necessary for getting the flavors to blend together. Eating the leftovers throughout the week, you’ll probably find that the taste develops and improves with each eating. You can use either the crockpot or the stovetop, depending on your available time and preferences–I go back and forth about which option is my favorite. I like to serve this over spanish cauliflower rice, preferably topped with some avocado, and maybe a bit of grated cheese (dairy or daiya, depending on your preference.
Makes 8-12 servings, depending on your appetite and accompaniments
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and cut into 1/2″ dice
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 serrano chili peppers, ribs and seed removed, flesh minced
3 T chili powder
1 heaping T unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp oregano
4 c. vegetables, cut into 1/2 to 3/4″ dice (I used a mix of carrots, summer squash, and bell pepper here. Some other good options include sweet potato, celery, or corn. Use a mix of starchy and non-starchy vegetables for the best results. The starchy vegetables will break down and thicken the chili, the non-starchy ones will keep things from getting too heavy)
6 c. beans (I used a mix of pinto and black beans for this batch, but you can also use red kidney beans).
28-oz can diced tomatoes
salt to taste
1. In a medium sized skillet (if planning to use a crockpot) or large saucepan (if you’re going all stovetop), heat the oil. Add the onions and cook, stirring periodically, until beginning to brown at the edges. Add the garlic and chili peppers and cook for 1-2 minutes more. Add the chili powder, cocoa powder, cumin, coriander, and oregano.
2a. If you’re going the crockpot route, transfer the onion, garlic, and spice mixture to the crock and add the vegetables, beans, and tomatoes. Add a few dashes of salt. Turn the crockpot to low and allow to cook for 8-10 hours, the vegetables will be soft but starchy ones like carrots should still have some integrity (if you’re in a bit of a hurry, put the heat on high and you can have decent chili in 3-4 hours). Taste and add additional salt as needed. Remove from heat and serve.
2b. If you’re going the stovetop route, add the vegetables to the pan and cook for about five minutes, until everything is heated through. Add the beans and tomatoes and cover the pot until everything starts getting bubbly (5-10 minutes usually). Turn the heat to low and allow the chili to cook for another 45 minutes or an hour. Remove from heat and serve.