Friday, April 15, 2011

Vegan Chili with Cilantro Brown Rice and Spinach with Lime Vinaigrette

 While I adore chili (my kids will attest to this), I find that as time goes on I'm interested in many different kinds of chili.  My mom made what I think of as "Irish chili" simmered with her made-every-summer home-canned tomatoes, onions, green pepper, and, I think, a little less meat than I'd wish for.  My mother-in-law tells a similar story:  her mom bought a pound of ground beef and used 1/3 for chili, 1/3 third for spaghetti, and I forget what the other 1/3 was for.  That's skinny chili.  Still, it was tasty, filling, easy, homey and did the trick for a big family.  I, for years, made a similar sort of pot and was never happier than when the spicy smells wafted through the house.  I felt rich.  A whole dinner (with extras) in one pot.

Then SILVER PALATE came along and I made that chili .  Later, living in Texas for nearly four years pushed me toward
If you know beans about chili, you know there's no beans in chili.
Last spring, I tested an incredible Texas-style chili  (make your own chili powder) for Cooks' Illustrated and, while I liked that, too (Dave adored it), I thought it totally lost its flavor the next day.  And what good is chili if it's no good the next day?  If I go to make chili without thinking about it, I guess that by now it's a hybrid of some sort---probably closer to SILVER PALATE.  Some of that is in this chili (Dijon mustard, citrus, vinegar) if you compare the recipes. 

But the recent move toward more vegetables in my life got me thinking about veggie, in fact, vegan chili.  I think I've eaten it somewhere, but I didn't know how it was made.  To make myself smart and inventive, I did not look up a recipe; I just chopped and cooked, looking for an easy version.  I made it two slightly different ways and ended up combining the ideas, though serving it with cilantroed (definitely not a word) brown rice and a limed spinach salad stuck in the final roundup. 

Hearty, inexpensive (hey, no meat), quick (hey, no meat) and healthy, this is a filling, warm weekend lunch or dinner that really works if you've brought home a friend who's a vegan.  While it makes a little bit (limited by can sizes here), it's great for a couple of days in the frig and you can freeze it for a month or so.  I had a friend for lunch today to try it out and neither of us missed the meat; we were stuffed.   Who do you know who's vegan?

 Vegan Chili with Cilantro Brown Rice and Spinach with Lime Vinaigrette  4-6 servings

1 cup brown rice
2  cups water
Pinch salt; several grinds of pepper
A splash of olive oil
1/2 c chopped cilantro, reserved for later

Bring water  to a boil in a 2 or 3 qt. saucepan.  Add other ingredients; stir.  Lower heat, cover, and cook at a medium simmer for 45-55 minutes.  Test for doneness and leave covered to stay warm while you cook the chili.  (You can cook the rice while you cook the chili, of course.)  You'll add the cilantro at serving time.

1 T olive oil (no need for extra virgin)
3 t chili powder, divided
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided

In a small stockpot (4 qt), heat oil.  Add  1 tsp of the chili powder and black pepper. Let cook a minute or two.
1 medium onion, chopped
1T finely minced jalapeno pepper
3 stalks celery, minced 

Add onion, jalapeno and celery to the seasoned hot oil and saute 4-5 minutes, stirring often.

2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 ea red and yellow sweet peppers, coarsely chopped
1 each small zucchini and yellow squash, cut into 1" pieces

Add garlic, peppers and squashes to the onion mixture and stir well.  Cover and simmer 10 minutes, stirring once or twice, lowering heat if it starts to burn.

 1 15 oz can chopped tomatoes,
1/2 cup each:  water, red wine (or 1 cup of either)
1/2 t cumin
1t each oregano and basil, dried
Big sprinkle of cinnamon (I like Vietnamese)
1/4 t kosher salt
1 t Dijon-style mustard
1 can of no-salt pinto (or black) beans, drained
3-4 drops Tabasco (or to taste)
2 t red or white wine vinegar

Stir in tomatoes, wine, water, spices, the other two teaspoons of chili powder, mustard and beans.  Carefully shake in Tabasco.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer.   Let cook fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally, adding water or wine if the chili becomes too thick or sticks.  Add vinegar.  Taste and adjust seasonings.

4 oz button mushrooms, optional
1 t butter, optional
  If you like them, in a small skillet, saute mushrooms five minutes or so in the butter.  Add to the chili.

6 cups fresh spinach
1 lime, sliced
1 T extra virgin olive oil
3 green onions (scallions), sliced thinly (white and green)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup tortilla chips

In each of 4-6 shallow bowls or plates, place a cup- or a little more-of spinach.  Squeeze the lime over each salad and drizzle with a bit of extra virgin olive oil. Dust salad with salt and pepper.  Add 1/2 cup rice next to the spinach.  Garnish rice with cilantro.   Next to the rice, ladle in the chili.  Sprinkle sliced green onions over all and place a slice of lime in each bowl.  Garnish with a few tortilla chips.

Note:  For South Beach, skip chips and rice!
Sounds more complicated than it is.  What a meal.

Wine?  Jury's out.  Some say a fruity zinfandel; one friend insists Champagne.  I'm thinking beer.
  Have fun cooking and taking care of yourself,


  1. Fantastic recipe Alyce! I think there are many people flirting with a vegan diet. Here and there it's very healthy isn't it? You've put together a meal that has it all. Well done!

  2. I'm looking for more and more things like this....sounds like you're on that road, too. Thanks for reading!!


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