Monday, July 11, 2011

The Spice of Life

Hearty Vegetarian Chili with Roasted Tomatoes and Corn
I had a pork loin in the freezer and every intention of making an extremely meaty, tender slow-cooked shredded pig chili. I had been thinking about that mouth-watering smoky taste all day and looked forward to an evening of friends and food. But, any good hostess must have a degree of flexibility when entertaining and I was challenged to re-vision my hearty chili recipe when I realized I would be having a vegetarian over for dinner. No problem. I made a few adjustments to the recipe to ensure that the chili would be spicy, extremely flavorful, and 100% meat-free. In fact, skip the cheese and sour cream topping and this is a great vegan option that is sure to please the pallets of carnivores and herbivores alike. Chili is one of those great throw-it-in-a-pot-and-leave-it-alone kind of recipes. The only real prep you need to remember to is soak your dried beans overnight and roast the tomatoes ahead of time. Otherwise, this is a great low-commitment recipe to feed a hungry crowd.

- 2 c. dried small white navy beans
- 2 . dried pinto beans
- 4 ears sweet white corn, husks removed and kernels scraped from the cob and set aside
- 1 lb. Roma tomatoes
- 2 fresh jalapeño peppers, seeded and finely diced
- 2 large, sweet yellow onions, peeled and diced
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 2 12 oz. bottles of Mexican lager, such as Corona
- 1/4 c. tequila 
- 1 3-4 oz. can black olives with liquid from can
- salt and pepper
- dried oregano
- red pepper flakes
- cayenne pepper
- cumin
- chipotle chili powder
- olive oil
- 3 Tbsp. butter 
- 16 oz. jar medium red salsa
- 16 oz. jar medium green salsa
- 1/4 c. chopped chili peppers in adobo sauce
- pickled jalapeño peppers, sour cream, shredded cheese, guacamole, and corn chips for serving

Preheat oven to 425˚ F. Line a heavy, rimmed baking sheet with foil, spray with cooking spray, and set aside. Slice Roma tomatoes lengthwise into 1/4" pieces and arrange in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and fresh ground pepper, 1 tsp. cayenne pepper, 1 tsp. red pepper flakes, 2 tsp. dried oregano, and 2 tsp. ground cumin. Drizzle tomatoes with 2 Tbsp. olive oil and roast in oven for 20-30 minutes until the tomatoes are softened and browning. Remove from oven and place in a resealable container. Refrigerate until ready to use. 

Rinse dried beans in a colander then place in a large mixing bowl. Cover with cool water and soak overnight for the beans to soften. Beans will expand after soaking, you may need to use two bowls. When ready to use, dump out soaking water and rinse beans in a colander with cool water. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 275˚F. Melt butter in a large, heavy Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions, seasoning with salt and pepper. Cook onions on stove top until they become very soft and are beginning to turn brown, stirring occasionally, about 10-12 minutes. Add fresh jalapeño peppers and garlic to the onions and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes until they begin to soften. Pour tequila into the Dutch oven to deglaze pan, scraping up the browned bits with a wooden spoon. Reduce heat to medium low and add drained beans, roasted tomatoes, corn, salsas, chili peppers in adobo sauce, olives in their juices, and beer. Season with 2 or more tsp. salt, pepper, 2 Tbsp. ground cumin, 1 tsp. red pepper flakes, and 2 tsp. chili powder. Stir ingredients thoroughly to combine. 

Turn temperature to medium high heat and bring to a boil. When the chili is simmering, put a lid on it and place the Dutch oven into the preheated oven. Cook for 2 hours until the beans are softened and the ingredients are well incorporated. Remove from oven, stir again and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with sour cream, pickled jalapeño peppers, shredded cheese, guacamole, and tortilla chips.

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