My Second Favorite Chili (and a lesson on beans)

When it’s rainy and cold, all I want to eat is hearty, warm food. Since it pretty much remains rainy and cold all winter in Jerusalem, I find myself working on food like this quite often. Given the high cost of groceries in Jerusalem, I rely heavily on dried beans and grains, which serve as the basis of just about every winter meal I make.

Beans. Buy them dry or fresh. Canned beans are great, but rarely hold up to cooking, and tend to be way more expensive. If you’re in a crunch for time, canned beans make a great addition to any soup or chili, but if you know a day ahead that you’re going to get your bean on, it’s not as scary as it sounds to cook from dry.

For this recipe, pick 2 or 3 types of beans. I stick with black, pinto, and white beans. Kidney beans also work well. Don’t forget to sort your beans and pick out any pebbles or beans that look gross, old, or broken. Rinse them well. Put one cup of each bean in bowls (I don’t mix them) and cover with at least an inch and a half of water. Soak overnight or six hours.

Rinse the beans and combine in a large pot, covered with at least an inch of water. Bring to a rolling boil with a bay leaf and two cloves of peeled garlic. Lower the heat to a constant simmer. You want to see it boiling, but not going wild. Do not add salt. This will make the skin of your beans tough. Depending on how old the beans are and if they were stored properly (grocery stores often don’t care about or pay attention to humidity levels or quality of beans) they can cook for anywhere from an hour to three hours until they are to your liking.

I prefer to boil different types of beans alone since they never seem to finish cooking at the same time. When the beans are done, let them sit and reach room temperature. Don’t run cold water over hot beans. They don’t like it and I don’t know why. Just go do something else and let them cool down (you can drain the water if you want). If your beans were properly washed, you shouldn’t need to rinse them after boiling them. Always taste the beans and see if they’re good to go.

Pareve Chili #2

  • white onion, diced
  • red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced fine
  • bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • turmeric
  • “taco seasoning” (see below)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbs tomato paste
  • 14 oz tomatoes, crushed or puree
  • 1/2 cup frozen or canned corn, and/or peas
  • “meat” crumbles (Morningstar, etc.)
  • beans (at least 3 cups, cooked)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • salt, pepper
  • oil (I use vegetable or coconut)

Directions

Heat 2 tbs oil in a heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and let them sizzle until fragrant. Cook the diced onions, bell pepper, carrot, and celery until softened, at least 10 minutes, stirring frequently (it’s important to cook these vegetables for as long as possible to get the best flavor from them).

Add the bay leaf, and garlic, and cook for another minute. Add the crumbles and tomato paste, cook for 4 minutes, while stirring. Next, put the spices and the tomatoes into the pot, and bring to a boil. Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, and then lower the heat and simmer for one hour (or more) covered, but allowing steam to escape. Make sure to stir every 10 – 15 minutes to prevent scorching. The longer it cooks, the more the tomatoes will break down with the spices into delicious chili and the beans will absorb the flavors.

Optional toppings: chopped green onions, chopped white onions, techina, sour cream and cheese. Serve with cornbread.

Taco Seasoning. These amounts are specific to my taste, so make sure to make it in small batches and taste as you go. Once you find your preferred ratio, multiply it and store it in an air-tight jar for up to six months. Remember that spice blends need low humidity and dark spaces and should be consumed quickly! (Google it–there are many good recipes out there for homemade taco seasoning )

  • 1 tbs chili (chipotle) powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

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