Chili Sin Carne

In Beans, Lentils, Mexican, Rice, Saving Money, Vegetables on January 24, 2012 at 1:32 pm

I’ve written previously about my love/hate relationship with Hale & Hearty (“H&H”).  They make some pretty tasty, relatively healthy soups with clean ingredients.  My go-to lunch in my corporate ladder days was either Tuscan white bean soup with spinach, or 3 lentil chili.  The latter was by far the best vegetarian chili I’d ever had, aside from the version I’d eaten as a young child at this small vegetarian coffee shop called The Smile in Queens.  Like I’d mentioned before, the H&H version of chili can be quite costly.  Even if you buy the large quart sold in grocery stores (which I never did during those days), it’s still $2 a cup.  One day, I actually looked at the ingredients on the container.  They all seemed like pretty standard ingredients, and similar to my chili con carne recipe of meat-eating past.  I opted to tweak my version to match theirs, and it came out really well – I’d say about 95% spot on.  And cost half as much as their cheapest option.

Last week, I decided to revisit this recipe (along with some additions I wanted to play with) for a Thursday night dinner.  I gathered all the ingredients (pictured above).  The only problem was that when I went to gather all three of those lentils varieties, I was left with only  standard green lentils.  I’m usually pretty good with replacing bulk bin items, but I suppose I hadn’t visited the section since my last few lentil recipes?  Or perhaps it was super busy at Fairway and I just didn’t visit the section?  Whatever the reason, I had to find a suitable substitute.

Luckily, I had made some pinto beans some time ago and had frozen the leftovers.  I soaked them in water to defrost while I prepared all the other ingredients.  First, I started chopping up all the veggies: onions, carrots, pepper (all from the original recipe), and zucchini and summer squash (which I had in the fridge and used to bulk up this chili).

I added them to a heavy pot with 1 tbsp evoo, and let them cook at a medium-high heat for 10 minutes covered, making sure to stir every few minutes.  Then I measured out some spices: cumin, marjoram (because I was out of oregano), ancho chili powder, and regular chili powder.

I also washed, rinsed, and dried the lentil so that they’d be dry when it was ready for them to join the pot.

Another preparation was to dice up some chipotle in adobo.  Chipotle are smoked jalapeno peppers, and are super tasty!  You buy them in a small can, and usually only need 1 of them.  I will open a can, and freeze the remainder for another day, just like today!

I slice off a section, and then mince it up to add to the pot later.

10 minutes have passed, and the veggies are tender enough.  Now it was time to add the spices, and cook them into the veggies for about a minute or two.

Then I raised the flame to high and added those lentil, stirring for about 2 more minutes.

At this point, there are a lot of brown bits stuck to the pot.  Time to deglaze!  Normally I would just add water and canned tomatoes, but in the H&H recipe, they listed sherry cooking wine, so I used this opportunity to incorporate that into my version.  I added 1/2 a cup, making sure to scrape the pot really well.

After another minute or so, the alcohol had cooked out, so it was time to add the other liquid ingredients.  I had half a carton of vegetable broth, because I had already used half to make some brown rice, so I added that to the pot.  I also used a large can of san marzano crushed tomatoes, some water, and the diced chipotle pepper.  Salt and pepper were added as well.

I cooked the veggie/lentil/liquid mixture slightly covered for 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so to make sure nothing stuck to the bottom.  It became really thick and saturated.  Mmmmm.

Then I added the defrosted pinto beans, and cooked for another 15-20 minutes.

While that cooked away, I shredded some lowfat Monterey Jack cheese for garnish.  I also wanted to use avocado, but when I cut it open, there was mold INSIDE the flesh.  I had never seen that before!  Usually I don’t buy organic avocados, because they are less susceptible to contamination than other produce.  However, this time I did and it was a mistake!

The chili was ready, and it looked and smelled so yummy!

Then came time for assembly!  I lined a bowl with brown rice for Nick, creating a well for the chili.

I added a couple of ladels of the chili, and sprinkled some cheese.  EXTREME CLOSE-UP.

Non-extreme close-up.

Instead of using a bed of rice, I opted for a bed of baby spinach.

Veggie super powers, unite!

Although I was sad about the lack of aguacate creaminess, I was still very pleased with this chili rendition.  Not only did I have it for lunch the next day, but I had 4 more portions left to add to the freezer.  I love having leftovers in the freezer, because it really makes my lunch making process a hell of a lot easier on a Monday after a non-cooking weekend.

What are your favorite soups or stews to freeze?


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