Sunday, February 21, 2021

Sista Chrissa’s Vegetarian Chili

Recipe Adapted from BUNWC*

My sister claims not to cook, but don’t believe it. While raising her kids a generation or so ago, she made amazing meals every night. Everything that she makes is scrumptious. Including this amazing veggie chili recipe with its surprise ingredients: cashews, raisins, and red wine vinegar. The latter two impart a sweet-sour flair to the usual beans, tomatoes, and savories. The second surprise is allspice, most often tasted in apple pie. It’s counterintuitive to combine it with chili powder and cumin, and you might just have to try it to believe the delectable results.

Clipped from a newspaper decades ago, this chili is attributed to *Brandeis University National Women’s Committee. Apparently Enid Hirst originally created the recipe, to be served as chili topping for baked potatoes at a conference. It's also an excellent dish for a potluck or informal dinner. Naturally, I made a few little tweaks to the recipe. For starters, I usually skip the mozzarella topping, and sometimes substitute a dollop of Icelandic yogurt—you could also try sour cream.

I also increased the cumin slightly, and added an optional increase in the amount of hot pepper sauce, to give it more of a kick. My husband has substituted part Ancho chili powder for regular chili powder to achieve a similarly peppy result. The type of cashews needed wasn’t specified; we use lightly salted roasted. My thought is that they hold up to stewing better than raw, so they can be added with all the other ingredients rather than separately towards the end as in the original recipe. With the longer stewing time the cashews absorb more of the chili flavor and become a most agreeable texture. 

And I must confess that I added a bit of salt to what was originally unsalted, to tie the flavors together. Use your judgment/preferences. You can also double this recipe with good, predictable results.

According to WebMD and Michael Greger, the How Not to Die medical researcher, beans add protein, fiber, and water to the diet, while increasing life span, decreasing pre-diabetes risk, and promoting weight loss (specifics in links above). Growing and harvesting methods for beans are environmentally friendly, with small carbon footprint. If you, like me, have been resisting eating beans…this unusual recipe, perfect for the chilly months, might just change your mind.

*BUNWC = Brandeis University National Women’s Committee = recipe source

Sista Chrissa’s Vegetarian Chili
Serves 6 - 8, or more if used as baked potato topping

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1½ cups chopped onion
  • 1½ cups chopped green bell pepper
  • 1½ cups chopped celery
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 28-oz. can crushed or diced tomatoes
  • 2 16-oz. cans kidney beans, drained
  • ¾ cup raisins
  • 1½ cups roasted cashews
  • ½ cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. chili powder
  • 2 tbsp. snipped fresh parsley
  • 1 tbsp. dried basil or oregano
  • 3½ tsp. ground cumin
  • 3 tsp. ground allspice
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ - 1 tsp. hot pepper sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1½ cups part-skim mozzarella (optional)

Heat oil in 4 quart Dutch oven. Add onions, green bell peppers, and celery. Sauté over medium high heat until tender, stirring frequently. Add garlic and stir until fragrant.

Stir in tomatoes, beans, vinegar, raisins, cashews, chili powder, parsley, basil or oregano, cumin, allspice, salt, hot pepper sauce, and bay leaves. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 1½ hours.

Uncover Dutch oven. Adjust heat to maintain simmer. Cook until thickened to desired consistency, stirring occasionally, about 30 more minutes. Remove bay leaves if you wish.

Serving suggestions: Spoon into ovenproof bowls, top with cheese, and melt cheese under broiler. Or split open a baked potato and top with chili and cheese. Or serve hot with a sprinkling of cheese and/or sour cream or thick yogurt. Or serve crackers or corn tortillas on the side. Or, simply enjoy on its own, with or without a side salad.

Saute of onion, bell pepper, and garlic
First Saute the Savories
Skillet filled with colorful ingredients and spices
Next Add Beans, Tomatoes, Raisins, Cashews, and Spices
Pouring Wine Vinegar into Colorful Ingredients
Pour in the All-Important Wine Vinegar
All chili ingredients blended together but not cooked
Stir it All Together, then Cover and Simmer
Simmering Chili Almost Done
Simmer Uncovered Till it Looks Like This
Finished Chili in the Pot
Stir it Up and Serve

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