The chili started with a recipe from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian (who, unfortunately, called it "Tex-Mex" chili and so I almost passed it up) and was enhanced with advice from Ed Brown's Tassajara Cookbook (a must-have for any touchy-feely and adventurous home-chef). But I took it from there for two reasons: 1) otherwise, writing the recipe on my blog would be copyright infringement and 2) because both of these recipes require that you start with dried beans. Just because I don't want to pop my pre-made chili out of a ConAgra can doesn't mean that I have days to spend in the kitchen, so the below recipe is amended for those nights where we feel like we can only dedicate an hour to the meal.
And it's good. You won't miss the meat, trust me. The flavor is rich and dynamic, the texture exciting, and you can easily adjust the heat to meet your tastebud's needs. We had it with this buttermilk cornbread (I always use plain yogurt instead of buttermilk because we always have it, and it works well) and a bottle of cab so good we couldn't tell it was cab. As written below, the chili to hits my spiciness-limit. Hamed, however, insisted that there was no heat. Where I've added an asterisk, feel free to increase or decrease throughout the cooking process to adjust the heat to your liking.
Oh, and if you recently received a Le Creuset dutch oven for Christmas, this is the perfect recipe for your new tool. If not, I'm sure any medium pot with a lid will be fine.
Heat 2-3 tbs canola oil in the bottom of your pan. Add:
1 yellow onion (diced)
3-4 cloves garlic (minced)
Sautee at medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes, and then add the following:
2 tsp ground cumin
2-3 tsp paprika*
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried dried crumbled sage
2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp cayenne*
A few drops of your favorite hot sauce*
1/2 - 1 tsp kosher salt
Sautee at medium-low heat for 3-5 minutes, until onions begin to brown.
Add 1 each of the following (substitute any beans for those specified here, if you like):
16 oz can black beans (rinsed and drained)
16 oz can pinto beans (rinsed and drained)
28 oz can plum tomatoes (with the juice, yum)
Bring to a boil and taste. Here is where you can adjust the spice, salt, and add some pepper. Then reduce the heat as low as it goes and cover. Cook for at least 40 minutes and add:
1-2 Tbs. cornmeal mixed with a few Tbs. water.
Cover and cook for another 5-10 minutes. Before serving, finish off with a teaspoon or so of balsamic vinegar. This is a trick that works to brighten the flavor of pretty much any soup or sauce.
Serve and enjoy!