I am not a vegetarian. Oh, I'll admit that I once was - a very long time ago - for a very short time. It had something to do with prepping raw chicken for 500 back in my catering days. But eventually I succumbed again to the dark side, back to burgers, rib-eyes and that old favorite, bacon.
Several weeks ago we were working on that "cookbook I can't tell you about" and when the photo shoot was done, we gorged ourselves on wood-roasted fois gras with figs and beautifully grilled dry-aged steaks. Pig heaven (well, more like goose and cow). Thank goodness my (non-existent) scruples didn't get in the way of the fabulous-ness on that table!
Still, I can be content with just vegetables in front of me. I can't think of any I don't like, and they are constant visitors to my dinner plate. Particularly if they are roasted. Did you know that roasted brussels sprouts are almost as good as french fries? (In truth, they are just a vehicle for salt). Roasted cauliflower is pretty awesome, too. Or a whole head of cauliflower microwaved for 10 minutes then slathered all over with dijon mustard, topped with shredded sharp cheddar and nuked again for about a minute until the cheese melts. That's what I made last night and I will admit to polishing off the leftovers for breakfast this morning.
So I am never unhappy when invited to my vegetarian friend's house for dinner (Linda, you know who you are). She is a great cook and she has taught me a few tricks, like her lentil loaf and vegetarian chili.
And that is what I want to share with you - Linda's Vegetarian Chili. It's delicious, it's healthy and no one will ever know it's meatless, unless you tell them. I made a big batch of it the other day (remember, it's autumn and I'm into that kind of cooking), served it to Henry and he didn't have a clue. Guess I should have kept my mouth shut.
I like it served over rice with a dollop of sour cream. In my nod to trying to become a skinny cook one of these days, I served it over brown rice (cooked with chicken stock, so much for my veggie efforts) with a spoonful of nonfat, local "Greek" yogurt. Virtuous, yet delicious.
This recipe makes a lot, but do what I did: eat it for dinner, save enough for a couple of lunches at home and freeze the rest. You'll be glad you did when you drag it out on a cold winter's evening and can enjoy it without any real cooking that night. A glass of decent red wine with it won't hurt, either.
LINDA'S VEGETARIAN CHILI
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, chopped
8 stalks celery, chopped
2 red peppers, chopped
2 green peppers, chopped
3/4 lbs. mushrooms, rough chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 28-oz. cans diced tomatoes
2 15-oz. cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Red pepper flakes, to taste
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon dried basil
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 tablespoon marjoram
2 12-oz. bags Morningstar Farms "meat" crumbles
1 12-oz. bottle of beer (I used Heineken), optional
Cooked brown rice and greek yogurt or sour cream for serving
Heat the olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions and celery and saute until fragrant and vegetables start to soften. Add red and green peppers and continue to cook until peppers start to soften. At this point, it is a good idea to season well with salt and pepper.
Add mushrooms (portobellos or criminis are good for this dish as they are "meaty") and garlic; continue to cook for 5 minutes more or until mushrooms start to give off their juice. Add tomatoes and kidney beans then season to taste with more salt and pepper, the red pepper flakes, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, basil, oregano and marjoram. When mixture starts to bubble, add the crumbles, cover the pot and lower the heat. Simmer until chili thickens slightly and flavors start to meld, about 30 minutes, stirring frequently so chili doesn't scorch on the bottom of the pot.
Add the beer, if using, and continue to cook, uncovered, until most of the alcohol evaporates, about 20 minutes. Taste to adjust seasonings and serve in a large bowl over (brown) rice and a dollop of yogurt or sour cream.
Now don't turn up your nose at those Morningstar Farms "meat" crumbles. They give this chili the right texture and just think of all the fat and calories you're saving! You will find them in the freezer section of your grocery store. If you just can't bring yourself to use them, you could always substitute ground bison for a low-fat meat version of this dish. Your choice!