January 17, 2010

three-and-a-half bean chili

three-and-a-half-bean chili

The many photographs I tried to take of the chili raised the question: Is it possible to take an appetizing picture of chili? This is the best one of the batch, and based on the picture alone, I wouldn't eat that! But believe me ... It was good.

Into a pot, put
2/3 cup dried cannellini beans
2/3 cup dried kidney beans
2/3 cup dried pinto beans

and cover with water. Allow to soak for eight hours, or use the "quick-soak method" (in which you bring contents of pot to a boil, and then turn off the heat and leave covered for several hours).


Drain the beans through a colander, saving the water. There are some who say that reusing the soak water gives rise to flatulence, but I have experienced no evidence of this. Plus, there is flavor in that water. I say reuse it, but throw it away if you must.

If needed, add enough
to the soak water to bring it up to 4 cups. Place beans and water back into the pot, along with
1 bay leaf (or go crazy -- make it 2! or 3!)
1 Tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 Tablespoon cumin (I like to toast whole cumin seeds and then grind them in a mortar and pestle)
up to 1 cup okara

and bring to a boil.

While waiting for the contents of the pot to boil, in a pan over medium heat, place
1 Tablespoon olive oil

When oil is heated, throw in
2 tsp. minced garlic
and sautee until golden in color. Do not burn! Then add
half an onion, minced
1 poblano pepper, minced and with seeds removed

and sautee vegetables together until lightly browned. Then add vegetables to the chili pot, which is probably boiling right about now. Stir contents together, reduce heat to low, cover pot, and simmer for about 2 1/2 hours, or until beans are soft and tender. Stir occasionally, to make sure beans aren't sticking to the bottom of the pot.

Note: Poblano peppers are also called pasilla peppers. When they are dried, they are called ancho chilis, but I'm using fresh peppers.

When beans are tender, add
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 Tablespoon cocoa powder
1 Tablespoon agave nectar (or other sweetener)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar

and mix contents of pot thoroughly.

Variation: I meant to add tomato paste to this concoction as well, but when I opened my pantry I found that I had none! Oops. Luckily, the chili tasted fine without it; however, if you want tomato paste, I would recommend first blending it with the 1/4 cup of soy sauce before adding it to the chili.

At this point, your chili is ready to eat (after you remove the bay leaf, of course). If it's too liquidy you might want to boil it down a bit, stirring often. Tastes great with cornbread or corn muffins.

Verdict: Despite the lack of tomato paste, I think this had a really nice, rich flavor. Even though it tasted good, the okara made it look kind of weird. So if looks are important to you, you might want to try putting less than a cup of okara into the chili. The okara thickened the chili nicely, but a cup of the stuff was kind of visually overt.

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