Chili is the ultimate comfort food in the winter, when the ground is hard, the wind is blowing and the temperature drops below freezing. It’s a struggle to keep your fingers and toes warm as you stay out in the cold doing winter sports, like skiing.
The mountain lodges may have chili on the menu. But more often than not, I find the homemade version far superior. The vegetarian version is far more healthier. Chili can be refrigerated overnight and reheated quickly. A large pot of chili could be made ahead. With some planning, there will easily be something hot, substantial and delicious waiting when we step in from the cold.
Ellie Krieger, author of You Have it Made: Delicious, Healthy, Do-Ahead Meals, has exactly the vegetarian chili I am looking for. What I like best about this recipe are the ancho chili with a little heat, and the orange zest and juice which give the chili the right amount of fragrance, brightness and acidity. This is such a tasty chili that I don’t miss the meat at all, as strangely as it may sound.
The only change I’ve made to the recipe was using dried beans and bypassing the can. I agreed with Melissa Clark, columnist of A Good Appetite of the New York Times. “Canned beans are never going to be as good as home-cooked dried beans, no matter how many seasonings you add to your pot. They’re like any other convenience food: a wan simulacrum, fine in a pinch but never transcendent.”
The trick in using dry beans is to soak them. But you don’t need to soak it overnight; I don’t. An hour or two should do. However, adding salt to the soaking water helps speed up cooking by breaking down the bean’s skins. Being the impatient cook that I am, I reached for a pressure cooker which took hours off the bean cooking time. I followed Krieger’s recipe to the point when beans were added (step 3 in the cheat sheet below).
The black bean stew was then transferred into the pressure cooker. Locked the pressure-cooker lid in place and brought it to high pressure over medium-high heat. As soon as the pot reached high pressure, heat was reduced to low and cooked for 25 minutes, adjusting as needed to maintain pressure.
|Served with Greek yogurt and avocado|
I was afraid that some beans will burst apart under pressure. But 25 minutes under pressure appeared to be long enough for the beans to cook through evenly without bursting. After pressure was released naturally for about 15 minutes, I simmered the beans in the cooker for another 5 minutes to reduce the liquid until all the flavors melded.
This healthful vegetarian black bean chili has found its way as a must-do winter comfort food for my family. Nourishing as well as restorative to whatever challenges come our way.