Best Recipe: Black Bean Vegetarian Chili

Prep time: About 45 minutes. Makes about 15 cups (3.8 quarts).

Updated 10/31/2009: 14 oz tofu removed. You could add 15 oz can white beans, rinsed and drained, in place of the tofu.

Cook’s Notes: The amount of olive oil, onion, and garlic are correct (and, yes, they are a lot). But don’t be daunted. This is a simply awesome chili. It’s a toss up as to whether the secret ingredient is espresso, cocoa powder, or cashews. The spice blend makes the chili the right color. Leftovers freeze and reheat well. The original vegan recipe, “Moby’s Top Secret Chili”, called for kidney beans and white beans and was much spicier, with 1 T chili powder and additional heat from chili peppers. I made adjustments to suit my family’s tastes: We like black beans best and not too much heat. This version of the chili is perfectly mild but not boring. And you can always add more spice.

3/4 c olive oil
2 c diced onion (frozen pre-cut onions are ok)
1/4 c chopped garlic from jar
16 oz frozen mixed bell pepper strips (1 bag Trader Joe’s melange mix)
1/8 c unsweetened cocoa powder
1 T ground cumin
2 tsp mild chili powder
1/4 tsp red cayenne pepper
3 T brewed espresso
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes with sweet onion
28 oz can plain diced tomatoes
1/2 c chopped cashews
2 cans (15 oz) black beans, drained
1 c corn (fresh, frozen, or canned)

Shredded cheddar cheese for serving

Optional garnishes:
Corn bread
Sour cream
1 c pumpkin seeds, toasted
Sliced black olives

In a large (6-quart) soup pot, heat the olive oil and sauté the onions until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté 1 minute. Add the diced peppers. Cook for 2 to 4 more minutes.

Blend the spices (cocoa powder, cumin, chili powder, and red cayenne). Add the spice mix and the espresso. Cook for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes with their juice (undrained) and cashews. Once the mixture is simmering, add the drained beans and corn. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Simmer chili over medium-low heat until some of the liquid has evaporated and chili is thick, about 1 hour.

Suggested servings:
1) Place grated cheddar cheese in a bowl and top with chili. Garnish as desired. Corn bread is a natural accompaniment.
2) Chili Mac: Prepare 1 box macaroni dinner according to directions on box. Serve the chili in broad, shallow bowls atop the macaroni and cheese.
3) Serve the chili over cooked rice or baked potatoes.
4) Make Huevos rancheros: top corn tortilla pieces with chili, scrambled eggs, and cheese.
5) Use the chili as enchilada or burrito filling.
6) Make hot chili-cheese dip or Frito pie. See RecipeZaar for leftover chili recipes.

Recipe source: Modified from Moby and Kelly Tisdale, Teany Book