Monday, November 22, 2010

Vegan Chili

Chili is a much-loved dish, and most chili recipes are fiercely guarded. It’s not quick to make and needs to be monitored while cooking, so it’s by no means “fire and forget.” I’d recommend getting a couple of good movies to watch while you make it. The longer you cook the beans at a medium to low heat, the better the chili will turn out.

I gave this recipe to a vegan friend who was serving as a US Army Ranger at Fort Hood. He made it (minus the cilantro since one guy was allergic) for some of his platoon buddies, and they loved it. You know vegan chili has to be good when carnivores from Texas like it.

1 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes
1 cup of dried pinto beans
1 cup of dried black beans
1 large red onion, diced
1 large red bell pepper, diced
1 small fistful of cilantro, washed and diced
1 – 1.5 cups of textured vegetable protein (TVP)
5 large cloves of garlic, diced
2 -3 tbsps of olive oil (use more if necessary)
1 – 1.5 tbsps of chili powder cumin, to taste
1 – 2 dashes of cayenne pepper
Daiya Mozzarella Style Shreds vegan cheese, to taste

Note: This recipe serves about 4 to 6, but I like serving chili with rice, preferably short grain brown rice. In this way, you can stretch out this batch of chili to 8 servings.

You can tweak the heat factor of this chili with a dash more cayenne pepper, or go full bore with chopped chipotle peppers or worse. Don’t make the chili too painful, though, or it becomes a dare instead of a dish.

I recommend investing in a good rice cooker. Rice comes out much more evenly cooked, with less effort, than on a range top.


  1. The night before you’re going to make the chili, soak the beans in plenty of water in a large pot. In the morning, you may need to add water if the beans soaked up what was there. 
  2. Drain the beans, keeping a jar or other container under the strainer so that you can save the water. You’ll need the water later.
  3. Dice 3 cloves of garlic and fry in olive oil over a high heat until slightly browned. 
  4. Toss in the diced tomatoes and the beans and reduce heat to medium to low. Stir.
  5. Pop your first movie in. Add the chili powder and a dash or two of cayenne pepper. Every so often, return to stir. Keep checking on the beans throughout your first movie. 
  6. Dice the last two garlic cloves , the onion, and the red bell pepper and toss them in. Add the bean water from step 2 and lower the heat a little. Start watching your second movie.
  7. Start cooking the rice about midway through your second flick. Use approximately one cup of (dry) rice for every two people.
  8. Mix the TVP in well. It will soak up a lot of the moisture in the chili. If it starts to look too crumbly and solid, add a little bit of water.
  9. If you’re using a rice cooker, once the rice is done, leave it in the cooker for a while, with the cooker on. This will keep the rice warmer until serving.
  10. Soak, wash, and rinse the cilantro before you dice it up. Stir that into the chili, and then remove the chili from the heat.
  11. Take the rice out of the cooker and put it into bowls; add the chili on top. Top the chili with Daiya cheese (the amount will depend upon how gooey you want this dish).

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Eat With Your Other Senses

If it sounds weird to eat with something other than your mouth, remember that we process food using all of our senses—not just our taste buds—and our minds. We determine whether we like a dish based on its taste, smell, appearance, and texture, as well as our cultural backgrounds, expectations, memories, and desires. Preparation can greatly affect how your dish is perceived. This is separate from how it is “tabled,” or presented.

Although most of the dishes I present are quick to make, when you want something really fast, there isn’t a whole lot that can beat boiling a premade meal, frying it up, or popping it in the microwave. However store-bought, pre-cooked meals are rarely as appealing to the senses, or as nutritious, as freshly prepared ones.

Using fresh ingredients—while being mindful not to overcook them—is worth the effort. The result will be bursting with flavor, texture, and color, the very opposite of airline or school cafeteria food. Fresh basil as a garnish on pasta, for example, enhances all three qualities. Fresh herbs pack a lot more flavor than dried ones, which may have lost some of their essential oils. Unfortunately, cooking with fresh ingredients requires a lot of space in the fridge and, as with a good marinara sauce, a lot of time. You simply can’t rush a good sauce.