We were having friends over for dinner last weekend and sat down with some of our favorite cookbooks to decide what sounded fun to cook. One half of the couple is vegetarian, so we started leaning towards something meat-less yet warm, hearty, and satisfying. Chili! In my experience, there are endless vegetarian chili recipes out there -- some as simple as pouring a can of beans and tomatoes in a pot and adding a bit of spice while others are an all-day simmering affair. This one rests comfortably inbetween these two approaches and has the most rich and layered flavor of any chili (vegetarian or not) I've ever tried. It was inspired by a recipe in Bon Appétit a while back that added butternut squash to chili, and I loved the idea. And thankfully, our dinner guests loved our version. In fact, I decided to post it today largely because they immediately asked for the recipe; I figured if I was typing it up for them, you all would enjoy it, too. A few notes to get us started: the chipotle pepper is an important part of the sauce. They'll be in a little can in the Latin section of your grocery store or any Mexican market. I've found them in a few grocery stores here in the Northwest without any difficulty. If you can't locate them near your home, you can use an additional 1/2 teaspoon of chili powder, or experiment with a smokey Spanish paprika. It won't have the same heat at all, but it will still be delicious. Also, a note on cooking beans: the time varies each and every time I make a pot of them and this is largely determined by the freshness and type of bean. If you're using very old dried beans, they're going to take much longer to cook. So the cook time for this recipe probably seems vast (2-4 hours); I would just plan ahead so you're not finishing up the chili the second folks walk in the door. I'd much rather do a quick reheat than explain to guests that the beans are taking a little longer than expected. And last, the sweet potato and quinoa actually cook in the chili. You're going to want to add the sweet potato and quinoa when the chili has about 45 minutes left to go, so use your best guess as to when the beans are still pretty firm on the outside but are surely softening on the inside. If you're like me and don't mind your sweet potatoes and quinoa quite soft (it is chili, after all), just toss them in after 1.5 hours of cooking time and call it a day.
Black Bean, Sweet Potato and Quinoa Chili Adapted from Bon Appétit As with most soups, stews, and chilis, think of the water quantity as a rough guide. You may find towards the end you'll need to add more water as both the beans and quinoa start absorbing it. Serves 4-6 1 tablespoon olive oil 1 onion, chopped 5 garlic cloves, chopped 1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder 1 tablespoon ground coriander 1 14.5-ounce can fire-roasted tomatoes 1/2 pound dried black beans, rinsed well 1 chipotle chile from canned chipotle chiles in adobo, minced 1 teaspoon dried oregano 2 teaspoons kosher salt + more to taste 1 1/2 cups sweet potatoes (2-3 small), cut into 1/2-inch cubes 1/4 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained sour cream, to top (optional) green onions, chopped, to top (optional) fresh cilantro, chopped, to top (optional) Heat the oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and beginning to brown, 6-7 minutes. Add garlic, chili powder, and coriander and stir. Cook together for 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes with their juices, beans, chipotle pepper, and oregano. Add 5 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover with lid slightly ajar and simmer until beans are flavorful and tender, anywhere from 2 - 4 hours (depending on the age of your beans). After 1 1/2 hours of cooking, add the sweet potatoes, quinoa, and salt. Place the pot's lid back on slightly ajar and allow to simmer on low heat until the beans are soft and the sweet potatoes and quinoa are cooked through. Add more water if the chili becomes too thick. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with sour cream, cilantro, and green onion. Can make two days ahead. Store in refrigerator. Freeze leftovers.Related: Vegetarian Black Bean Espresso Chili (Image: Megan Gordon)