If I had to nail it down and say right here and now what my favorite food of all time is, I’d have to say peppers. Fresh varieties have a wide range of colors and crisp textures. There many types of chiles, all with special qualities, undertones, and levels of heat. I tend to gravitate towards spicy foods, but I’m not a thrill seeker. I don’t believe in scorching off the roof of my mouth by guzzling haberneros raw or anything crazy like that. The kind of heat I like to work with in my recipes is a deep, level, medium-hot heat with a slight sweetness. This chili recipe features a perfect balance of pepper flavors; the capsaicin will ramp up your metabolism and also helps to fight inflammation in the body and is a natural pain reliever. Sounds odd that something that can burn your mouth could be a pain reliever when absorbed by your body internally.
My chili recipe is of course vegan, but it is not lacking in the flavor department in any way. I once competed in a chili cook-off with a group of friends and mine was the only non-meat chili, and I won the contest! The trick to a good chili is to use high quality chiles and to grind them fresh the day you need them. Invest in a coffee grinder dedicated to spices. I keep a large quantity of my favorite dried chiles on hand, but you can of course substitute your personal favorites or whatever you happen to have in your pantry. To bring out extra flavor in your chiles, toast them in cast iron skillet or heavy bottomed fry pan on medium heat, shaking them around once in awhile to prevent burning. Remove them from pan when they begin to smell fragrant.
When deciding what chiles you want to work with, make sure to pick a spice level you are comfortable with and always handle them with protective gloves and thoroughly clean and wash your cutting board and knife to prevent burns on your skin. To lessen the heat of any pepper, you can remove the white membranes of fresh peppers and the seeds of both dried and fresh peppers. The capsaicin is located mainly in the seeds. If you have any questions about the heat of specific chiles, check out the scoville heat chart. It lists the levels of heat of chiles ranging from the totally mild bell pepper (0) varieties up to the volcanic heat of ghost peppers (about 1 million scoville heat units).
My favorite chiles to grind up and use in chile pastes are puya chiles, but they may be substituted with the milder, but similar guajillo chiles. Puya are small, thin peppers that have a curved tapered end. They have a sweet, fruity undertone and add an unexpected depth of flavor to chili. I also enjoy using Anaheim chiles, as their heat level is fairly mild, but they add a deep, smokey quality to chile sauces, pastes, and chili. Ancho chiles have a dark, almost raisin-like taste to them, and they help balance out the spicy, fruity notes of the puya chiles. I also enjoy adding the sweet, smokey flavor, mild flavor of pimento peppers by using Spanish smoked paprika. Last but not least is the widely available and ever popular jalapeno. Jalapenos add a nice kick and loads of flavor when sauteed.
The great thing about chili is that it will feed many mouths and its even better the next day as the flavors have a chance to meld together. That’s why I crafted this recipe to make such a huge batch. You can also use leftover chile by pouring it on top of steamed vegetables like broccoli or cabbage.
I hope you enjoy the recipe, and if you liked this recipe, you can look forward to many more in the future. I’m working on a cookbook called The Home Cookin’ Vegan and I’m hoping to have it ready in e-book format by summer 2014! Check out my facebook page if you want to give input and see what I’m cookin’ up in my kitchen! I’m also working with my husband to make a seperate website for The Home Cookin’ Vegan; Lots of exciting things are happening!
Prep Time: 30 Minutes; Total Time: 1 hr 30 minutes
Dried Chile Grind Mixture:
- 1 TB Ancho Chile Powder (or two dried peppers ground)
- 6 puya chiles or guajillo chiles, ground in spice grinder
- 4 anaheim chiles or New Mexico chiles, ground in spice grinder
- 2 TB sunflower oil, for sauteing
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 5 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 green bell pepper, de-seeded and diced
- 1 red bell pepper, de-seeded and diced
- 1 jalapeno, diced (you may remove the seeds and white membrane for less heat)
- 3 roma tomatoes, diced
- 4 cups tomato juice
- 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
- 3 TB tomato paste
- 2 cups vegetable stock, Mexican beer, or water
- 1 TB agave or coconut nectar
- 4 cups (or 2 cans) pinto beans
- 1 1/2 cups or (15 oz) can red beans or kidney beans
- 1 1/2 cups or (15 oz) can chickpeas
- 1 (15 oz) can white hominy
- 2 tsp fine sea salt
- 1/2 tsp dried Mexican oregano (optional)
- 1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp smoked Spanish paprika
- 3 tsp ground coriander
- 2 TB fresh lime juice
- 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped (optional)
- 1 Haas avocado, de-pitted and sliced (optional)
- hot sauce to taste (optional)
- In a 12″ cast iron fry pan, add 1 TB of sunflower oil or neutral oil of choice and turn heat to medium-high. Saute onion in cast iron pan for 4-5 minutes until the onion starts to brown slightly. Add minced garlic and saute for another minute. Then, add your ground chiles (ancho, puya, and ananheim) and stir into the garlic and onion mixture for another minute. Remove from heat and set aside.
- In a large (at least 6 quart), heavy bottomed stock pot or soup pot (a dutch oven would also work), add your other TB of sunflower oil and being to fry your fresh peppers (green bell pepper, red bell pepper, and jalapeno.) Saute on medium-high for about 4-5 minutes and then lower heat to medium. Add in the rest of your ingredients. When the chili comes to a low-boil, turn heat to low and allow to simmer on the stove for about an hour. Make sure to check on your chili and stir it from time to time, adjusting your heat if it begins to boil. The longer your chili simmers, the more the flavors will develop.
- Remove from heat and squeeze 2 TB of fresh lime juice into the chili. Taste and adjust your seasonings if needed. To serve, top your chili with whatever garnishes you’d like. The avocado provides a cool, creamy contrast to the fire of chili and is highly recommended.