Vegetarian Black Bean Chili

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Today I will be showing you how to prepare an easy-to-make, flexible, economical, delicious vegetarian recipe that goes by the name of black bean chili.

First,

the ingredients:

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- 1/2 onion, chopped. - garlic (to taste; I used 3-4 average sized cloves here) - ginger root (1/2 inch) - chili peppers. - 1/2 red bell pepper (capsicum), chopped. - 1 15 oz. can crushed tomato. - 2 15 oz. cans black beans (or the big double-sized can) - olive or other vegetable oil (not shown) - cumin seed - chili powder - cumin (powdered) - paprika - oregano - salt - beer (optional) - juice of 1/4 lemon


optional: cilantro to garnish, tortillas or rice on the side

makes 3-4 servings

A few notes on ingredients:

- onion: I like the milder flavor of the red onion here (and it's what I had on hand), but white or yellow onion will do as well.

- garlic: I like to use fresh garlic, but if you cook a lot, the minced kind that comes in jars is an acceptable time-saving alternative. Garlic powder/salt should only ever be used as a popcorn seasoning.

- chili peppers: I'm using 2 jalapeno (on the left) and 2 serrano peppers (right). This is my first time using serranos, which are a little hotter than the jalapenos, but still relatively mild. The resulting chili has a nice warmth to it, but is still plenty mild for the average eater.

- red bell pepper: you could also subsitute a green bell pepper; I like the sweeter flavor of the red, and again, that's what was in the fridge. The nice thing about this recipe is it's pretty adaptable to whatever ingredients you have on hand. You could also throw in a half cup of corn, chopped carrots, zucchini, etc. if so inclined.

- crushed tomato: make sure you get CRUSHED tomato, which is a saucy puree, and not diced, chopped, stewed or any of the other 28 varieties of canned tomato available.

- beans: for variety, you could use a can each of kidney beans and black beans if you prefer. You could also used dried beans, of course, but that requires a lot more prep work.

- lemon juice: as with the garlic, I'm going to pretty much insist you use an actual lemon, and not a bottle of lemon juice or plastic lemon-shaped squeeze bottle. Lemons are cheap and it does make a difference.


Method

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One of my guidelines for successful cooking is to do as much of the prep work as possible ahead of time. You'll be more relaxed, have more fun, and the end result will be that much tastier and more enjoyable. Here you can see I've employed the Henckels "S" series to chop the onion, garlic, chile peppers, and bell pepper. I left the lemon alone because we won't need that for a little while.

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Phew, time for a crisp refreshing beverage. "It works every time".

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Okay, showtime. Heat your saucepan and pour in about 3 Tbsp. olive oil. Sprinkle in about 2 tsp. cumin seed (I just eyeballed it) and continue to heat until the cumin seeds start to crackle and sizzle.

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Stir in the chopped onion over a medium flame for about 2 minutes, until the onion has soaked up a lot of the oil and started to turn translucent.

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Now we add the garlic, chili peppers, red pepper, and whatever other vegetables you want to toss in. Stir over a medium flame for about 2 minutes.

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Add the beans, crushed tomato, and spices. Again, I usually just eyeball the spices, but I'd say a tablespoon or so each of paprika, cumin, and chili powder, half that much oregano, and a teaspoon of salt, is a safe starting point. Let your taste be the guide; you can add more spice later, but you can't take spice away. Grate in about 1/2" ginger root, stir everything mixed together.

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Here I stir in a bit of the FLAV, probably about 3 oz. The nice part about cooking with beer is it doesn't have to be anything fancy or expensive.

Now I'm ready to put a lid on the pot (if you have a fancy pot lid with a sliding air vent, I'd leave it open to cook off some of the water). Cook over a low-medium flame for about 15-17 minutes, enough that the beans are soft but not soggy.

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Viola! I love listening to a nice string quartet while waiting for dinner to be ready. Taste-test and add more spices if you think it needs them. Remove from flame, squeeze and stir in the lemon juice. Add some chopped cilantro to garnish if that's your thing. Since what we've got here is still kind of soupy, I'm going to...

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place it in the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes, or just let it cool on the countertop, to let the liquid thicken up a bit.

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It's chili time! I realize that pictures of chili aren't all that mouth-watering, but this is flavorful and delicious! Yum!

The chili as shown here ended up a little heavy on the lemon (I used the juice of half a lemon, which turned out very tasty, just a little weird and fusion-y -- all the lemon + garlic + beans reminds me a teeny bit of hummus somehow). I also will use more chili peppers the next time I make this, but since I'd never used the serrano peppers before I didn't want to go overboard.

This still may be a little soupy for some folks; I like it just fine, but you can serve it with rice or a tortilla (or crumble some crackers in it) for a bit of texture or if it's too spicy.

Enjoy!