Even though I’m a dedicated omnivore, I occasionally cook for vegetarians – especially at my annual Chili Fest at work. I don’t want anyone to feel left out, so I make sure I have a big pot of vegetarian (vegan?) chili ready for them. 1
This is good when Lent rolls around, and I have to be meat-free on Friday; I’ve got my vegetarian chili game going.
To bulk up the chili, I’m going with all the beans. Forget 13 beans, 14 beans…I’m going for a full 15 bean chili. Of course, I’m cooking it in my pressure cooker – my favorite way to make beans.
Bean mixes solve one of my pressure cooker chili problems – thin sauce. Pressure cookers are a sealed environment , so they can build pressure. Water in the pot can’t evaporate, so the sauce does not thicken like it would in a traditional pan. A bean mix has some quick cooking beans, like lentils and peas, and some long cooking beans, like kidney and lima beans. By the time the long cooking beans are tender, the quick cooking beans have cooked into mush, dissolving into starch and thickening up the whole pot of chili. And then, I puree some of the beans to thicken it up even more. 2
Looking for a vegetarian treat? Try 15 bean chili.
Soak the beans: Soak the beans overnight: Sort the bean mix, removing broken beans, stones, or dirt clods. Rinse the beans and put them in a large container with the salt. Cover with 2 quarts water. Let the beans soak for at least 8 hours, or overnight.
Sauté the aromatics and the spices: Heat the oil in the pressure cooker pot over medium-high heat until it stops foaming. Add the onion, jalapeño, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Sauté until the onions are softened and browning around the edges, about 8 minutes. Stir in the chili powder, cumin, coriander, oregano, cocoa powder, and cloves. Toast the spices for one minute.
Pressure cook the chili: Drain and rinse the beans. Pour the beans into the pressure cooker, sprinkle with the baking soda and 1 teaspoon kosher salt, then stir to coat with chili powder. Stir in the water and tomatoes. Lock the lid on the pressure cooker and cook at high pressure for 18 minutes in an electric PC, or 15 minutes in a stovetop PC. Turn off the heat and let the pressure release naturally, about 20 minutes. Remove the lid carefully, opening away from you - even when it’s not under pressure, the steam in the cooker is very hot.
Thicken, season, and serve: Puree 2 cups of beans and liquid - I use a 4 cup measure and my stick blender - and stir back into the pot. Stir in the brown sugar and black pepper. Taste the soup, and add salt until the soup tastes sweet and full bodied, and you can just feel the taste of salt on the tip of your tongue. (I need 2 teaspoons of kosher salt to get the taste I want.) Serve.
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One time at the Chili Fest I was asked: “Is there any meat in the vegetarian chili? If there is, I can’t eat it.” On the one hand, come on! I do know what the word vegetarian means. On the other hand, if you have to ask, it makes me wonder what other “vegetarian” food people have tried to serve you.↩
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