Monday, January 13, 2014

Eating Omily: It's Winter. Chill, guys.

Comfort Food Season is totally here. It is cold out, and we want foods that will fill us up, and warm us up: we're looking for adjectives like, 'rich', 'hearty', 'meaty' (if we're into that sort of thing, and sometimes even if we aren't), 'heavy', 'stick-to-your-ribs'...on and on.

That's a normal and healthy impulse, but obviously eating mac and cheese and steak and potatoes every night for the next couple months is not going to get enough vegetables into your body. Yes, you can step away from the salads, but you should replace them with something.  In honor of keeping cozy while still nourishing our needs, I'm offering a stupidly tasty, thick and hearty, potentially VEGAN, and did I mention super-cheap recipe, just for you!

It's...chili. Which, depending on where you come from, can exist without meat about as easily as a cow can (muscles, you know). But trust me: this chili is heavy and meaty enough to satisfy any omnivore.

I start by sauteing half an onion chopped in oil, coconut if you're going for vegan, grass-fed butter (or, you know, pastured bacon fat...) if not. I added two chopped carrots and a couple chopped garlic cloves, and then started raiding my spice rack.

I added: a generous pinch of allspice, two generous pinches of cayenne, a few big shakes of Old Bay, a smaller shake of smoked paprika, a generous pinch of cumin, and plenty of salt. Once my veggies were properly sweated, I sprinkled about half a tablespoon of flour over the pot. (If you're not working with whats left of your veggie drawer and are doing a bigger batch than me, adjust your flour accordingly!)

I then went in search of a beer to add, but we were fresh out so I had to skip it. I can now assure you it still tastes amazing without, but the mellow sweetness of beer in the background is awesome, so if you have it, use it! Just half a cup or so, poured in after the flour has had a minute to cook.

Scrape up the brown bits with your spoon after adding the beer. At this point, I added half a jar of home-canned San Marzano tomatoes with the juice. The tomato juice is plenty acidic to deglaze the pan, so just do your scraping now if you skipped the beer. Make sure you squish the tomatoes as you add them, so they're in bite-sized pieces. I let this mixture come up to a boil, to let the flour start thickening.

After a couple minutes of boiling, I added a pint or so of cooked beans in their cooking liquid. You can use canned of course, but if you buy them dried, local if you're lucky, cook them up a pound at a time, and freeze them in pint containers, so you can easily thaw and use what you need.  Let the chili come back up to a boil. The starch in the beans will thicken the chili more, and you want all those flavors to have a chance to meld.
If you have a vegan cornbread recipe, or aren't vegan and have cornmeal, flour, butter, eggs, baking powder, sugar, salt, and milk, make yourself a pan of cornbread! It's super easy peasy. I use the recipe from Alice Water's The Art of Simple Food. If you're lucky enough to have a cast iron skillet, put that bad boy in the oven while the oven heats up, grease it with butter or coconut oil, pour in your batter, and slide it back into the oven. You'll get a deliciously crispy-browned crust.
You can also use left-over beans to make Bean Soup Served in a Roasted Squash. What are your favorite cold-weather, nutrient-dense winter recipes? Share, share!
This is what Winter winning looks like. Nom nom nom...

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