Recession Era Chow: Ultimate Vegetarian Chili

I'll put up my vegetarian chili against any meat-based recipe  -- this one is insanely flavor- and color-full, and it's so spicy it'll make you weep. It's ideal post-Thanksgiving eats, since it's cheap, criminally healthy from all the folic acid, B vitamins and lycopene, and loaded with fiber if you're feeling a bit, eh, blocked.

I say "my" chili, because I pass it off as my own whenever I can get away with it, but this one's adapted from the Whole Foods website -- I just added the corn. The secret ingredient is the chipotle peppers in adobo -- they add a heady, smokey flavor to rival anything you can get out of ground chuck. You really do have to cook it for the full hour and a half to get it to a thick consistency, and while it's most beautiful when served right away -- all that color from the carrots, corn, and red pepper -- it tastes best after it's mellowed in the fridge overnight and been reheated (a little less colorful, pictured above). Definitely top it with a cooling dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of chopped green onions and cilantro. And if you can't stand the heat, use only one tablespoon of the chipotles -- otherwise, be prepared to sweat! 

Pair with warm cornbread if you're in a baking mood.This recipe yields a whole large pot, about 8 to 10 servings, so it's essential eating on our new budget -- if you've already got the staples like onion, garlic, and carrots, it comes out to a little over $1 a serving.

2 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped1.39
1 green bell pepper, chopped .88
3 tablespoons canned chipolte peppers in adobo, chopped .50
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tbs chili powder
2 tsp cumin
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes with their juice 1.59
4 cups water
28 oz can red beans, drained 1.99
15 oz can black beans, drained 1.25
15 oz can corn, drained .89

pint sour cream 1.29
chopped green onions .50
chopped cilantro

Heat the olive oil in a large pot and add chopped onion, celery, carrot, garlic, red and green bell pepper and saute over medium low heat until softened, about 7 minutes. Add chipotle peppers, chili powder, cumin, salt, and oregano, and stir until mixed. Add canned tomatoes with their juice, stir until mixed. Add four cups water. Bring to boil, then turn down to simmer and cook uncovered for 45 minutes. 

Add beans and corn and simmer another 30 minutes, or until chili has achieved the thickness you want. Garnish and serve. 

--Gail Shepherd

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