Fall is a great time of year for tons of reasons…my favorite one being that my culinary habits get shaken up and I get to break out of the summertime ways of eating.
No more avoiding the oven for fear of the half day it takes to cool down in the heat of summer! Big families of produce come back into play: apples, squash, pumpkins, and of course the whole potato clan are welcomed back into my kitchen. Hearty and filling meals come back to the table, warming us up from the chilly, windy weather outside.
Creativity is needed to get through all those bags of apples (I’m still trying to make it through this gigantic one that was gifted to me from a friend’s backyard apple tree!).
I love all of it. Not to mention that I get to layer my clothes again.
And so, with all this fall love going around, it is only natural to want to make a big batch of chili to fill our tummies while we are out there enjoying it all. This year I have cut out eating a lot of meat, so I knew that this chili would be vegetarian. But nothing is more disappointing than a chili that loses its depth and heartiness when you take out the meat…it starts to feel more like a soup or veggie stew (which is also good, but not when you want thick chili!). So in order to combat this problem, I decided I needed to add a veggie that could stand up to hot temps and not get mushy or disintegrate, one that would add some depth and take us out of the standard pepper/tomato combo, and of course one that would be amazing with strong Mexican flavors. And that vegetable is the squash.
Normally I have a hard time getting squash into my family’s meal rotation: none of them likes to eat soups, and I am conflicted about covering a vegetable in sugar just to convince people to choke it down. The squash deserves more than that!
Here in chili, squash takes naturally to flavors like cumin and chipotle, and I get to keep all the healthy goodness intact. Aside from adding squash to the recipe, I also added another new member to my chili family: adobos in chipotle sauce (found in the Mexican food aisle of your grocery store). You may remember this ingredient from the Chipotle Hollandaise I made a few days ago; I still had some left over from that recipe, and it seemed like a great addition to this veggie chili. I don’t think I’ll ever make chili again without it, that’s how good it was. It is spicy, but like a jalapeno, a little goes a long way. One adobo and a little bit of the sauce, and your chili is ready to go to places it hasn’t been before!
Vegetarian Chili with Adobo and Squash
Makes…a lot. Maybe 3 quarts? Enough for a group of hungry people!
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
2 green peppers, small dice
1 large yellow onion, small dice
1/2 of an acorn squash, peeled and 1/2 inch dice
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tb olive oil
2 cans of black beans, drained
1 can of dark red kidney beans, drained
1 can of petite diced tomatoes, with juice
1 small can of green chilis
1 large can of tomato sauce
1 adobo chili, minced (from a can of adobos in chipotle sauce)
1 Tb chipotle sauce (or more if you want it really spicy)
2 cups veggie stock (or to make the chili as thick as you like)
handful of cilantro, chopped
3 Tb cumin
1 Tb chili powder
1 Tb sugar
salt and pepper, to taste
- Start by doing all your veggie prep: dicing and mincing all the different veggies and putting them in a large bowl. Also, I like to prep by opening all my cans ahead of time (and draining the beans) so I don’t have to freak out when it’s time to add them while I’m sautéing. Get all of your ingredients together and ready on your counter/in your strainer before you begin and make your life easier! Mise en Place forever!
- Heat a large stock pot on the stove at med high heat, add olive oil and the onion, squash, peppers, and jalapeno. Saute for a few minutes to soften, then add garlic, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper.
- After you give everything a good stir, add your beans, green chilis, tomatoes, tomato sauce, adobo and chipotle sauce and veggie stock. Let everything come to a boil, then decrease the heat to med-low and cover. Let cook for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep things from sticking to the bottom.
- Once the squash is soft, you can turn off the heat. You want to keep the squash intact, so don’t overcook it! Add your cilantro, and taste your chili to make sure you are happy with the level of salt and spice.
I was really happy with this chili! It was smoky, spicy, thick, filling…all the things a great chili should be. I paired it with the pumpkin cornbread from yesterday, a little dollop of plain greek yogurt, and I was a happy lady. Best of all, my husband actually ate squash without having to go through a weird negotiating moment. He didn’t even realize it was in the chili, until I opened my big mouth and said So how do you like the squash in there with the chipotle? He looked alarmed for a moment, but then remembered he was happy with the chili, and said Oh, was it in there? It’s good.