Lou wanted to bring a vegetarian meal to a party over the weekend and began asking me for help making a chili more than a week ago. It’s not often that I am beckoned by Lou for help. In fact, I can count the number of times on one hand. So I like to make myself as available as possible.
With that in mind, our emails started early in the week with a recommendation about ingredients. I suggested onions, garlic, carrots, tomato sauce, tomatoes, peppers, chili powder, cumin and peppers. Then followed various discussions on what the texture of the chili should be. I’m a believer in a chunky veggie chili, one that celebrates the vegetables themselves. At first, Lou wasn’t on board and was hoping to create a meaty, though meat-less veggie chili that replicated the texture of traditional chili. I advised against it and told him he’d be on his own if he took this path. But I made sure to let him know that whatever path he took I was sure it would be really good, just not my style.
When the time came for the actual making of the chili, I received a text saying the chopping had started. Facing imminent deadlines on several projects, I started writing furiously, the time ticking away, knowing that he was making the chili alone. Even though I knew he’d be fine, I had feelings of regret. It’s almost impossible for me to sacrifice a moment cooking with someone, especially if I’d been asked for guidance. With a few stalling texts promising to be down soon, I finally had a moment to escape from my work and walked to Lou’s.
There on his stove sat his Dutch oven, half way filled with a simmering pot of yum. In this pot were beautifully diced tender vegetables simmering in just the right amount of liquid and a beautiful color. He did a marvelous job and even added a few ingredients to make “my” chili “ours” and even better. I’m not making excuses for myself not having the time to cook with Lou, but sometimes, maybe on rare occasions, one needs the inspiration and guidance from a friend but a little alone time to make it theirs.
And then, with his usual generosity, Lou served me two big portions of his chili which I scarfed down, topped per my recommendation, with scallions, sour cream and cilantro. Better than bacon! (Well, almost.) Here’s our recipe, with his touches noted. I’m
sure he’ll let us know if I left anything out!
Lou and Alison’s Veggie Chili
Makes 3 plus quarts
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced finely
1 large zucchini, diced
1 yellow pepper, diced
1 orange pepper, diced
1 cup corn kernels (Lou’s addition)
½ cup baby Portobello mushrooms, diced (Lou’s addition)
1 cup ground carrots (Lou’s addition)
1 15 ounce can of tomato sauce
2 15 ounce cans of diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons (or more!) chili powder (Ancho is Lou’s choice)
touch of cayenne pepper (Lou’s addition)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 28 ounce can of black beans, drained and rinsed
For toppings: avocado, sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, chopped cilantro, chopped scallions
In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and onions and sauté until tender for approximately 5 minutes. Add the peppers, zucchini, corn, mushrooms and carrots. Give it a good stir and then add the tomatoes and tomato sauce. Season it with cumin and chili powder, adding more if you like more spice. Cook on medium heat for about 15 minutes and then turn heat down to a slow simmer. Add the beans and simmer for another 15 minutes or so. Serve with desired toppings.