Monday, May 10, 2010

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Chili

On Saturday night a good friend of mine came to visit while in town for the MTELS. As it happens she is vegan, so I ended up searching through my cookbook collection for a recipe that both fit her vegan lifestyle, and was interesting enough for me to want to eat as well. While I respect those that choose veganism, the issue I always encounter is saying goodbye to the foods I love in exchange for what is sometimes boring food. This is not to say that I think vegan food is boring, just that it can be. So, as I searched, I ruled out those recipes that tried to imitate traditional meat or dairy products, and picked a simple dish I was quite excited about trying despite its lack of egg, dairy or meat.  The recipe I chose was the "Quick Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili" from The Vegetarian Family Cookbook by Nava Atlas, a recent gift from my cousin Anika.

With a short ingredient list, and quick cook time, this was the perfect last minute week night meal. Sure, Saturday isn't a week night by most standards, but as I work Saturdays and come home tired and with limited time, I would say this counts as weekday cooking as well as any other night.(Though to be fair, the amount of wine that was imbibed, and the eventual impromptu dance party- yes, that happened-, was not so very typical of a week night)

This dish was pure comfort. Sweet potatoes, sauteed onions, lots of garlic, vibrant red bell pepper, fresh cilantro, tomatoes, mild chili peppers and wholesome black beans came together in a very balanced way. This was not a spicy dish, though I could have chosen to make it so, but I found the complexity of the flavors to be interesting enough with out much of a kick (imagine that, I love hot food). This was also easily prepared in about 25 minutes, then left to sit for a little over an hour and reheated. Since I got home at 5:15 and got right to work, this was perfect timing for a 7:30pm meal. I served this dish with a side of red quinoa and a salad of butter and radicchio lettuces with fresh herbs and homemade vinaigrette.

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Chilli
Adapted from The Vegetarian Family Cookbook by Nava Atlas
Serves 4 liberally
1 onion
2-3 cloves of garlic (I used 3 very large cloves)
2 large sweet potatoes ( or 4 small ones if you are shopping at Trader Joes where for some reason their sweet potatoes are always small...)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large red bell pepper
1 can diced tomatoes(I used the Trader Joe's "fire roasted tomatoes with green chilies"- and suggest it!)
1 can mild green chilies, or 1 green chili seeds and insides removed
2 tsp Cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro + 2 more tbsp to garnish
1 can black beans, rinsed
2 cups of water or vegetable broth

In a large heavy bottomed pot, heat the tbsp of olive oil. Chop and add the onion and allow to cook until translucent. Dice the garlic and add, covering pot and cooking for another 5-10 minutes until onion and garlic are golden.

Meanwhile... microwave the sweet potatoes- I found my smaller potatoes needed no more than 1.5 minutes on high, but larger ones can be given up until 2-3 minutes (you don't want them too soft, as they still will cook a little more at a later point- if in doubt microwave less, and avoid mushiness). Puncture in several places with a fork, and heat on a paper towel. Allow to cool. When cool enough to hold, peel the skin, and dice the potatoes into 1 1/2 cubes. Set aside.

Chop and add the red bell pepper, also add the beans, tomatoes, green chili pepper, cumin, oregano, and water/broth at this time.

Allow to cook for 10 minutes before adding the sweet potato and chopped fresh cilantro. Let cook for an additional 5-10 minutes, then cool and reheat, or serve right away. Garnish with more fresh cilantro if you wish.

Simple, flavorful, hearty, nutritious (don't forget that sweet potatoes are a SUPERFOOD- we all should eat more of those, right?), this was perfect for a rainy night in with company, and had their been any left overs, they would have been a happy addition to my next day's lunch.

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