It’s interesting that authentic chili is straight meat because of all the dishes out there, it’s one of the easiest to enjoy without it. Mine’s got black beans and hominy. You could use pinto, but black beans offer better color. You could sub in corn, but hominy’s so much more interesting. Speaking of which…
Nearly every time I run a recipe calling for hominy, someone asks what it is. Hominy is hulled corn kernels that have been stripped of their bran and germ. In this state the corn won’t sprout, so this is how it gets stored. Grind hominy, and you’ve got grits.
But like dried beans, hominy also comes canned in its cooking liquid, and this is what I use in my vegetarian chili. I love its unique grit-like flavor and its chewy gnocchi-ish texture. Most well-stocked grocery stores carry it. I usually find it with the canned beans or in the ethnic section.
My vegetarian chili is also unique because of the three flavors I stir in at the end—garlic, chocolate and cilantro. Stir garlic in at the beginning of cooking and its flavor mellows too much. Stir it in at the end for a much more pronounced flavor.
Adding chocolate gives chili depth, richness and complexity–especially important when it’s vegetarian. Cilantro brings freshness, color, and a unique flavor that most of us love… which reminds me. Remember when cilantro was a highly controversial herb? Not so much anymore. When’s the last time someone told you they didn’t like cilantro?
- 1 quart good quality vegetable broth (e.g. Pacific, Kitchen Basics, or Imagine brand), plus water as needed
- 1 can (14.5 ounces) petite-diced tomatoes
- 1 generous tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 medium-large onion, cut into medium dice
- 1 bell pepper, color choice is yours, cut into medium dice
- 3 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon each ground cumin and oregano
- 2 cans (15.5 ounces each) drained black beans
- 2 cans (15.5 ounces each) drained hominy
- 3 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Microwave broth and tomatoes in a 2-quart Pyrex measuring cup or other microwave-safe container on high power until steamy hot, about 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat oil in a Dutch oven or small soup kettle over medium-high heat. Add onions and peppers; sauté until soft and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add chili powder, cumin, and oregano: sauté until fragrant, a minute or so. Add beans and hominy along with hot broth mixture. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, until vegetables are tender and flavors have blended, about 20 minutes. Stir in garlic, chocolate, and cilantro, simmer a couple of minutes to blend flavors. Turn off heat and let stand a few minutes if there’s time. Adjust seasonings, and serve.