Saturday, August 14, 2010

Chili? Or just a tasty vegetable stew?

If you've never been to Terlingua, Texas, on the first weekend of November, you don't really know what chili is. Yes, you can buy (click on the book cover above) a copy of "A Bowl of Red," Frank X. Tolbert's bible on the legendary stew, and follow the directions, but to taste, all in one place, the chilies that have been judged the best of their respective communities, and to immerse yourself in the culture of the pod, is an experience not to be missed.

Started in 1967, the cookoff features a number of different chilies, but to be a Texas chili, the mixture must:
  • Not contain beans
  • Not contain anything that doesn't turn red or brown after four-plus hours of cooking.
I love a good bowl of red. But I don't eat that much red meat anymore, and when I do indulge in grass-fed beef from a local farmer, I prefer a nice steak.

So my chili these days is one that will have my Texas friends rolling their eyes. Just taste it, though, before passing judgment. It may not be what you call chili, but you'll have to admit it's a tasty vegetable stew (which is what Frank X. Tolbert reportedly called Dave Chassen's famed Beverly Hills chili, which  contained beans).

Vegetable Chili
Serves 8

1 medium eggplant
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 cup olive oil
2 onions, chopped
6 cloves minced garlic
1 large red pepper, diced or one large jar diced pimientos
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained, but reserve the liquid
1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon basil
1 teaspoon pepper
Salt to taste
1/2 bunch of chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Cut eggplant into cubes and sprinkle with salt. After an hour, pat dry. Sauté in 1/4 cup of the olive oil until almost tender and set aside. Add remaining oil and sauté onions and garlic until softened. Add to eggplant. Put on low heat and add all but the last four ingredients. If cooking on the stove, leave uncovered and stir frequently for 30 minutes, then add the last four ingredients and cook for another 15 minutes. If using a crockpot, cover and cook for at least an hour; add the last four ingredients 15 minutes before serving.
Serve over brown rice. Offer shredded cheddar cheese, tiny-diced fresh jalapeños or hot sauce and sliced scallions as toppings, and serve with corn chips or cornbread.

Note: If eggplant is out of season, use a large can of black olives, chopped, and obit the kosher salt.