Every Sunday night, I cook with the intention of having leftovers. I have a love-hate relationship with leftovers. On one hand, there is comfort in knowing you have something luscious waiting in your refrigerator when you’re ravenous after class or work. Conversely, I love to cook, and having leftovers puts a kink in being able to cook unless you happen have no scruples about throwing away food. However, with my current life style, leftovers are a necessity, and I spend abundant time on the decision-making process for my Sunday night cooking to ensure I will not be disappointed throughout the week.
Recently, I stumbled across a white bean chili recipe that made me swoon. Generally, I am drawn to vegetarian chili in theory, but disappointed by the reality. The idea is not without appeal, but after a bowlful, I’m not satiated. This particular recipe (from the September issue of Real Simple magazine) has a novelty component that won me over: a simple bulgur* salad to garnish the chili. The bulgur adds heft, texture, and nutritional value; its simple dressing adds freshness to the melded flavors of the chili.
Chili Recipe (adapted from Real Simple, September 2009)
½ cup bulgur*
Zest and juice of one lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
3 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon dried oregano
Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
1 14.5 oz. can chicken stock, vegetable stock or 1 ¾ cups water
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 15 oz. cans small white beans, drained and rinsed
Additional accompaniment: 1 cup shredded Monterey jack
Bring one cup of water to a boil; add bulgur and a dash of salt. Reduce heat and cover. Simmer, stirring occasionally for 12-15 minutes, or until the water is absorbed and the bulgur is tender. Add lemon juice and zest, scallion, jalapeno, 1-tablespoon olive oil, and chopped parsley. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large pot. Add chopped onion and green pepper, and sauté until tender (about 8 minutes). Add garlic and all of the remaining spices and herbs; sauté for a minute or two, until garlic is fragrant and spices are evenly distributed. Add the can of tomatoes and stock or water. Bring to a boil. Add the beans and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve topped with the shredded cheese and a scoop of the bulgur.
Comments: The original recipe received minimal adjustments. I increased the lemon, added a couple more spices, and changed the beans. The original recipe called for cannellini beans. I find them to be horsey in size, and I dislike how the skins separate from the bean. Nonetheless, any bean you enjoy would work here. Black beans or chickpeas would be delightful. Next time, I plan to use one can of black beans, and one can of small white beans so I can call it and “Black and White (Bean) Chili.” Also, the Real Simple recipe didn’t call for cheese, which I didn’t hesitate to amend. Personally, I always take an opportunity to add cheese if it is contextually appropriate. It if my favorite food, and I cannot be deterred. Additional vegetables could enhance the chili, but are not necessary. Zucchini would be particularly lovely, but I would add it with the tomatoes and broth to avoid mushiness.
This recipe surpassed my expectations. I made the chili on Sunday night, and it lasted me through Wednesday; I enjoyed the last bite as much as the first. In fact, the flavor improved daily. If you are die-hard meat hawk, you could brown a pound of ground beef before adding the onion and bell pepper. However, as a vegetarian meal, this dish is a nutritious, delicious bargain that is mindful of your carbon footprint; I personally wouldn’t meddle with such a desirable combination of traits.
*See glossary for definitions