Wednesday, September 30, 2009

White Bean Chili with Bulgur

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


  1. I'd call that a big yum and with a vegetable-a-tarian in the family - i'll have to give it a try, thanks psycho!

  2. Wow, what a first month. While I can't/ don't cook- I sure can eat. You go girl. Keep up the great work, and I just love the subtle humor the effuses and flavors the blog. Keep it up.