Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Maybe "winter" in LA is finally here. It's been raining all morning. I still haven't made it to the grocery, so I thought I would make soup with what was left in my kitchen and wait out the rain (but then I ran out to get the avocado anyway...) I know it's a lot of ingredients, but half of them come from cans. With its slightly tropical garnishes, this chili pairs really well with quinoa or with...Slightly Tropical Cornbread.

To this chili, the tempeh, allspice, bay leaves, and liquid smoke (optional) all add meatier tastes, and the cornstarch (also optional) thickens the already-chunky soup. The mother of my former coop-mate Trevor introduced me to the value of adding sugar to tomatoey dishes to balance the acidity. I make liquid smoke and cornstarch optional because they are both ingredients that can easily ruin a dish if you use too much, or even if you're just not in the mood for them. That said, I found the texture and flavor of this stew (using these optional ingredients) to be thick and complex.

Hearty Rainy-Day Chili


2 TB olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
2 tsp whole cumin, toasted and ground
1/4 tsp allspice
1 2-x-3-in block tempeh (that's half of a Trader Joe's block), cut into 1/2-in cubes
1 drop liquid smoke (optional)
2 small bay leaves
1 large carrot, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
2-3 c stock
2-3 c water
1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper or to taste
salt to taste
1 can black beans
1 c frozen corn, thawed
1 TB cornstarch (optional), mixed with cold water before adding to soup
2 TB sugar
optional: cilantro, avocado, lime slices, etc.

0. Thaw corn, toast and grind cumin, do chopping, etc.
1. Heat olive oil in a large stockpot over medium high heat. Add onions and cook until they begin to brown. Add garlic, jalapeno, cumin, allspice, tempeh, and liquid smoke (optional). Saute until tempeh begins to brown.
2. Add bay leaves, carrot, and celery, and cook for another minute or so. Then add oregano, stock, water, tomatoes, cayenne, and salt. The amount of salt will depend on the type and amount of stock you use as well as whether the canned tomatoes have salt already added. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.
3. Add beans, corn, cornstarch (optional), and sugar, and cook 10-60 more minutes. Adjust seasonings before serving. Garnish with cilantro, avocado, lime slices or juice, etc. Serves 6-8.


Quinoa-Scallion Pilaf

This is a "pilaf" in that you toast the grain in oil before cooking it in water, which makes it more flavorful.

1 TB olive oil
1-2 scallion, finely chopped
3/4 c quinoa
1 1/2 c near-boiling water
1/4 tsp salt

In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add scallions and saute, being careful not to burn them. Add quinoa and saute a bit longer. When quinoa begins to brown, add water and salt, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to very low and simmer 15-20 minutes. Allow to stand before serving.

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