Chili non Carne

MAKES: 6 to 8 servings

TIME: About 2 hours, largely unattended

A straightforward and delicious chili that can be completely customized to your taste. Increase or decrease just about anything or add pressed tofu, tempeh, or even nuts to bulk up the texture and flavor. Serve it with lots of garnishes always great when feeding a crew like minced onion or scallion, hot sauce, sour cream, and grated cheddar, Monterey Jack, or queso fresco, as well as rice, crackers, or tortilla chips.

Other beans you can use: kidney, dried soybeans, or any pink or red beans.

1 pound dried pinto beans, washed, picked over, and soaked if you like

1 onion, unpeeled, plus 1 small onion, minced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup bean-cooking liquid, vegetable stock, or water

1 fresh or dried hot chile, seeded and minced, or to taste (optional)

1 teaspoon ground cumin, or to taste (optional) 1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried (optional)

1 tablespoon minced garlic

Chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

Put the beans in a large pot with water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat, add the whole onion, turn the heat down so the beans bubble steadily but not violently, and cover loosely.

When the beans begin to soften, after 30 minutes to an hour, season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans are quite tender but still intact, 1 to 2 hours; add water if necessary.

Drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid if you choose to use it. Discard the whole onion and add the minced onion, the liquid, the chile, cumin, and/or oregano if you’re using them, and the garlic. Turn the heat to medium and bring to a boil. Cover and turn the heat down to low.

Cook, stirring occasionally and adding more liquid if necessary, until the beans are very tender and the flavors have mellowed, about 15 minutes. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and garnish with cilantro.

Variations

Chili con Tofu. A great way to add heft: Put 3 tablespoons neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn, in a large skillet over high heat. Add 1/2 to 1 pound cubed firm, pressed, or smoked firm tofu and cook, stirring frequently, until browned. Add the tofu to the chili in Step 4.

Chili con Tempeh. Adds bit of earthy flavor and more texture: Put 3 tablespoons neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn, in a large skillet over high heat. Add 1/2 to 1 pound firm crumbled tempeh and cook, stirring frequently, until browned. Add to the chili in Step 4.

Chili con Nuts. Add about 8 ounces or so chopped walnuts or other nuts in Step 4.