Ricky Martin is playing in the background (La Copa de la Vida Ricky, that is) while the fragrant signature smells of chili waft up from the gurgling pot at the stove. There are the notes of garlic in the air and tomato…Oh, wait. That is not exactly how my Saturday went.
As much as Ricky Martin would have been a delightful addition to my 5pm Saturday kitchen ambience, with the sun setting outside way too quickly (don’t go, natural lighting), I settled instead with abusing the little speakers on my cell phone by blaring Pandora and awkwardly skipping songs with the one part of my pinky that wasn’t touched by garlicy remnants or coated with spices.
Alright, okay. So, let me start at the beginning. I know I spoke about taking risks in my first post, but I confess this was a recipe I tried earlier that week during my school’s cooking class. Look—my sister and dad were dinnerless (and dangerously teetering toward the hangry stage), and I didn’t yet possess the nerve to whip up a totally new and foreign recipe that might have potentially reaped disastrous results. So! Chili it was.
I proceeded to power through the shopping list of things I didn’t have at the crowded Whole Foods like a madwoman, only pausing once to marvel at a gigantic basket spilling with adorable little bunny finger puppets. (There were so. Many.) I made a straight beeline for the “serrano” peppers which I snatched up, and I say “serrano” because they were quite unlabeled, and there was neither any employees around nor cell phone service for me to confirm the identity of these peppers. (Yaaay, risk taking…Impulsive mystery pepper buying…I do not condone this. ☺) In my defense, they really looked close enough.
Once home, madwoman phase two kicked in, and I speed chopped everything— almost everything. Note the minimally chopped onion in the picture below, which I asked my dad to dice up because my eyes are painfully sensitive. (Like, mini-twin-Nile-Rivers-running-down-my-face sensitive.) I sliced the zucchini into rounds instead of dicing it because it softens up so nicely without breaking apart and adds a great shape variety in the chili. Also, as tablespoony as the minced garlic looks, there was an extra secret stash off-screen because garlic is wonderful and just puts the g in fla(g)vored-packed. (Aka I halved the recipe but kept forgetting to look at the modified quantities…)
So after a whirlwind of an hour and a half of standing over the stove/cooking rice while frantically chewing on gum (to ward off the remaining onion smells) and dealing with the faint burn in my fingers from cutting the peppers with my bare hands (pro tip: wear plastic gloves!), the chili was finally done. What a satisfying feeling it is to heft a steaming pot of homemade chili around. Sniffing the deliciousness while I teetered over it on a stool with a camera in hand…Well, that was just a wee bit torturous.
I topped it off with buttery avocado, sour cream, which adds the perfect amount of tang, and a sprinkle of cheese—because chili just needs cheese, and it’s me. I also scooped some rice on the bottom, which will perhaps make itself onto a separate post. Wink, wink.
I have to say, this chili is more preparation-based than anything, with the chopping of the produce and all, but otherwise, there’s just some stirring and keeping tabs on the cooking process. So, it’s really perfect if you ever want to whip up some delicious comfort food and then portion out some of it to keep in the fridge for a busy day some time down the week. Have someone help you with all the chopping if you’re making more. I promise, it’s a rather soothing process once you get into it, and there’s no better activity to start some conversation (or listen to Ricky Martin) to!
By the way, for my people who go to Indian restaurants and repeat “ALL MILD, PLEASE” after every order, this chili isn’t the fan-your-mouth, eyes-watering kind of spice at all. It’s a tingly kind of warmness, which I love, so there’s no need to have a glass of cold milk at the ready, unless that’s your thing. I did remove all of the seeds in the serrano, so if you can handle the heat, however, leave some in!
So, whale, whale. That’s about it for my first official post after my first post. I found it quite fitting to pay homage to an old-school Food Network great, Emeril Lagasse, after all my FN fangirling. I hope you try this recipe out for yourself and totally floor your parents or S.O. with it. Or just yourself. Because there’s absolutely no problem with that.
Until next time, go out there and, in the words of Emeril, “kick it up a notch!”
Vegetarian Chili (Modified from Emeril Lagasse)
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil (not toasted!)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 3/4 cup chopped yellow onions
- 1/2 cup chopped red bell peppers
- 2 to 3 serrano peppers, stemmed, seeded, and minced
- 1 medium zucchini, cut into slices
- 1 cup frozen corn (I let it sit out for ~30 minutes)
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
- 5/8 teaspoons salt (eyeball this)
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
- 2 large tomatoes seeded and chopped
- 1 1/2 cups cooked black beans, or canned beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 (8-ounce) can mini tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup vegetable stock, or water
- 1/8 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- Cooked rice, accompaniment
- Sour cream or strained plain yogurt, garnish
- Diced avocado, garnish
- Shredded mozzarella
- Add the oil into a medium pot and heat up over medium-heat.
- Add the garlic and sauté for about thirty seconds. (Yes, all that fragrant and sizzly goodness.)
- Toss in the onions and bell peppers, stirring over the heat until softened.
- Add the zucchini and corn to the stove, stirring until the zucchini starts to wilt, and the moisture starts building up a bit (approximately six minutes).
- Mix the chili powder, cumin, salt, and cayenne together in a bowl before adding it to the pot and stirring until fully incorporated.
- Add the tomatoes. Stir. Then the beans, tomato sauce, and vegetable stock.
- Once the mixture is brought up to a boil, turn the heat down for medium-low (or medium, depending on your stove) and let simmer for twenty minutes.
- Voila! Pull off the heat and add cilantro or any additional seasoning to taste.
- (Optional) Top with a dollop of sour cream, diced avocados, and shredded mozzarella.
* Note: This recipe serves approximately three to four people, so feel free to double this or even triple it!