The full article gives more background and another recipe, but we picked the chili because we thought it would be a terrific late winter warmer. The dish includes a cornbread topping but frankly we’d be more than happy to eat this without the bread (in the name of simplicity… or possibly laziness).
Vegetarian Chili with Corn Bread Topping
The chili here is vegetarian, chock-full of kidney beans and red lentils. This should be spiced to taste, but I don’t see the point in a chili without bite: I want heat from red pepper flakes and smoky warmth from ground coriander and cumin, crushed cardamom pods and a scant amount of cocoa.
A certain amount of chopping and stirring is involved, but with a friend to chat with in the kitchen, this can be an unhurried way to unwind on a weekend. At times, it is even more gratifying as a peaceful, solitary activity, an allowable escape.
With the bulk of the work dispatched, the chili can be kept in the refrigerator several days and just heated up in the oven for half an hour when you need to eat it. A little last-minute finessing will be needed before it is reheated, but the effort involved is minimal: just fork together some buttermilk, eggs, a tiny bit of honey, cinnamon and oil and stir them over some cornmeal and a small amount of flour in a bowl. Spread this wet-sand mixture over the chili in its dish and sprinkle lavishly with punchy mature Cheddar.
In cooking, this topping turns into the most fabulous crunchy corn bread — more a crumbly dry biscuit — that you push into the chili as you eat to absorb the hot juices. You need do nothing more to this golden dish than sprinkle freshly chopped cilantro and a dollop of palate-salving sour cream over the top.
Time: 1 hour 35 minutes
For the chili:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups red bell peppers (about 2 large peppers), finely diced
2 teaspoons hot red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1 1/2 cups red lentils
3 cups canned chopped tomatoes
3 1/2 cups drained canned kidney beans
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
For the corn bread topping:
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups cornmeal
2 tablespoons flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup coarsely grated Cheddar cheese
2 cups sour cream
1 cup chopped cilantro.
1. To prepare chili, heat olive oil over medium-low heat in a deep, wide pan with a lid. Add onions, garlic and bell peppers, and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in red pepper flakes, coriander, cumin and cardamom pods. Stir in lentils.
2. Add chopped tomatoes, kidney beans, ketchup, tomato paste, cocoa and 3 cups water. Stir well. Cover, and simmer, stirring frequently, until mixture is thickened and beans are tender, about 45 minutes. Chili can be made ahead to this point and topping added later. (In that case, cover, and refrigerate for up to 3 days, bringing to room temperature before proceeding.)
3. For corn bread topping, heat oven to 425 degrees. In a mixing bowl, combine salt, cornmeal, flour, baking powder and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk, eggs, honey and oil. Pour liquid ingredients into dry; stir until combined.
4. Pour chili into a baking dish 13 by 9 by 3 inches. Spread corn bread topping evenly over chili, and sprinkle cheese on topping. Bake until topping has risen and turned golden brown, about 25 minutes.
5. Remove from oven, and let chili stand about 5 minutes. To serve, cut into squares, and pass sour cream and cilantro at the table.
Yield: 8 servings.