Some days you just wake up on the wrong side of bed. While some people go on a run, take a hot shower, or grab a journal, I chop. That’s right, I chop. Vegetables. In the most peaceful way possible, taking a knife to an onion or a carrot is calming, relaxing.
When I told my sister this she gave me that “My sister has gone off the deep end” look. I’ll forgive you if you think I’m crazy too. Perhaps I am. But on a morning like this – when I wake up in a funk, head to the kitchen, turn up the music, and wield my lone kitchen knife – I like my potential craziness, because it means creating something nothing short of delicious. Like this chili. And chili is always a good thing. Always.
I think it’s the rhythmic sound of knife hitting cutting board and the diverted focus – from something worrisome to a bright red pepper – that makes chopping away therapeutic. I wish it were exercise I could claim as said therapy, but at least it’s not baking. No, baking I just like to do every other hour of the day. (Did I tell you I made this carrot cake the other day? It was heavenly. Well worth the carrot gratings I had in every nook and cranny of my kitchen. Yes, well well worth it.)
I bought the ingredients for this vegetarian friendly chili nearly a week ago. Forgetting that I’m the type of person who can’t bear sitting still, I thought I would have loads of free time this week given that I wasn’t nannying. Instead I managed to make a week of nothing, into a week of everything. I busily ran between lunch with friends and impromptu babysitting jobs. I created small tasks for myself. Finally finding those long lost library books? Check. Reading a Spanish translation of the Hobbit, which I checked out with my now fine-free library card? Check. Diving into that speeding reading book my dad gave me for Christmas? Check. Forcing myself to go to the gym? Check…kind of. Cooking chili? Ummmmmmmmmm. That is, until now. Admittedly, I might have put too much on my “to do” list. But really, that’s nothing new.
Winter Vegetable Chili
barely adapted from Food & Wine
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2 medium garlic cloves, very finely chopped
1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 pound parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 pound carrots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon chile powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
Salt, to taste
1 14-ounce can peeled Italian tomatoes
1 canned chipotle in adobo, plus 1 tablespoon adobo sauce
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup canned hominy, drained
1 14.5 oz can red kidney beans, drained
In a medium, heavy enameled cast-iron casserole or Dutch oven, heat the oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook over high heat, stirring, until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Add the bell pepper, parsnips and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned in spots, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chile powder and cumin and season with salt. Cook for 1 minute.
In a blender, puree the tomatoes and their juices with the chipotle, adobo sauce and water until very smooth. Add the mixture to the casserole along with the hominy and beans and bring to a boil. Cover partially and simmer the chili over moderate heat until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Season with salt. Serve with rice, red onions, cilantro, sour cream and chips.