On a dark and stormy night that calls for a spicy meal, you can pull chili out of the pantry using canned beans. But “Black Bean Chile,” from the “The Winter Vegetarian” by Darra Goldstein, is only slightly more complicated and so good – in part because of the real beans. (Real black beans, once a revolution here, are now a staple.)
Goldstein has you soak two cups of beans overnight (hard to turn loose of that, in site of Bittman’s lecture). So I did, then rinsed and put them to simmer with a bay leaf. In the meantime, I sautéed onion, a red pepper (greenhouse grown, last beauty from a farmer’s stand), and garlic for about 10 minutes.
When the beans are tender, but still a little chewy, Goldstein says to add two tablespoons of tomato paste and a can of whole tomatoes with juice (I chop the tomatoes roughly against the wooden spoon). Then add the onion mix along with spices. Goldstein uses cumin, paprika, cayenne, chili powder, dried oregano, salt and pepper, and a tablespoon of dark brown sugar (never having that, I added a little molasses to a little sugar). Simmer for an hour.
For cornbread I’ve used Bittman’s most basic recipe forever – but this time I noticed he offers alternative fats to butter. Loving olive oil above all others, I poured it into an 8×8-inch glass-baking dish, or you can use a skillet (and this is where I wish I had my mother’s old cast iron skillet – the one I never wanted to see again since she mostly used it to cook bacon).
Heat the oil and turn off the burner. (Do turn it off – I misread this once and put the glass pan with butter in the oven and it broke – not recommended.) Mix the dry ingredients and fold gently into the wet. Then pour the mixture into the olive oil in the baking dish. Bake till golden. The result: velvety cornbread.
Served with a salad (we’re getting terrific winter spinach from the CSA), and maybe a little grated cheese, green onion, and avocado for topping the chili – candles, action – a winter meal!