Meatless Squash and Mushroom Chili
Radical as chicken chili may seem, a chili that is completely meatless may appear even more so. And yet, there is a traditional chili flavor profile, one composed of the essential flavorings of onion, garlic, ground red chiles, cumin and oregano that is instantly identifiable. Season winter squash, mushrooms and, above all, beans, with that pungent mixture, and no one who has ever had chili will doubt that this is the real thing. It’s not a mild, wimpy, chili, either. Serve it with a dollop of cooling yogurt atop each portion, to mellow the heat. A warm crusty baguette and crisp mixed baby green salad complements this chili. Pour a full-bodied white wine.
- 8 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cups finely chopped onions (from about 2 large)
- 8 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
- ½ cup medium-hot chili powder blend, such as Gebhardt
- 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano, crumbled
- ¾ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 8 cups canned vegetable broth
- 6 cups ½-inch pieces peeled orange winter squash, such as Hubbard or banana, from a 2½ pounds piece
- ¾ cup yellow split peas
- 1½ pounds cremini or white button mushrooms, trimmed, cut into ½-inch chunks
- 4 cups (about) cooked pinto beans orflageolet beans from about 1½ cups dried (see Bean Know-How)
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- Heat 5 tablespoons oil in large heavy enameled cast-iron Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions and garlic. Cover and cook until onions are tender, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
- Add chili powder, cumin, oregano and red pepper; saute 3 minutes. Add broth, squash, split peas and 1½ teaspoons salt. Bring to simmer.
- Cover partially and cook until split peas are tender, stirring occasionally, about 40 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and 1 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook until juices form, stirring occasionally, about 7 minutes.
- Increase heat to high and saute until mushrooms are golden brown, about 5 minutes.
- Stir mushrooms into chili. Cover partially and cook until flavors blend, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Stir in beans and vinegar. Simmer until chili is very thick, about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- DO-AHEAD TIP: For best flavor, try to make the chile at least 1 day in advance. Cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. To serve, re-warm gently over low heat until hot.