Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Five-Element Vegetarian Chili

After hearing a talk by a nutritionist from Henry’s Market who lauded beans’ many virtues — including high soluble fiber, protein, and antioxidants, not to mention ease on the pocketbook — I was happy to try out a new chili recipe.

This recipe is adapted from a chili that Pacific College of Oriental Medicine student Julie Freeman recently brought into Warren’s Eastern Nutrition class. The five colors — black, red, white, green, and yellow — represent all five elements working together to help balance and harmonize the body. This hearty vegetarian fare, which we like served over brown rice, is one example of how the ideas in traditional Chinese medicine can be applied to a Western-style dish.

Five-Element Vegetarian Chili
Makes 6 to 8 servings

1/4 cup dried black beans
¼ cup dried kidney beans
¼ cup dried azuki (red) beans
¼ cup dried navy beans or other white beans
¼ cup dried whole green peas
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped into ½-inch pieces
2 celery stalks, chopped into ½-inch pieces
2 tablespoons good-quality chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried basil (or 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped)
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried sage (or 2 teaspoons fresh sage, chopped)
1 teaspoon black pepper (optional)
½ teaspoon salt
1 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes with juice
½ pound (1 ½ to 2 cups) mushrooms, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup (about 1/2 pound) butternut squash or kabocha pumpkin, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 fresh medium-size tomatoes, chopped into ½-inch pieces
3/4 cup red wine
Condiments: sliced green onions and/or plain yoghurt (optional)

1. Soak the beans and peas in water at room temperature overnight (or at least 8 hours). Be sure to use at least twice as much water as the beans, as the beans will absorb a lot of water.
2. Drain water from beans and peas, rinse them, and transfer to a medium saucepan. Add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer on low for 1 hour. Drain and set aside.
3. In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat, then add the garlic, onions, and celery. Stir-fry until the vegetables are softened, about 7 minutes.
4. Add the chili powder, cumin, basil, oregano, sage, sage, black pepper (if using), and salt, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for another 5 minutes.
5. Add the diced tomatoes and their juices, mushrooms, squash, fresh tomatoes, red wine, and bean and pea mixture to the pot and stir to blend.
6. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, for an additional 35 minutes or until the pieces of squash are cooked to your liking.
7. Serve with green onions and/or plain yogurt, if desired.

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