Hello there, and Happy Thanksgiving pals!
As a foodie I'm sure you can imagine that this is very nearly my favourite holiday of the year. Christmas is my actual favourite, but only because it's LONGER.
Because Thanksgiving is just one day I feel like it never really gets its proper due, so when I "grow up" one day I plan to host Thanksgiving dinners at least twice a year. It's such a great excuse to get together with friends and family for quality time, and besides, there's just too many cool recipes I want to try. Once per year is not cutting it. Bollocks.
(That plan hinges on the obviously faulty logic that I will, in fact, one day grow up--but nevermind.)
Surprising no one I've been planning my Thanksgiving menu since sometime in September, and I ultimately decided that sweet potatoes were axed from this year's menu. Since it's just my Dad, my 20-year-old body building brother Champ and I for dinner this year it's quite the small party, and thus I had to be painfully limited with my side dishes.
Champ threw a hissy fit when he found out I wasn't doing sweet potatoes because OF COURSE he doesn't care about anything, ever, but the **second** I say no to something it's immediately the most important thing ever--but I'M IN CHARGE HERE DAMMIT!
However in light of the "family togetherness" of the holidays etc etc etc I yielded somewhat to the sweet-potato-based pressure by cooking up this vegan sweet potato and black bean chili for dinner.
None of us are vegans here but it's so lean, filling, and chock full of wholesome things, it'll make you feel better about yourself before you dive in face first to the gluttony and gravy-induced stupor that is Thanksgiving the following day.
Chili never looks particularly appetizing, but damn if it isn't delicious.
And yes, my father promptly ruined the "vegan" aspect by topping it with a mountain of shredded cheddar cheese.
VEGAN SWEET POTATO BLACK BEAN CHILI
WHAT YOU NEED
- 1 very large, 2 medium, or 3 smallish sweet potatoes, peeled and diced small
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 red or green bell pepper, diced
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, diced
- 1 green jalapeno, seeds removed and flesh diced
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano
- 3 1/2 cups cooked black beans (or 2 15-oz tins; see my note below if you want to cook them from scratch)
- 4 teaspoons adobo sauce from a tin of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (if you like your chili more on the spicy side, feel free to add in one of the chipotle peppers, chopped)
- 1 28-oz tin diced tomatoes with their juice
- 1 teaspoon white granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 cup water or vegetable broth, to thin it out
Optional, To Screw Up The Whole Vegan Thing: Sour cream or shredded cheese, to serve
***On black beans from scratch:***
My Mother, God rest her soul, was born and raised in Guatemala on the traditional staple diet of black beans and rice. Do you think they use tinned beans down there? LOL, no. That's an American convenience, and it is convenient--but cooking your own is stupidly easy and SO worth it.
As the beans cook they release starch and flavouring into the cooking water, yielding this black salty broth that acted as my liquid in the chili recipe, and tastes AMAZING. Like I could sip that from a mug all day in bliss. These are the beans I remember from my childhood, and if you did a taste test of beans from scratch next to tinned beans, I absolutely guarantee without a doubt that the beans from scratch will come out on top, every time.
For God's sake, just make sure that they are fresh beans. The first time I made this recipe I used a batch of beans I dug up from the back of my Dad's pantry that I later found out were AT LEAST six goddamn years old. Turns out the older the beans are, the longer it takes to cook--which in this case was SIX HOURS PLUS AN OVERNIGHT SOAKING. It felt like forever. I felt like I was stuck in some kind of parallel universe where nothing cooked.
That's it for my rant on beans for now, but I'm planning on writing a recipe for cooking your own--and more importantly, why you should definitely, positively, should be putting them in and around your mouth.
WHAT YOU DO
1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with foil. On it, toss together your diced sweet potatoes, paprika, salt and pepper to taste with only 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and spread out into a thin layer. Roast for 25 minutes, tossing once in between. Remove from the oven and set...somewhere. Aside. Out of your way.
Roasted sweet potato is the best sweet potato and there will be no debate on that fact.
2. In a large pot over medium heat, heat your olive oil and sauté up your onion, bell pepper, garlic, jalapeño, cumin, and oregano until everything is nice and soft. Add in the black beans, the tin of tomatoes, adobo sauce, sugar, and cocoa powder. Stir.
(Note: at this point, I added 1 cup of the black bean broth because the chili was too thick to simmer properly. If you opted for tinned beans, add in a cup of water or vegetable broth here.)
3. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then reduce heat to low and let it simmer merrily away for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add in your sweet potato. Simmer for another 15 minutes-ish or until all heated through nicely.
There are zillions of chili toppings, of course, but in my house we dig shredded cheddar cheese and saltine crackers. Cheese is obviously not vegan, but there are vegan cheese options so if you're into it, by all means, have at it.