CURIOUS, what inspires one to cook….
How about waking in the wee hours on a Saturday morning to a rare San Francisco Bay area thunder and lightning storm? I sat up excitedly in bed to watch… counting the seconds between flash and rumble. My younger son, Dave, who was enjoying a well earned 3-day weekend, after working 8 days straight, suggested later in the day how fun it would be to cook a family dinner together.
A dinner rich with fond memories for our family is hearty, stick-to-your-ribs Vegetarian Chili Beans & Buttermilk Biscuits or Sweet Northern Cornbread. That’s what Dave suggested we make, saying he’d be willing to buy whatever ingredients weren’t in the frig or pantry. An offer too good to refuse!
Vegetarian Chili Beans with colorful sweet peppers use basic ingredients, are a hearty quick-to-make meal, and adapt easily to improvisational cooking. And improv is exactly what Dave & I did for this meal.
Normally, I make these chili beans using cans of organic red kidney beans & ivory yellow garbanzos (for contrast). But much to my surprise we didn’t have either in our pantry. What we did have were plenty of organic black beans and Cannelloni ‘White Kidney’ beans. Dave and I chuckled and decided that combination was ‘perfect’ as a representation of our family’s mixed genetics ~ my WASP (white Anglo-Saxon & Swiss German) heritage, Bill’s (WASP-German) heritage, and Dave & Marc’s colorful ‘generically ethnic’ heritage (a blend of my genetics with their father’s Afro-American, Native American heritage with a bit of Chinese thrown in for global diversity).
~ 1-2 Onions, sliced (any color: white, red, or yellow)
~ 2-4 colorful Sweet Peppers, diced into medium-sized chunks (we used red & yellow, green or orange are nice too)
~ 3-4 Tablespoons of a richly flavorful American-style Chili Powder blend (NOT ground chilies) to taste
~ 1 Tablespoon smoked ground Chipotle Peppers (may replace one tablespoons of the chili powder blend for an extra bit of kick)
~ Olive oil for sauteing
~ 4, 15 oz cans of organic Beans, rinsed & drained
TIP: Use a contrasting combination: Black beans & Cannelloni ‘White Kidney’ beans or Great Northern beans, Red Kidney beans & Garbanzo beans, etc.)
~ 1 large 28 oz can of organic crushed or whole Tomatoes (if whole, cut into bite-size chunks)
TIP: Muir Glen Fire-Roasted Tomatoes add a depth of flavor you’ll really appreciate!
~ 1 can of ripe pitted black Olives, drained & cut into halves
~ Saute the onions over medium heat until they’re almost translucent.
~ Then add the sweet peppers and continue sauteing ’til onions are translucent.
~ Add the chili powder blend & ground chipotle pepper (if you’re using it), continuing cooking for a minute or two until the chili powders are smelling really good. (But don’t burn them!)
~ Add the drained beans combo, the canned tomatoes, the cut black olives and stir together.
~ Bring everything to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes to blend flavors while the biscuits or cornbread is baking.
Black & White Vegetarian Chili Beans are delicious garnished with sour cream or grated sharp cheddar cheese, fresh Pico de Gallo and a dash of smoked Chipotle powder, served with flaky buttermilk biscuits.
(Apologies dear readers for this last blurry photo. It was evening and I took a hand-held shot at a very low shutter speed. Should have gotten out my tripod, but we were all hungry and wanted to EAT, before our dinner got too cold.)
Dave & I heartily recommend giving our chili beans a try. They’re tasty, quick to assemble, full of protein & veggies, color and textural contrasts….our kind of family meal.