Kitchen :: Hearty Rainbow Chili (Vegan)

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I can't seem to get it together lately. So many things to say, yet I often find it maddeningly difficult to convert my thoughts to actual, coherent, spoken-out-loud words. Even writing them down seems like a monumental task most days. Hell, who am I kidding? Getting out of bed this morning was a monumental task. {Insert heavy sigh.} Be that as it may, life goes on. Work must be done, bills must be paid, dinner must be cooked. And that last one, dear readers, is something I can do

This colorful, hearty chili is a winner. Literally, a winner! As in, I brought it to a neighborhood chili cook-off last weekend, and it won third place out of more than a dozen entries. Pretty great, considering mine was one of only two vegetarian recipes, and I was certain the crowd of our football-watching, meat-loving friends would pass by my veggie version in favor of the more carnivorous options. To  my surprise and delight, they loved it. Even more incredible? It took less than an hour to make, from prep to plate... er, bowl.

I am a mess, no doubt about it. But at least I can still get dinner on the table. And a darn good one, too. That's a win in my book, any day of the week.

Hearty Rainbow Chili (Vegan)

This chili was inspired by numerous recipes I've made over the years, most of which call for the separate cooking of various ingredients before simmering the resulting mix over low heat for at least an hour. My version is far more simple, and quick. The resulting chili has an engaging freshness and a piquant heat that tastes warm, rather than burning, on the tongue. I like it topped with shredded "cheese", sour "cream", and chopped cilantro, but diced avocado or green onions would also be good choices.

Use organic, non-GMO ingredients whenever possible.

2 zucchini
1 yellow squash (aka summer squash)
1 small yellow onion
2 red bell peppers, cored and seeded
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, mashed
2 28-oz cans diced tomatoes, with juice
2 tablespoons unsulphered molasses
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons cumin
2 tablespoons dried basil
1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon dried dill
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian, flat-leaf parsley
2 14-oz cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 14-oz can garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas), drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels*
1 small orange - juice and zest

Make it:
1. Cut the zucchini, yellow squash, onion and bell peppers into 1/2-inch dice. Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add the diced vegetables to the pot and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the garlic to the vegetables and continue to cook until the vegetables have softened, another 5 minutes or so.

2. To the pot with the vegetables, add one can of tomatoes with juice. Drain the other can of tomatoes, reserving juice for another use; add tomatoes to the pot. Stir in the molasses, all the herbs and spices, pepper, salt, and parsley. Increase heat to medium-high, and cook for 20 minutes, stirring often.

3. Add the beans, corn, and orange juice and zest to the pot. Cook for another 15 minutes, stirring often.

4. Remove from heat. Ladle into bowls and top with sour cream, cheese, cilantro, avocado, or scallions, as desired. Allow leftover chili to cool, and store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to one week, or freeze in a sealed container for up to a month.

* Canned corn is not recommended, as the texture is too soft. If you must use canned, drain first, and add corn to the chili only after cooking is complete. It's fine to add the whole can of corn.

Yield: 12 generous servings