I love fall! The crispness and cold nights makes me crave oversized sweaters, mugs of hot cocoa and big bowls of warm soup and stew. It's also a great and affordable excuse to entertain. A couple of years ago I held a late November Chili Party and managed to take care of all of our hosting obligations for the year in one fell swoop and get the jump on all the holiday parties of December.
I simply made two pots of chili - one turkey and one vegan - provided various toppers - salsas, guacamole, chips, corn bread, grated cheeses, sour cream, pickled red onions, jalapenos, toasted pumpkin seeds etc so people could dress up their own bowls. Keeping with our food in bowls theme (I "borrowed" about 60 china bowls from our company kitchen so we didn't even need to use disposables) we bought a couple of tubs of vanilla ice cream and did a sundae bar for dessert with homemade hot fudge, caramel and berry sauces, crushed cookies, candy and other toppings. It was one of the simplest parties we've ever thrown and still one of the most talked about. It was casual and fun and our guests loved being able to be creative and pile their chili with toppings and act like big kids around the sundae bar.
I first saw a recipe for black bean and sweet potato chili in Alive magazine
. I was looking for a vegan chili to serve up as the vegetarian option and was looking for something special and a bit different for my vegetarian/vegan offering (I hate it when the veggies/vegans are given second class treatment at dinner parties - I always think it's akin to being seated at the children's table at family thanksgiving when you're pushing 40).
I loved the flavour combination but thought cooking the raw sweet potato in the beans gave everything a monotone colour and texture. Roasting the sweet potatoes separately and combining them at the end lets the sweet potatoes and beans retain their lovely colours and the caramelized edges of the sweet potato adds so much more flavour. The black and orange colour combo would also make this a great dinner for Halloween - invite some friends over for chili and to hand out candy to the neighbourhood kiddies.
This chili has since entered the regular fall and winter rotation in our house. You can even serve it over brown rice to make it go further and leftovers are great wrapped in corn tortillas and eaten as a wrap for lunch.
- Two cans black beans, rinsed and drained OR dried black beans soaked overnight, water changed out a couple of times and then boiled till tender in fresh salted water with a clove of garlic and bay leaf
- 1 large can or jar of diced tomatoes plus another in case you want to make it thinner or you find it's too spicy like I did and need to water it down.....
- 1 can of tomato paste
- 3 largish sweet potatoes
- 1 large chopped onion
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 chipotle pepper from a can with adobo sauce chopped finely
- 1 teaspoon chipotle powder plus more for tossing taters in
- olive oil for tossing taters and sweating onions
- one lime
- ½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Peel sweet potatoes and dice into small even 1/2 inch cubes. Toss in olive oil with
chipotle powder, salt and pepper and roast at 400-450 until soft when poked with a fork but caramelized on the outside - about 30-45 minutes you might want to turn them a couple of times during this process so they get nice and evenly browned - this is key to them holding their shape in the chili and adding lots of yummy sweet flavour.
Meanwhile in a dutch oven or other heavy pot cook onion, garlic, cumin,
chipotle, salt, and pepper in olive oil over moderate heat, stirring, until onion is
softened and beginning to brown. This also allows the spices to toast in the
oil. Add beans, tomatoes and tomato paste. Let come to a simmer for 20-30
minutes, taste for spicing, and adjust if necessary. The beans could be made up ahead at this point and then reheated before dinner. Stir in the roasted sweet potatoes. Stir in
the juice and zest from one lime and the cilantro right before serving to add a nice bright freshness.
Top with sour cream, salsa, tortillas cut into strips and toasted, grated cheddar, chopped avocado or hell all of them!
NOTE: with it's dense flesh butternut squash also shines in this recipe. I've made it with both and can't seem to decide which I prefer - give it a try!