Ahh, fall. The season of knitted sweaters, changing leaves, and pumpkin-spiced everything. It's officially here and I am welcoming it with open arms. Even though the weather this past weekend has been hot & humid, this season is making me crave all kinds of warm, comforting foods. When I was growing up, warm & comforting was often synonymous with chili.
This fuss-free chili is inspired by the one my mom used to make. It involves simple ingredients like green bell peppers, red kidney beans & tons of dried spices. There could be a hundred ways to make it more authentic or elevated, but sometimes I just prefer simple meals that remind me of my childhood.
Although this chili is super simple, it definitely does not skimp of flavour! I start by adding what may seem like a TON of spices, but really, it's just the right amount. While developing this recipe, I found that even though I added lots of spices, the chili always lacked in depth. As I normally do, in order to balance things out, I resorted to sweetness & acidity. You may be put off by the fact that I added balsamic vinegar in a recipe that is already pretty acidic from the tomatoes, but it truly adds a depth of flavour that you wouldn't get otherwise. If you have some good quality aged balsamic on hand, it's even better. And finally, the sugar comes in and rounds everything out.
To take it to the next level, this chili is topped with a cashew "sour" cream. Although it doesn't taste like the real deal, it's incredibly delicious. Tangy, salty, creamy and oh so satisfying. It makes the perfect counterpart to a bowl of spicy chili. Enjoy!
PROTEIN-PACKED TEMPEH CHILI
Prep time: 15 minutes Cook time: 45 minutes Servings: 6
For the chili:
4 tbsp olive oil
2-1/2 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tbsp ground cumin
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 tsp sea salt
8 oz. Brick of tempeh*
1 cup diced white onion
1 cup diced green bell pepper
1 can of red kidney beans, drained & rinsed
1 (28 oz.) can of diced tomatoes
2 cups of strained tomato purée (or plain tomato sauce)
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp raw sugar
For the cashew "sour" cream:
2/3 cup raw cashews
1 tbsp lemon juice
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup of warm water
To serve (optional):
Corn tortilla chips
1. Place the cashews in a medium-sized bowl and cover with boiling water. Soak for about 30 minutes.
2. In a small bowl, combine chili powder, ground cumin, garlic powder, oregano, dried red pepper flakes, salt & pepper, mixing well to combine. Set aside.
2. Place tempeh in steamer basket or double-boiler over a pot of boiling water & steam for 10 minutes, flipping half way. This will help reduce the bitterness of the tempeh.
3. Once the tempeh is steamed, pat dry and transfer to cutting board. Chop the tempeh in small, irregular pieces.
4. Heat a large pot or dutch-oven over medium heat and add 2 tbsp of olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add tempeh and fry for 3-4 minutes until golden-brown & crisp. Spoon over 2-3 teaspoons of the spice mixture and fry for another 1-2 minutes. Once the tempeh is fragrant, remove from pot onto a clean plate & set aside.
5. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pot. Once the oil is hot, add in onions and fry, stirring occasionally until gold & softened. This should take 3-5 minutes. Once the onions are soft, add in green bell peppers & red kidney beans, sautéing for another 3 minutes or until slightly soft.
6. Add in diced tomatoes, strained tomato purée (or tomato sauce), tempeh, remaining spice mixture, balsamic vinegar & sugar. Mix well to combine everything. Turn the heat down to medium-low & simmer for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once the chili has simmered, taste & adjust for seasoning.
7. Once the cashews are nice of soft to the touch, strain them and place them in a high-powered blender along with the salt & lemon juice. Start by adding only 1/4 cup of warm water and blend until smooth. If the cream is too thick, add in the remaining 1/4 cup and blend until you reach a smooth, creamy consistency. Taste & adjust for seasoning.
8. Place a few generous scoops of chili in bowls, top with cashew "sour" cream & fresh cilantro. Serve with corn tortilla chips and you're all set. Enjoy!
*Note: to make this gluten-free, make sure there are no added grains in the tempeh.