This week I'm sharing a few of my new favorite cool-weather dishes. The nip in the air signals chili season, but instead of the usual rich meat stews, I'm offering hearty, healthy carbs — inspired, in part, by my daughter, Maggy.
Like a lot of young people, at age 12 Maggy wanted to become vegetarian. This was 18 years ago, and I wasn't ready to eat that way, nor was I willing to prepare two meals — one for her and another for the rest of us. So we worked out a compromise: I wouldn't make her eat lamb, pork or beef if she'd eat poultry and fish. That was the way it worked until she left for college.
Later, after she married an Englishman, she developed a taste for lamb, and also started eating pork again (though she still didn't eat much of either). Then, about five years ago, everyone in our family decided to change our eating habits, agreeing to consume only well-raised (ethically and environmentally) meat, poultry and seafood. That meant buying less meat so we could afford the good stuff.
That wasn't the end of it. Recently Maggy, who's now 30, announced her decision to eat vegan. Thinking it might be a passing phase, I kept quiet, but a few weeks later she said her vegan diet makes her feel good, and that it might become permanent. "Ugh!" I thought. "Why would she want to cut herself off from all meat, poultry, seafood, eggs and dairy?"
It was time for nearly the same conversation we'd had 18 years ago, and again we reached a compromise: When she's at our home, I'll do my best to accommodate her, serving no meat-centric meals. In return she'll eat eggs, light cheeses and a little meat as flavoring.
Maggy and her husband, Andy, were with us this weekend, and they raved over these three almost-vegetarian dishes I served. My husband, David, and I savored them too. My daughter has always been the forward-thinker in our family, always willing to try something new. She's a good influence on the rest of us.
Black Bean and Corn Chili
Serve with all your favorite chili toppings
- 2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
- 1 large onion, cut into medium dice
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 cup chili powder
- 2 teaspoons each: smoked paprika and cumin
- 1 quart vegetable or chicken broth
- 1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
- 1 can (13.5 ounces) coconut milk
- 4 cups corn kernels, frozen or fresh
- 4 cans (15 to 16 ounces each) black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallion, white and green part, plus extra for garnish
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Heat oil in a soup kettle over medium-high heat. Add onions; sauté until softened, about 4 minutes. Add garlic, chili powder, paprika and cumin; sauté until fragrant, about a minute. Add broth, tomatoes and coconut milk; bring to a simmer. Add corn and beans; continue to simmer, partially covered, until flavors blend, about 30 minutes. Turn off heat and stir in scallions and cilantro; let stand to blend flavors, a few minutes longer. Serve, garnishing with extra scallions and cilantro.