It’s been an exciting week. Even as I settled into the routine of work, we managed to sneak in a weekend getaway… to Mexico! Well, maybe closer to Texas or CA, but somewhere in that general idea. I explored a few new foods and new possibilities that I’d never considered affordable, like quesadillas, which might be mundane for some people cooking in North America but is kind of a huge deal over here. Tortillas? Avocados? They’ll add up quick, and you might as well go out for an overpriced meal at a mediocre-but-trendy “Mexican” restaurant. (There is an affordable burrito place near my office that I’ve been meaning to check out, though!)
But I found a few of those elusive ingredients at the Avocado Lady, and realized it was possible to venture beyond the 10 or so veggies that feature in our stir-fry rotation (eggplant, cauliflower, broccoli, garlic, onion, green pepper, carrot, potato, tomato [not a vegetable but whatever]). Having educated myself on the benefits of beans and prompted by a recipe my sister e-mailed over, I decided to make black bean chili for dinner last Saturday. I’ve probably had chili about once in my life, and it hadn’t been a very memorable experience, but it seemed like a practical way to make something of 300g of dried black beans.
I put them to soak in the morning. A couple hours later they started looking like pill bugs, ughh.
We prefaced the meal, which ended up not being ready til 9pm, with a mozzarella-tomato-basil appetizer which I’ve always loved but never felt “western” enough to make. Unfortunately, the tomato I used was a bit overripe, making the whole thing mushier than it should be; also, I realized how hard it is to slice mozzarella. Excusing the crappy presentation, the combination of flavours, especially the bit of salt that brought out the sweetness of the tomato, was still fantastic.
As we continued to wait for the beans — which I’d forgotten need 2 hours to cook — to be ready, we dug into the ripe Mexican avocado that I’d gotten at the same store (10 RMB). Sean spread his half on toast but I ate mine right off the spoon with a bit of salt (I know I’d said we were conserving, but sometimes there’s no alternative!). I don’t remember the last time I was able to take such liberties with an avocado. It’s always so stingily laid out inside overpriced “gourmet” sandwiches.
With about 20 minutes left on the beans, I started getting to work on the chili. I set diced carrots to boil in clean water, chopped up garlic, onion, tomatoes, yellow squash, zucchini, and green pepper, and fried them (minus the tomatoes) in some olive oil.
When the beans and carrots (in separate pots) were done, I drained them and put them back in the large pot along with the tomatoes, vegetables, and a bunch of spices (red chili powder, basil, cumin, paprika, dill, black pepper, salt). Also poured most of the water I’d saved from boiling the beans/carrots, and simmered for half an hour.
I’d bought a pack of frozen tortillas (10RMB for 12) so I thawed a bunch and reheated them one at a time on a non-stick pan on low heat, flipping every 20 seconds or so.
The chili ended up looking more like soup than my idea of chili, but I ladled it into our bowls with a slotted spatula so the water drained back into the pot. It was colourful, hearty, and warming, and delightful wrapped in soft tortilla.
The best part: after stuffing ourselves, we had a giant bowl of the stuff left over! We rarely have leftovers, so that was exciting.
This is the recipe I used (thanks Florence!), with modifications in parentheses:
Black bean and vegetable chili
1 cup dried black beans, rinsed (~1.5 cups)
3 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced (1 whole head)
2 stalks celery, sliced (skipped, yuck)
2 large carrots, diced
1 cup each diced zucchini, onions, mushrooms, bell pepper (1 yellow squash, 1 zucchini, 1 large red onion, 2 green peppers)
1 can tomatoes, chopped (3 fresh tomatoes)
1 1/2 cup water or vegetable stock (water from boiling carrots & beans)
1/2 chopped parsley (skipped)
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp each dried basil and oregano
1 tsp each salt and ground cumin
1/2 tsp pepper
(I at least doubled all of the spices coz it turned out to be a huge pot)
– Cook black beans (or used canned). Drain.
– In large pot (or saucepan), heat oil over medium heat. Add all vegetables, stir for about 7 min or until softened.
– Add beans, tomatoes, water, spices. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for 30 min or until cooked.
Dried black beans (organic): City Shop, ~18 RMB/330g [Edit: Trust Mart, 10.80 RMB/350g]
Fresh mozzarella: Avocado Lady, 17 RMB/100g
Avocado: Avocado Lady, 10 RMB each
Flour tortillas (frozen): Avocado Lady, 10 RMB/pack of 12
Yellow squash/zucchini: Avocado Lady, ~4.5 RMB each
Basil, paprika: Carrefour, 13-14 RMB/jar
Where to find…
How to cook black beans