This dish was actually the result of the Sharepoint conference I went to (SPTechCon), a week ago Monday. The conference was, frankly, pretty disappointing: while I learned a bit, I got about half an hour's worth of education out of each of the three-hour workshops I took there. One of the sessions was too disorganized; the other was well-enough done, but less relevant than I'd been hoping for. If I'd paid my own money, I would have been downright annoyed -- as it was, I was mostly cranky about losing an entire day of work without enough to show for it.
But *lunch* was surprisingly good. The conference was held at The Ziggurat -- the Marriott on Mem Drive where Arisia resides nowadays. They had opened up an innocuous door next to the escalator, which led into a corridor I'd never seen before, leading to an airy pavilion they'd set up outside -- one of those big affairs with big plastic domed "windows", looking rather like a Victorian glass house. I and my co-worker Bob sat and ate a rather good lunch with a bunch of other engineers, commiserating about how much Sharepoint sucks for serious work. And the centerpiece of the meal was a quite good vegetarian chili, which left me with a bad case of, "That was tasty *and* healthy. Surely I can do that." So a day or two later, I did.
Of course, like so many of my dishes, this was more thrown together than designed. But for my reference and your consideration, the basics:
- 1.5 - 2 lbs assorted vegetables (IIRC, this batch included carrots, broccoli, sweet peppers, asparagus, white and portobello mushrooms), cut to bite size
- 1 or 2 onions (this batch had a bit of red onion plus a medium-sized white one), chopped
- A few Tbl minced or crushed garlic
- 1 can black beans (msmemory isn't as fond of kidney beans)
- 1/2 lb chili-compatible Protein Unit (I'd intended to use veggie crumble, but forgot to buy it, so I compromised the veggieness of the dish and used a couple of frozen burgers instead)
- ~40 oz good marinara sauce
- The usual herbs for tomato-based substances (oregano and basil, IIRC), some good shakes of each
- Chili powder and chipotle powder (see below)
- Cheese and chips to go along
In a nonstick pot, saute the Protein Unit until nice and brown, and set aside.
Saute the onions and garlic in a bit of olive oil until they are getting done-ish, and start adding the veggies, in order from most to least durable. (Mushrooms, then carrots, then broccoli stems, then asparagus. Don't saute the sweet peppers at all: they'll just wilt.)
Toss the Protein Unit back in, and the beans, and add enough sauce to get everything well-covered with it, but not quite enough to completely cover the matter. The goal here isn't a sauce, it's veggies covered *with* sauce.
Heat gently to a simmer. Once simmering, start messing with the flavor. Add some herbs -- how much depends on how well-flavored the original marinara was. Add chili and chipotle for heat and depth. (NOTE: the chili powder we got from Auntie Arwen is actually a tad too hot, and not smoky enough on its own. I suspect this would be better if I take the extra 20 minutes to roast and grind my own fresh chili powder instead. Cook's Illustrated describes the process, which is actually pretty easy once you've scared up the chili peppers.) Simmer gently, covered, until everything is piping hot, and the flavors have melded, maybe 10-15 minutes.
Serve with a slice of cheese melting on top (optional -- I like it, she doesn't), and lots of tortilla chips. Tostito Scoops work rather well as an edible implement for eating this. Refrigerate promptly: apparently keeps a couple of weeks in a cold fridge, and like all good chili is quite good reheated. (But reheat on stovetop: the microwave is likely to do too much violence to the veggies.)