Polenta Chili

My first blog on chili was not for the beginner. The chili was awesome, but I had made it from an assortment of leftovers, so recreating my recipe may have been confusing. It was so good that I wanted standardize the model. So I’m rewriting the Best Chili Ever…and I’m starting from scratch.

Why Polenta?

Polenta is the perfect grain for chili. It adds a gritty, thick texture and a corn flavor (think tortilla shells). Polenta is made from whole-grain corn and supplies a good amount of iron, thiamin, zinc, phosphorus and magnesium. It’s also high in fiber.

Start with four cups of water, and two vegetable bouillon cubes…or four cups of vegetable broth…and add one cup of coconut milk. The coconut milk adds depth, flavor and cream. Meatless chili needs this, so do it. Bring it to a boil, and add a roll of unflavored polenta. Use a whisk to blend.

Finely chop lots of garlic (I did a whole bulb which was about 10 cloves), 3 jalapeno peppers, a bell pepper (I used green this time) and a vidalia onion. And a word of caution here. USE A GLOVE! I learned this lesson the hard way this summer when the farmers market provided unidentifiable peppers that I liberally chopped and added to everything. About 5 pairs of contacts later, I realized that you can’t get the juice off your hands, even with soap and water. Buy a 10 pack of disposable, or use a standard yellow dishwashing glove, and put it on the hand used to hold and move hot peppers.

Let this simmer on low for about 30 minutes, until the peppers and onions are soft. Then add 1 large can of mild chili beans (~30 oz), 1 large can of diced tomatoes (or tomato sauce if you prefer less chunks…or both!) and a 6 oz can of tomato paste.

You want your chili thick, and the polenta and coconut milk helps. For an even heartier texture, I added a can of refried black beans and a cup of nutritional yeast flakes. (See vegan lasagna for more info on yeast flakes.)

I also added about 1/4 cup of chopped cilantro leaves for a fresher flavor.

Taste it here. My kids don’t love spicy foods, so I can’t go overboard. But consider adding a tsp or two of any or all of the following: cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper and/or red pepper flakes.

Once you are satisfied, let it simmer on low another half hour if you can. Either way, the flavors come together better with a little time.

Why-add-a-vegan-meal-to-your-week-Fun Fact:

Animals raised for human consumption are the number one source of methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide. In addition, other greenhouse gases like ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide, cyanide and phosphorus combine to trap heat and deplete the ozone layer. Animal agriculture is responsible for a third of the globe’s total greenhouse gas emissions. (“Low Carbon Diet” circleofresponsibility.com)