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Vegetarian Black Bean Chili

Dried beans are a favorite pantry staple in winter, and nearly any variety will work well in this recipe; some good alternatives to black beans include navy beans, cannellini beans or red beans. If you like, garnish with sour cream and chopped fresh cilantro.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups dried black beans
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 3 yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 fresh serrano or jalapeño chili peppers, seeded and minced
  • 5 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 Tbs. chili powder
  • 3 Tbs. ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 cans (28 oz. each) crushed tomatoes
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup coarsely grated Monterey jack cheese

Directions:

Pick over the beans and discard any damaged beans and stones. Rinse the beans. Place in a bowl and add water to cover generously. Let stand for about 3 hours. Drain the beans and set aside.

In a large, heavy saucepan over low heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onions and chili peppers and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, cayenne and oregano and sauté, stirring, for 2 minutes more. Add the beans, tomatoes and water to cover by 3 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the beans are very tender and have begun to fall apart, 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Add water if the beans begin to dry out but are not yet cooked.

Season with salt and pepper. Ladle into warmed bowls, sprinkle with the cheese and serve immediately.
Serves 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Seasonal Celebration Series, Winter, by Joanne Weir (Time-Life Books, 1997).