Sunday, May 6, 2012

‘Hot N Steamy’ Chili!

Whenever May 5th falls on the weekend, I prepare a Mexican menu for dinner, just to celebrate Cinco De Mayo.

A brief history of this is that Cinco de Mayo—or the fifth of May—commemorates the Mexican army's 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War (1861-1867). A relatively minor holiday in Mexico, in the United States Cinco de Mayo has evolved into a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage, particularly in areas with large Mexican-American populations. Cinco de Mayo traditions include parades, mariachi music performances and street festivals in cities and towns across Mexico and the United States.

Thankfully, this year again, it fell on Saturday. And we need an excuse to eat Mexican. It is so close to Indian cooking and yet, so different. Exactly 10 years ago, in 2002, we took our first cruise to Mexico. Since then, we have fallen in love with the country, the culture and the food. I went all nuts when I first saw the mango and pomegranate trees, the plants of bougainvillea and hibiscus blooming with colorful flowers and of course, the tiny lizards! I truly felt as if I have been transported to India. Of course, the language was totally different but the people, the warmth and readiness to welcome the guests-all the same as us Indians. Since then, we have been to Mexico a few times and every time I feel enchanted by the country and rich natural beauty it possesses.

Long story short, I made this chili. It was so perfect as the weather here is crazy cold. We had such mild winter and now since last week or so, it has cooled down so much. So the chili was a perfect appetizer to start off the dinner. No one realized that it is ‘meatless’! that was an added bonus. I used Nutrela crumbs to make this chili.

Vegetarian Chili

 2 cups Nutrela Crumbs, cooked per package direction
 2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion , chopped
 2 cloves garlic , minced
 2 tbsp Mexican chili powder
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes
1 can (29 oz) red kidney beans , drained and rinsed
2 cups vegetable stock or water
1 cup finely grated carrot
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup corn kernels
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tbsp lemon juice
Shredded cheddar cheese, slices of avocados, sour cream for garnish(optional)

How to:

In large Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat; cook onion and garlic, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes.
Add chili powder, oregano, cumin, salt and pepper; cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute.
Add Nutrela crumbs, tomatoes, beans, stock, carrot and tomato paste; bring to boil.
Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer, stirring often, until vegetables are tender, 30 minutes.
Stir in corn; simmer until corn is heated through, 5 minutes.
(Make-ahead: Let cool for 30 minutes. Refrigerate, uncovered, in airtight container until cold. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month.)
Stir in cilantro and lemon juice.
Garnish with all the fixings like sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, avocados etc, serve.