Spicy Vegetarian Chili

The Gourmand & I have been entertaining vegetarian guests for a few nights while they stay with us in our apartment. This has (pretty much, but not entirely) meant that The Gourmand & I adopt a vegetarian diet as well, at least for dinner. I decided to make chili, as that is economical and after I realized that turkey chili was not in fact vegetarian, I was inpired by the farm stand and came up with this:

Spicy Vegetarian Chili

1 medium eggplant, cut into bit-sized chunks
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
2 medium onions, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
2 T cumin seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 T chili powder
2 medium zucchini, chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped (I used a yellow one and and orange one) 
jalapenos, minced, to taste (this depends on how hot you like it)
4 cups chopped plum tomatoes , or 1 28-oz can chopped tomatoes
1 15-oz can cannellini beans
1 15-oz can black beans
Zest of one lemon
Juice of that same lemon
1 tsp sugar
lots of chopped cilantro
Steamed brown rice
shredded cheese (extra sharp cheddar, monteray jack or similar)
sour cream or yogurt

Heat the oven to 350. In a bowl, toss the eggplant with olive oil, just to coat, salt and pepper. Transfer to a baking sheet large enough to hold the eggplant in a single layer. Roast in the oven, uncovered for about 30 minutes, stirring once about 20 minutes in. Turn off the oven and let the eggplant stay in there until you are ready to use it.

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a dutch oven, heavy bottomed pot, or, in our case, a brand new Le Crueset courtesy of my brother and his girlfriend’s wedding gift! Add the onion to the hot oil and let them cook until they begin to turn transparent. Add the garlic, cook until the garlic starts to become fragrant, about a minute. 

Meanwhile, in a dry, hot sautée pan, toast the cumin and fennel seeds. When they become fragrant, add them, along with the chili powder, to the onions and garlic. Cook about 3 minutes more.

Add the zucchini, peppers, and jalapeno. Cook, stirring occasionally until the veggies start to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and about a cup of water (you might need more or less – should be a loose mixture, not soupy. The vegetables shouldn’t float around.) Gently stir in the roasted eggplant and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered over low heat for 20 minutes.

Rinse, then add the beans, lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar and chopped cilantro. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve in bowls over brown rice, with cheese, sour cream, or yogurt.

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