07 January 2013

Ten Minute Chili

There are times when you need a small quantity of a dish, quickly. This means that you're not trying to cook for 10 people at once. Instead, you've already got a meal set out, and need an extra dish, because a guest just let you know at the last minute that there will be an extra person coming. Rather than trying to stretch out what you already have, just make an extra dish, even if it is in small quantity, and the food will stretch further.

There are nights when you need something fast, because you got home from work really late. However, you still want it to have vegetables in, and be relatively healthy. The Minute Meals tag is meant for such dishes. This is the first of what I hope will become a series of recipes.

1 TB vegetable oil
1/2 tsp cumin seeds (the whole seeds are important)
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, sliced
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 zucchini, sliced lengthwise, and cut into half-moons
2 cups cooked beans of your choice (I used canned black beans)
1 cup frozen corn (or canned is fine too, if you drain the liquid)
Pinch of salt to taste
Cayenne pepper, to taste

In a pot, add the oil, and heat it on high heat. Add the cumin and coriander seeds. The seeds will toast and pop. Add the onions, garlic, paprika, and oregano (in that order). Stir well. Drop the heat to medium. While the onions and garlic cook down, chop the zucchini, open the can of beans, and measure out the corn (I usually just dump in a couple of handfuls, but some people like to measure). Add the tomato paste after the onions have had a chance to cook for a couple of minutes, and stir well. This will cause some sticking. This is OK. Essentially, you want to add the onions, chop the zucchini, add the tomato paste, stir, and then open up the cans/measure the corn.

Once the vegetables are chopped, the beans are opened, and the corn is at the ready, crank up the heat to as high as it'll go. Stir vigorously, until the onions are browned slightly, and the house smells awesome. You should hear the onions sizzle loudly by this point, and the bottom of the pot should start catching some of the spices and making it sticky. This is good.

Add the zucchini, and stir completely until the zucchini is lightly browned. Add the beans, the corn, and the cayenne pepper. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil. Turn off the heat, and taste for salt. Because you're using canned beans, which contain a fair bit of salt, you might not need to add any salt. If you do, feel free to adjust as necessary. For better flavour, you can use soy sauce instead of salt.

I don't typically encourage you to use canned beans, which is why I've included the measurements of beans rather than a particular can size. However, the charm of this recipe is that you can run to the local bodega, grab one or two ingredients, and have food done fairly quickly. If you have a well-stocked pantry, you probably won't even need to hit up the store. If you don't have zucchini, any quick-cooking vegetable will do. Kale would be great. Cauliflower would be lovely too. If you had any leftover cooked vegetables from a previous night, this is a great time to use it up.

The point of this recipe is that you'll have exactly enough food for two people, done very quickly. While the water comes to a boil (in the last step), you could warm up some corn or whole wheat tortillas in a skillet to serve alongside the chili. If you have a pot of brown rice on, that's even better. If you want something fresh on the side, just do a quick salad of a sliced cucumber tossed with a few slices of onions, and a squeeze of lemon juice. If you drain the beans, and add a minimum of water, you'll have a lovely burrito filling.

I'm going to try to post more of the things that I cook during the week, when I'm tired, and it's late. Hopefully, you'll also get inspiration to try something out, and post your results.