Could green, frugal and humane be the modern cook’s psychic tisane? Almost nothing makes me feel so virtuous as using up leftovers from the fridge. And, for no rational reason, it feels doubly virtuous using them for a meatless Monday meal. A few days ago I over estimated the amount of kidney, black, cannellini and garbanzo beans I needed for Collard and Bean Minestrone soup, and put the excess away in the refrigerator. Sitting on the same shelf was a leftover container of homemade tomato sauce and a bowl of cooked kasha. (Kasha–buckwheat groats—are not only full-flavored but they’re also gluten free.) In the veggie bin were a few sad looking carrot and celery sticks screaming, “use me or lose me”. The blue corn tacos in the pantry, with a fast approaching expiration date, provided my final inspiration for killer Blue Corn, Four Bean and Kasha Tacos. The biggest surprise in this dish was the depth of flavor the cooked kasha added to the taco.
Below is my recipe for the chili–it is just a guideline. Use whatever spices, beans, veggies–even fruits (think expiring peaches, tomatoes, plums) you have in the house. Taste and correct for seasoning. I drizzle in honey if I get a bitter under- taste, amp up the cocoa if I need more depth, add pomegranate molasses for acid balance. Have fun and play with your food! Remember, they were leftovers for goodness sake.
Vegetarian Bean Chili
3 garlic cloves
1 stick celery
2 cups beans soaked overnight
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
2 green cardamom pods
1 tsp ground cumin
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp cocoa powder
1 tsp canned chipotle pepper in adobe sauce*
1 tsp Aleppo pepper/ 1 tsp ancho chili pepper (mix up whatever chili powder/dried chili peppers you have on hand to the heat/flavor you like)
Sauté chopped garlic and onions until translucent. To this the added spices and cook until fragrant, around five minutes, on a medium low heat. Add beans, tomato sauce and enough water to cover generously. Cook on a slow simmer until the beans are soft–approximately one hour. (You might need to add water–keep an eye on it.)
To assemble the tacos, I heated up the kasha and put that down first, to this I added the beans and topped it all with salsa, fresh arugula and shaved Manchego cheese.
*A small can goes a long, long way. I’ve taken to opening the can, using a pepper (or less) and then putting the rest in the freezer in a container. When I’m cooking I’ll take the container out of the freezer and scrape off the needed amount.