Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Making chili in a frying pan

I am not a vegetarian and love to have a nice toaster oven-broiled ribeye steak whenever possible. However, once in a while, I like to pretend that I'm a vegetarian and eat a lot of beans. Usually this happens when my pants are feeling a little tight and the universe is telling me, "Hey! Lose some weight, fatty!" As you can see, the universe and I have a very frank and honest relationship. After about ten days of eating at least 2 meals that include beans each day, my pants start to feel a little looser. That's good because it's difficult to find pants for short people here. Eating beans is actually not as bad as it sounds. After all, beans are usually not the first thing one thinks about when someone mentions delicious food. As for the farting, that goes away after a few days. Just go outside to take a "break" once in a while. :)

The trick to making beans taste good is to use a lot of spices. A little olive oil can be nice too but if you're trying to lose weight, too much oil is not a good thing. Spices usually have 0 calories, so use as much of those as you like. The other seasonings that make beans taste almost gourmet are Frank's hot sauce and soy sauce, each of which has very few calories. I like to use soy sauce instead of salt because it's in liquid form, which means that it spreads out a lot easier. It should enhance the hot sauce but not do much more than that.

Good bean spices:
cayenne pepper (use sparingly) or chili powder
black pepper
curry spice (can be mixed according to taste): can include cardamom, turmeric, coriander, etc. (Click the link for Alton Brown's curry blend)

Here's my recipe for "Addictive Bean Chili" (catchy name, eh?). It's great for using up leftover beans and vegetables. Think of it as a quick bowl of chili that you make in a frying pan. The Secret Sauce makes it addictive. I guess it's not a secret any more...

1 Tbsp olive oil
Frank's RedHot Hot Sauce , 23 oz (680 ml)
Part of the "secret sauce"
Secret sauce: Frank's hot sauce and soy sauce (start with equal parts, a few shakes of each, and adjust to taste)
Cumin or Curry spice (a little or a lot, depending on what you like - start with 1 Tbsp and add to taste)

Sliced or diced vegetables (however much you want - start with 1 cup and add more if you like) - if you'd like some suggestions: tomatoes, okra, mushrooms, eggplant, squash, zucchini, and corn
1 chopped/minced clove of garlic
1 diced potato
1 portion of cooked beans (any kind, whatever you can eat in one sitting) If you have a rice cooker, use that to cook dried beans.

  1. On low-medium heat, in a frying pan, add the oil, the "Secret sauce" (Frank's hot sauce, and soy sauce), and cumin.
  2. When you see the cumin sizzling a little, add the vegetables, garlic (and potatoes if using), and beans.
  3. Cover the pan with a lid (or another frying pan that has been flipped over). Don't open the lid too many times because you're trying to steam the vegetables in the pan. If possible, don't touch this for 5 minutes!
  4. After 5 minutes, the vegetables should have released some of their water and mixed with the Secret Sauce. There should still be at least a little liquid in the pan (unless you left the pan uncovered too long in the previous step). If all the liquid has been evaporated, add 1/4 cup water  and stir to deglaze the pan. The beans will absorb some of that liquid.
  5. If there is too much sauce, let it simmer without the lid.
  6. Serve and eat
 A 1-pound bag of dried beans will make 5 cups of cooked beans in a rice cooker. That's enough for about 5 large servings. The bag says that there are 12 servings but if the beans are the main part of your meal, there are 5 servings.

Time for a wash!
For this meal, I used a yellow tomato (they're less acidic than the red ones), a purple potato, 3 white mushrooms, some basil, corn, and garlic (last two were not the picture above because they were shy). I also grated some Irish cheddar on the plate.

The "Secret Sauce": Franks' hot sauce, cumin, soy sauce, and olive oil

Everything into the pan!

Two scoops of black beans and the basil join the party!

Add some corn, cover the pan, and don't touch it for 5 minutes!

Cook on low-medium heat!
Making a fancy plate with some grated Irish cheddar from haymarket.

This is what it should look like when it's done. Just make sure the potatoes are cooked.

This was about half the pan of food. There was enough for two plates like this.

This should be a delicious meal that fills you up. It's healthy and very cheap to make. If you have a small amount of jarred tomato sauce that you need to use up, throw it in! That can be used to deglaze the pan or added at the beginning to help steam the vegetables. Tomato sauce can also be a substitute for the hot sauce if you don't like that much heat. I've also used fresh basil leaves to add some extra flavor and freshness to the dish. Just use whatever you have in the fridge.

If you really want some meat in this dish, add it in the first part of the recipe with the vegetables. One strip of chopped bacon can add a good amount of smokey flavor to the dish However, I think the sauce and garlic makes it savory enough without the meat.

Cheese is another ingredient that can be added either to enhance the creaminess of the sauce or as a garnish when serving it (see picture above). Either way, grate the cheese or crumble it up into small pieces so that you can incorporate it evenly into the dish. Smoked gouda is good for adding the smokey flavor if you don't have bacon. Cheddar adds a nice bit of tang without being overpowering.


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