Vegetarian Chili with Smoky Pickled Onions

Serves 4 to 6.

¼ cup oil (avocado, grapeseed, or olive)
2 cups diced onion
¼ cup minced celery
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 cup diced red bell pepper
1 tablespoon Chili Today blend
1 bay leaf
2 cans (15-ounces each) beans, drained (kidney, black, or pinto beans)
1 can (15-ounces) diced tomatoes with their juice (fire-roasted is nice)
1 cup cooked grain, such as farro, barley, brown rice, or bulgur (optional)
Fresh lemon or lime juice
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

Heat the oil in a large saucepan set over medium-high heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the onions and a big pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until the onions have softened, about 5 minutes. Add the celery and continue to cook, stirring, for another 5 minutes, until the onions are golden. Add the garlic, peppers, and Chili Today — cook for a couple more minutes.

Add the bay leaf, beans, tomatoes plus half a can of water and black pepper to taste. Stir to mix and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes, adding the cooked grain (if using) at the 15 minute mark. Add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice to balance the flavor. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve hot, topped with onion pickles and any other garnishes that you like.

Garnish suggestions:

Maras chile flakes
Greek yogurt
Chopped, fresh cilantro
Freshly grated cheese
Sliced scallions
Roasted squash cubes
Tortilla chips
Avocado chunks

Smoky Pickled Onions

Makes 1 cup.

1 cup very thinly sliced red onion (or shallot) half-rings
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar, divided
¼ teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
1–2 tablespoons minced, fresh jalapeño pepper (optional)
½ teaspoon oil, such as avocado or grape seed
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar, such as Champagne
Juice from ½ lime (or more to taste)
2 tablespoons roughly chopped, fresh cilantro
Pinch of baies roses (pink peppercorns)

Put the onions /shallots into a medium, non-reactive bowl. Add the salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the sugar and toss to coat the onion /shallots. Set aside for at least 15 minutes (up to an hour is OK).

Drain the onions /shallots in a strainer, then dump them back into the bowl, cover with cold water swishing them around for a few seconds before draining again. Repeat this “rinse” another time and after the onions /shallots have drained for a couple of minutes, pat them gently with a clean tea towel to remove excess water.

Wipe the bowl dry and return the onions /shallots to it. Add the remaining ingredients and mix them thoroughly. Let the pickles stand for another 10–15 minutes before serving (they’ll be ready to eat, but the flavors will blend if made and refrigerated a few hours ahead of serving).

These pickles will keep in the fridge, tightly covered, for a few days. Leftovers are good on sandwiches or added to potato salad or coleslaw.


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