Wednesday, January 14, 2009

In Pursuit of Warmth

As the west side of downtown Toronto is without power today, I consider myself very fortunate to be living in the east end. The weather here in Toronto for the past few days has been bitterly cold. Today is no exception with a current low of -10 degrees Celsius and dropping. As a result, I have had hearty stews on my mind lately.

I scoured the web the other day trying to find a recipe that I could prepare, and hoping that I would have all the ingredients on hand. No such luck. Then, I picked up my trusty Calci-Yum! dairy-free vegetarian cookbook that I bought over the summer. And bingo! there was THE perfect recipe staring right at me: Vegetarian Chunky Chili.

Just what I wanted: A steaming bowl of savoury, tangy chili with plenty of calcium, protein, fiber and iron. Perfect for this deep freeze we have been having in Toronto lately.

I have made this particular vegetarian chili recipe at least half a dozen times so far and I make it slightly different each time. In the past, I've used a combination of either black beans, or chick peas or red kidney beans. This time however, seeing that my pantry supply was dwindling, I used 2 cans of kidney beans only. No mix and mingle.

This chili is very tangy (as it has lots of various tomato sources) and not at all spicy - well to me it isn't. But you can always up the spice intensity, if you so desire. If you manage to have leftovers, which chances are you will (unless you are cooking for a family of five) it tastes even better the second and third day.

This recipe also calls for a block of firm crumbled tofu but again, I was out, so I used a block of silken soft tofu, which mostly dissolved in the liquid. However, there is a smattering of tiny white flecks of tofu still visible to the eye. Firmer tofu will thicken up the stew more, which I happen to prefer. Oh well. As long as the calcium is in there, I'm happy.

I also use canned tomatoes rather than fresh tomatoes because using fresh tomatoes in the dead of winter is just wrong on many levels. I find that canned whole, diced or crushed tomatoes taste better and are less acidic than fresh tomatoes. Sometimes, I also add a few plops of ketchup to sweeten things up.

On this particular occasion, making this chili was another case of 'use what you have in your pantry' recipe. Below, I've posted the original recipe straight from the cookbook, but I will also write out my substitutions, just so you can have that option should you choose to improvise. Improvising is always fun. Especially when the end result is still quite tasty.

Vegetarian Chunky Chili (taken from David & Rachelle Bronfman's book "CalciYum!")

1 (5.5 oz.) can tomato paste ( I used ketchup)
1/3 c dry red wine (I used red wine vinegar)
2 tbs Dijon mustard (I used 1 tsp powdered mustard and 1 tsp Dijon)
2 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs dried basil
2.5 tsp dried oregano
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1.5 lbs firm tofu, crumbled (I used a small block of silken soft tofu)
2 cans plum tomatoes with juice, chopped ( I used 1 can whole tomatoes and 1 can crushed)
2 tbs chili powder (feel free to increase this amount)
1 tbs olive oil (I'm Greek, so I like to use around 4 tbs olive oil)
2 small onions chopped (I used half a red onion and one leek stalk)
2 cups cooked black beans or 1 can rinsed and drained (I used 2 cans of kidney beans)
1.5 cups cooked chickpeas or 1 can rinsed and drained
1/2 cup chopped parsley
2 tbs dried coriander

1. In a bowl combine tomato paste, red wine, mustard, soy sauce, basil, oregano, and garlic; mix well. Stir in crumbled tofu. Set aside.

2. In a large pot, combine tomatoes and chili powder. Simmer over low heat, covered, for 5 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and saute 2 minutes. Add tofu mixture and cook for 1 more minute. Transfer to tomato chili mixture in pot; simmer stirring occasionally, for 40 minutes

4. Add beans, chickpeas, parsley and coriander. Simmer 10 minutes.

This chili definitely took the chill out of my bones.

To the thousands (nay, hundreds of thousands) of Torontonians without power for the past 12 hours, I feel your pain.


  1. mmm, i love chili and i haven't made any in ages. i might just try this out! i'm glad you have power...i heard about the blackout on the cbc. yikes!

  2. kickpleat: Let me know what you think of this once you've tried it. Yeah the black parents were in that part of the city and were without power for 24 hours. They kept warm with a gas camping stove. Used it to make tea and soup too.