I had the opportunity to cook for a beautiful group of yogis a few weeks ago at one of Charles MacInerney's yoga & meditation retreats out in Chapel Hill, TX. I was graciously connected with Charles just after graduating from the Natural Epicurean, and have cooked for several of his retreats since. He is a truly wonderful yoga instructor and teacher, and I always learn something new and valuable from his workshops. You can find out more about him at https://yogateacher.com.
With the weather here in Texas just beginning to cool down, I knew I wanted to provide food that was warm, cozy, and nourishing to the mind, body & soul of the retreat guests. I always look to Ayurveda and the doshas when planning my menus for different seasons. Right now, we are just finishing up Vata season (Fall- earlyWinter), and transitioning into Kapha season (Winter- early Spring). During this time of year, as the air starts to become drier, the wind a bit harsher, and we gear up for the cold weather, it is especially important to consume food that will balance these properties. The qualities of food that are important to seek out this time of year are moist, warm, well-spiced, comforting, well-cooked, and easily digestible. We want our meals to include lots of healthy fats, "sweet" grains (amaranth, oats, rice pudding), root vegetables, and nourishing spices like allspice, cinnamon, paprika, nutmeg and cumin.
With all of this in mind, I quickly thought to prepare a hearty chili with lots of roasted vegetables and spices. Chili is one of my favorite cold weather meals, but I've struggled with making it super flavorful when I've played around with recipes on my own. However, I think I've officially solved that dilemma! When planning out plant-based recipes, one thing I always ask myself is "How can I build as much flavor as possible with the ingredients I'm using?" A very reliable way to achieve this is by roasting your vegetables first, and then adding them into soups and stews, as opposed to just adding them in to cook in your stew raw. Roasting your vegetables allows you to achieve beautiful caramelization, and if there's one thing you should know about cooking, it's that caramelization equals FLAVOR! Therefore, by adding those deliciously browned vegetables into my chili and then letting it stew, I am able to add much more flavor to the dish overall.
Another key thing with soups and stews is the importance of using vegetable broth or stock as your cooking liquid, instead of just water. You can either make your own, or buy an organic, low-sodium stock from the store. Doing this infuses so much additional flavor into your soups and stews, and you can absolutely taste the difference in the finished dish.
So, with these notions in mind, I created this beautiful chili, which turned out to be fabulous and loaded with flavor! I served it with some fresh jalapeño corn muffins and a cashew sour cream. I hope you all enjoy this recipe and think of it when you need an extra comforting dish this winter.
Roasted Vegetable Chili + Cashew Sour Cream
yields 6 servings
2 medium zucchini, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 medium sweet potato, diced
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons onion powder, divided
2 teaspoons garlic powder, divided
1 tablespoon smoked paprika, divided
1 tablespoon cumin powder, divided
2 teaspoons coriander powder, divided
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3-4 cups vegetable broth
1 can fire-roasted tomatoes
1 cup cooked pinto beans (or 1/2 cup each pinto and kidney)
1 in kombu
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
salt + pepper
11/2 cup raw cashews (soaked for 4-6 hours or overnight)
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 tablespoons lime juice
3/4 cup water
Preheat oven to 415F.
Toss the diced zucchini, peppers and sweet potato with 1/2 teaspoon salt, a pinch of black pepper and a teaspoon each of garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, coriander and smoked paprika. Spread out evenly over two baking sheets, to avoid overcrowding your pan. Roast for 20-25 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and slightly browned. Toss frequently to avoid burning.
When the vegetables are almost done, saute the onion in a large pot in about two tablespoons of oil until lightly browned. Add in garlic. Add in the remaining spices and cook for another minute.
Stir in the tomatoes with their juices, beans, kombu, bay leaves and vegetable broth. Add in the roasted vegetables. You want your vegetables and beans to be well covered by liquid, but not too much that it looks like soup. If the mixture begins to look dry as its cooking, add some water. Bring everything to a boil, then cover and reduce to simmer. Simmer the chili on low for thirty minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. The mixture should thicken and appear more like a stew than a soup.
While the chili cooks, prepare the cashew sour cream. Drain and rinse your cashews, and add to a blender with the rest of the ingredients. Season to taste with salt if needed.
Once the chili is done, stir in the vinegar. Taste the chili, season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm with chopped scallions. Will keep for 5-6 days in the refrigerator.