Jan 5, 2011

Recipe of the Week: Vegetarian Chili

January is "soup month" (in addition to being apple, apricot, artichoke, asparagus, oatmeal, hot tea, prunes, whole wheat bread, hobby, mail order gardening, get organized and shape up month...I'm not exaggerating - I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.)

But let's focus on soup, shall we?  To celebrate, each Wednesday this month, I'll share one of our family's all-time favorite soups, starting with this sinus-clearing chili soup that I *think* came from my mother's copy of Anna Thomas' "Vegetarian Epicure" cookbook back in the '70s. It garnered a 2nd place ribbon in the vegetarian chili category at a recent charity cook-off (yes, there were only a couple of us competing in the category.  However, I suspect the voting was rigged by one of my fellow competitors, considering he had his entire extended family on hand to stuff the ballot box.)

I digress.  At any rate, it's a winter favorite with my family and some new converts who tested it at the cook-off and came back begging for seconds.

Vegetarian* Chili

1 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced (or 1/2 teaspoon jar garlic)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon paprika
2 medium potatoes, peeled (or unpeeled, your choice), diced into 1/2-inch cubes
1 14.5-ounce can diced stewed tomatoes
1 can diced green chilies
4 cups vegetable or chicken* broth
1/2 teaspoon dried cilantro
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Salt & pepper to taste
12-16 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

In heavy Dutch oven, heat oil, add onion and garlic and saute over medium heat until softened.  Add paprika and continue cooking for a minute or two until it begins to caramelize (watch closely and don't let it scorch.)  Add remaining ingredients except seasonings and Monterey Jack cheese; bring to boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes until potatoes are tender.  Add seasonings during last 5-10 minutes of cooking.

Distribute cubed cheese among bowls (you can add as much or little as you like); ladle the piping hot soup over cheese and let stand for a minute to give the cheese time to soften and get wonderfully gooey. Makes 4-6 servings. Enjoy! 

A few notes:
*Obviously, using chicken broth will negate the "vegetarian" status, but it's good with vegetable broth if you have it handy.  I tend to substitute chicken broth because we aren't vegetarians and I always have a few quarts of chicken broth in the freezer.)

I have substituted a couple cans of Rotel for the tomatoes and green chilies if that's all I have on hand.  Just keep in mind that either way, the green chilies can pack quite a punch if you pick up "medium" or "hot" instead of mild.  We like it spicy, but consider yourself warned.

This soup can be doubled and/or cooked in the crockpot on low or high heat, just add more cooking time if you use the slow cooker.  It also reheats well (you may have to add a little more broth as the potatoes will absorb some of the liquid overnight); just keep the cheese cubes separate, as they will get rubbery or stringy if heated along with the soup.

Happy soup-ing!