Like a lot of people, I started making chili in college. In an apartment for the first time, I needed to learn to incorporate foods other than Instant Oats, peanut butter and fruit sandwiches and Wegman’s sushi into my diet. Chili was an obvious addition — cheap, easy and even better the next day and the day after that.
Works for Meatless Monday for the same reasons.
And so I started paying more attention to recipes in the magazines I read while procrastinating.
(Side note: my favorite glossies back then were Shape and Self. The quasi-athletic years!)
In a recipe for turkey chili with squash and chard I found this pearl of information— you can peel a butternut squash with a vegetable peeler. Open sesame, the thick-skinned gourd that intimidated me with its hard, bulbous bottom was suddenly so Cooking 101. I bought one the same day, followed the recipe and made the acquaintance of Swiss Chard, now a favorite friend.
I no longer have the recipe, but we make a vegetarian version that goes like this. The cocoa powder adds richness and depth.
As our friend Vanessa pointed out, certain dishes just just taste better when stirred with a wooden spoon.
Chili with Butternut Squash and Swiss Chard
Yield: Serves 8
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, roughly diced
2 carrots, peeled and roughly diced
1 medium-sized butternut squash, peeled and diced
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 15-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 15-ounce cans pinto beans, rinsed and drained
2 28-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
1 bunch Swiss Chard, washed, stems removed and cut into a small chiffonade (you want the pieces of Swiss Chard to be short and small enough to fit in your spoon while eating. Nothing burns more than a long piece that doesn’t quite make it into your mouth and lands on your lip or just below.)
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil followed by the onions and carrots. Saute until almost tender, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Add the squash and stir, 3 minutes more. Add the chili powder, cocoa powder and cumin, stirring with a wooden spoon until the spices are evenly distributed and darkening.
Stir in the beans and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and let simmer until the squash is fork tender, about 15 minutes. Add the chard just a few minutes before serving. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve alongside bowls of sour cream or Greek yogurt, freshly chopped cilantro and shredded cheddar and Monterey Jack Cheeses. I like Jiffy Cornbread as well.