It seems a bit foolish to whip up a big bowful of chili when spring is here. And that’s the wonderful thing about Vancouver – buds and blossoms begin to show their colours in February and by March and into April it’s a thing of beauty. Saturday morning we hopped on our bikes and went out for breakfast and the weather was incredible – no jackets required. And when I went for a run later that night, with every breath I seemed to inhale every fragrant flower within my neighbourhood. Spring is here.
And yet here I am posting about beans and yams – winter fare. When I went to the Asian grocer down the street yesterday, everyone was clamouring for the bags of pea shoots, yet I stood in line with an orange and some green onions. Oh well, spring will come into my cooking soon enough. It’s been a busy couple of weeks, work-wise, and I needed something comforting of the highest order. This chili set the bar. It’s sweet, spicy, smokey and hearty and utterly, perfectly, delicious.
I used dried vaquero beans from Rancho Gordo that I had purchased last June when we swung by their retail shop while on holiday. Some people might panic at the thought of using dried beans when cans just seem so easy – I know, I used to be like that too. But it’s quite simple, really. That morning, I soaked the beans on the counter just after I made my morning coffee. They sat covered in water, swelling up slowly, for a few hours. Then, I drained and rinsed them and threw the beans in a pot with water and a couple of dried bay leaves and let them simmer for about an hour until tender. I used some of the cooking water to cook the yams and carrots – just use less broth if you choose to go this route. And there’s no need to fear any “ill affects” to using the bean water, if you know what I mean.
Despite the relatively simple ingredients, the flavour of this chili is a knock-out. The orange juice and zest provide a citrus punch that brings out such a complex bite. The orange flavour also helps to cut through the almost dusky, smokey flavour from the chili powder and chipotle. I loved it and urge you not to skip the orange! As for the addition of yams, sweet potatoes can be subbed in here instead if that’s what you’ve got. However, I loved the bright orange colour from the yams and carrots and even the ribbons of orange zest. It’s nice when you’ve got a chili that you can eat with your eyes as well.
yam & bean orange-scented chili
(adapted from Bon Appétit)
1 T olive oil
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 t dried chili flakes
1 T ground cumin
1 T chili powder
1 t dried chipotle powder
1/2 t dried oregano
2 yams, diced in 1″ cubes
1 large carrot, diced
1-2 c vegetable broth
1 large tin of diced tomatoes (28oz)
2 c cooked vaquero beans (black or pinto beans would be good substitutes)
salt & pepper
juice & zest of 1 orange
sour cream & diced green onions, for topping
In a large sauce pan or pot, heat olive oil and saute the onions and garlic until wilted and just starting to turn golden. Add in the spices, along with the yam, carrot and stir until coated. Pour in enough broth to just cover the yams & carrots and let cook, covered for 10 minutes. Add in the tomatoes and beans and simmer uncovered over med-low heat until the liquids thicken, about 30 minutes. Add in the orange juice and zest and taste, adding salt and pepper. Let simmer for another 10 minutes before serving. Serve with sour cream and diced green onions.