A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What I Had for Lunch Today: Vegetarian Chili

To make this vegetarian chili, heat some oil in a heavy pan (I use an old pressure cooker with the guts taken out, or a cast iron pot). Add a sliced onion, cook a bit, and then add a clove or two of sliced or chopped garlic (onion takes longer to cook than garlic...and browned onions are delicious, while browned garlic is disgusting). Then add chili powder to taste, and maybe some cayenne powder and/or chopped fresh chilies. Then a spoon or two of cocoa powder, a splash or two of red wine (leftover, vinegary wine is fine), 12 to 16 ounces of meat substitute, some tomato sauce or paste or canned tomatoes or fresh tomatoes to taste, and a pound of cooked beans, canned or cooked from scratch. (I usually use kidney beans.) I also like to add a few ounces of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped up. These come in little 7-ounce cans and can be found in the Latino markets, of which there are many around me.

For the meat substitute, you can use those bags of "hamburger" crumbles in the freezer section--Morningstar Farms is one brand. Or the packages in the deli section that look like blocks of cooked hamburger; Yves is one brand; Light Life is another. Or a block of firm or extra-firm tofu, frozen for a couple of days and then thawed. Freezing and then thawing does something weird to tofu--it changes the consistency completely. The tofu becomes much tougher...kind of like a wet sponge. It can be ground up in a food processor, or maybe in a big bowl with a flat-bottomed glass to mash it up. Cooking it over high heat further toughens the protein fibers, and when it absorbs the wine and cocoa and chili powder, it looks and feels just like ground beef.

It's actually sort of creepy. You've just made it yourself out of a block of white tofu, and you know it isn't hamburger. But it's still hard to believe somehow that it's not.

This doesn't have to be cooked all day--everything you put in is already cooked, or almost so, for one thing. You can simmer it a bit and re-heat it next day for best flavor.

I ate this chili over rice with some cornbread. I topped the whole business with some Cotswold cheese, fresh chilies, and coriander.

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