Cooking 101

Vegetarian chili satisfies craving for comfort food

By Jennifer D’Amico

Special to The Star

Vegetarian Chili With White Cheddar Cheese Crackers
Vegetarian Chili With White Cheddar Cheese Crackers JCCC

Inspired by her father’s traditional “carne” (meat) chili, Johnson County Community College student chef Jennifer D’Amico wanted to create a version that was just as delicious and hearty, but healthier and vegetarian-friendly. After many tries, D’Amico, a vegetarian since age 17, came up with a vegetarian chili recipe that is satisfying for meat-eaters as well as vegetarians.

“This recipe is great because it can be changed with the seasons and can use basically any vegetables that are in season,” D’Amico says. “Right now, I like to use eggplant and roasted corn on the cob.”

D’Amico also says this recipe is it can be modified for any palate, and it is good served cold as a dip.

The challenge in making this dish is cooking the vegetables properly so they all turn out with the same texture at the same time. “I usually separate my vegetables depending on cooking times and gradually add the softer items toward the end of the cooking process,” D’Amico says.

This is a great way to have a healthy and tasty meal that everyone can enjoy.

About the column

Cooking 101 is a bimonthly column exclusive to The Star designed to introduce home cooks to basic cooking techniques.

The recipe, food styling and photography are a joint project between culinary students and instructors at Johnson County Community College’s Hospitality Management Program.

The Stylist

Recipe and food styling by Jennifer D’Amico, 28, a first-year culinary apprentice and recent graduate of the Johnson County Community College food and beverage management program. She is a line cook at the American Resaurant working with executive chef Michael Corvino.

Vegetarian Chili

Makes 6 to 8 servings

1 green pepper, medium diced

1 red onion, medium diced

2 jalapenos, medium diced (remove seeds for less spicy option)

3 tablespoons olive oil or butter

10 button or cremini mushrooms, thickly sliced

3 tablespoons minced garlic

1 (4-ounce) can chipotle peppers in adobo, thinly sliced, juice reserved

3 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon cumin powder

Salt and pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 (15-ounce) can black beans

1 (14-ounce) can chili beans

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 (15-ounce) can corn

2 cups vegetable stock

Garnish options: Sliced avocados, shredded cheddar cheese, fresh chopped cilantro, sour cream

In a large pot or Dutch oven, cook the green peppers, red onion and jalapenos in olive oil or butter over medium high heat until they begin to soften.

Add mushrooms, garlic and chipotle peppers and cook until all ingredients are thoroughly cooked, about 30 minutes over medium heat. Season with chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper and cook 1 minute to combine.

Add the tomato paste and chipotle juice and thoroughly coat the vegetables. Add beans, diced tomatoes, corn and vegetable stock.

Reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for additional 30 to 45 minutes until sauce has reduced and flavors have developed.

Serve chili with an array of garnishes and White Cheddar Cheese Crackers.

Per serving, based on 6: 365 calories (39 percent from fat), 18 grams total fat (2 grams saturated), 1 milligram cholesterol, 47 grams carbohydrates, 16 grams protein, 976 milligrams sodium, 10 grams dietary fiber.

White Cheddar Cheese Crackers

Makes 12 servings

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

4 ounces white cheddar cheese, grated

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon coarse ground pepper

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon cold water

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together butter, cheese, salt and pepper until the ingredients form a soft ball. With the mixer on low, add the flour until mixture becomes crumbly and dry. Add water to moisten dough; gather into a ball and wrap with plastic wrap. Place dough in refrigerator for 30 minutes.

While the dough is chilling, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly flour a clean surface and rolling pin and roll out chilled dough until it measures about 1/8-inch thick. Cut crackers with desired cutter and prick the middle of crackers with a fork. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes or until crackers are golden brown. Allow to cool before serving.

Per serving: 74 calories (62 percent from fat), 5 grams total fat (3 grams saturated), 15 milligrams cholesterol, 4 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams protein, 103 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber.