Chili and cornbread

American Food

My teenagers complain that I make hippie food and not American food, so this is an effort to make something their friends will recognize when they decide to stay for dinner. But without any processed foods, sugar, or meat in it. The friends liked it anyway.

How to make chili and cornbread:

In the morning after breakfast, put two cups of pinto beans to soak in a bowl with plenty of water. About an hour and a half before dinner, pour the beans into a large saucepan – again with a lot of water – bring to a boil and simmer over low heat for about an hour. If that’s not convenient, you can also soak the beans the day before you need them and cook them the evening before. Or use canned beans.

When the beans are done, they’ll be soft enough to cut in half easily with a fork. Now make the cornbread. Preheat the oven to 400. In a medium mixing bowl, mix three cups of medium-grind cornmeal, a teaspoon of salt, 1/3 cup of olive oil, two eggs and a cup of water. Or for vegan cornbread, substitute 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder for the eggs. Mix and pour into a greased piepan. Bake until dry in the center, about twenty minutes.

Once the cornbread is in the oven, make the chili. Drain the beans into a colander. In the saucepan, put enough oil to cover the bottom generously, heat until medium-hot, and saute a chopped onion in it over medium heat. While the onion’s cooking, add a teaspoon of salt, two chopped cloves of garlic, a chopped green pepper, four chopped mushrooms, a teaspoon of cayenne (if wanted), and a teaspoon of cumin. Once the onion and pepper are soft, add the beans, a half-pint or so of tomato sauce, and a cup of water. Simmer over low heat for another 20 minutes or so.

Serve chili with cornbread, grated cheddar cheese, shredded lettuce, sliced avocado, and plain Greek yogurt.

Vegetarian or Vegan?

A great vegan dinner if you use baking powder in the cornbread and don’t put out cheddar cheese or yogurt. Instead, try sprinkling some cashews over the top.

Will the leftovers keep?

Yes, vegan chili will keep for at least a week in the refrigerator, and so will the cornbread if you wrap it up well in plastic.

Published by Karen Carr

Dr. Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.

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