BLACK BEAN CHILI (chile sin carne, a vegetarian example, for four)


1 pound (about 2 cups) dried black beans, picked over and rinsed

1-1/2 tablespoons cumin

½ teaspoon cayenne

1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 tablespoons instant espresso

4 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded and finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 chopped canned chipotle chiles in adobo

1 Turkish bay leaf or ½ California bay leaf

5 cups water

one 14-ounce can chopped tomatoes, or 4 large, ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

2 tablespoons tomato paste


1 ounce dark chocolate

big pinch ground cinnamon

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

sour cream to accompany

Mexican pineapple salad and lime wedges to accompany

  1. Either place the beans in a bowl with water to cover them by 2 inches and let them soak overnight, or “quick soak” them by bringing 5 quarts of water to a rapid boil in a large bean pot or saucepan, adding the beans, and cooking them for exactly 2 minutes after the water returns to a boil. Turn off the heat and allow the beans to soak, covered, for exactly one hour, then drain.  Rinse under cold water and, if you are not going to proceed immediately, leave beans in cold water to cover until you are ready to use them.
  1. Toast cumin, cayenne and oregano in a dry small heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and a shade or two darker, about 2 minutes (watch carefully, as spices burn easily). Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the chili powder and the instant espresso.
  1. Heat oil in a 5 to 6 quart wide heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Add onion and bell pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is golden, 6 to 8 minutes.  Add garlic , chipotles and spice mixture, reduce heat to moderate and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.  Add beans, bay leaf and 4 cups water, bring to a simmer and simmer, covered, until beans are tender, 1 to 1-1/2 hours.  Add more water as necessary to keep the beans covered.
  1. Add tomatoes, with their juice, tomato paste and salt to taste and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes, or until chili is slightly thickened. Discard bay leaf.  Just before serving, add the chocolate and stir until it melts, then stir in the cinnamon and cilantro.  Serve with sour cream and lime wedges.


adapted from Alice Waters, Greens Restaurant, San Francisco (printed in The Gourmet Cookbook)

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