What exactly is Adobo sauce anyway? I asked out loud, to no one in particular. I was standing in front of the Mexican / Latin American food section of my local grocer at the time. I looked down at the list of ingredients I was holding in my hand and found comfort in knowing at least the remainder of the players that would eventually make their way into my next cooking project: Nanci & Jon’s vegan BBQ chili.
‘We’ve tinkered with it a bit…adjusting this, adding that…but now we feel like we’ve found the winning combination,’ my sister-in-law Nanci disclosed to me over this past holiday. She and partner-in-crime Jon graciously offered to prepare it for us to give me a break from cooking. I admit to having been a little skeptical at first, given that this particular chili is brimming with meat substitutes because, you see, I’m always a little weary of ‘health food store substitutions,’ like using almond milk to make bechamel (or roux) sauce instead of milk, or even just using plain ol’ whole wheat flour instead of white unbleached flour.
I once use to experiment with these sort of substitutions, and let’s just say those meals continue to be memorable, but not in the way cooks would prefer for their fruits of labor to be memorable. For instance, in the midst of my hardcore vegetarian phase in my early 20s, I decided to make potato gnocchi using whole wheat flour. After 3 hours of work and a lot of gluttenous anticipation, I created hard mounds that could have gone easily through all three floors of my apartment building had I accidentally dropped one. Thump! Thump! Thump! Gone. I would have had to apologize to a lot of unhappy neighbors and pay for a lot repair work.
In light of these sorts of experiences, I have tended to veer on the straight and narrow when it comes to the traditional ingredients I choose to make my dishes.
So now here I was buying ‘Soyrizo’ sausages and beef-less ground ‘beef.’ Plus, due to my own ignorance – I had to cook with adobo sauce, something that I knew nothing about… Why am I here even doing this? I asked myself.
Then I remembered.
I was there, frazzled as I held a small can of chipoltle peppers in adobo sauce, to silence my girls’ persistent requests for the chili with which they became smitten over Christmas break. Perhaps ‘loved’ in an understatement. Once they tasted it, they could easily have starred in a ‘Young Girls Gone Wild for Vegetarian Chili’ video.
And so the requests started.
When are you making Aunt Nanci’s chili, mamma?
And when you make it, don’t do any of your fancy things to it. Make it exactly like she made it, ok?
I promise, I say with just the slightest bit of defensiveness.
I’m serious, mamma. don’t change a thing. Prooooomise?
This went on for a few weeks, until I started to feel like a bad mamma bear who didn’t love her bbq vegetarian chili-loving cubs.
So…. now flash forward to me holding the can of chipoltle peppers in adobo sauce…which, by the way, I know a little bit more about now. While no great expert, I’ve learned that it’s a marinade and seasoning paste that shares its culinary heritage with the Spanish, Mexicans and Filippinos (although each of their adobo sauces are quite different from one another).
Anyway, I eventually made it home and, to my girls’ delight, went about the task of making the chili. Which I must say, turned out quite delicious. Best of all, I watched my little one get up not just once but twice! to refill her bowl. It may not seem like a big deal but I sweat she survives on nothing but air at times.
Now that I’ve made it once, I will make it twice and thrice. Perhaps every 3 weeks or so. It’ll give me a couple of easy dinners, filled out with some good corn bread, comforted by the fact that it’s pretty darn healthy and kind to the planet to boot. Best of all, the most time consuming part of making it is chopping the peppers and onions. Once you do that, it’s just a lot of can opening, which is great when time is of the essence.
making nanci & jon’s vegan bbq chili
Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat in a large pot, and then add 2 chopped red or orange peppers, 2 chopped white onions, 8 minced garlic cloves, and salt & pepper to taste. Cook slowly for 10 minutes, turning occasionally, until the vegetables have softened. Increase heat to medium high and continue to cook until the vegetables begin to brown and you see some brown bits sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Add 1 bottle of the beer of your choice.
I used Blue Moon because, while not a huge beer drinker, I really enjoy having one of these ice cold from time to time (especially with a piping hot pizza or spicy Thai food). Oh, and you can replace the beer with vegetable broth if you so desire. Scrape the bottom with a wooden spoon to free up all the stuck bits of vegetables and bring to a boil.
Add 2 cups of water, 1.5 tablespoons of Vegetable Better Than Bouillon, 2 15-oz. cans of diced tomatoes, 1 28-oz. can of crushed tomatoes, 1/3 cup tomato paste, 3 chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, plus all the juice left in the 7.5 oz. can, 1 14-oz. package of Chorizo-style Tofurky, 1 12-oz. package of Trader Joe’s Beef-less Ground ‘Beef,’
1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 tablespoon chili powder, and 1/4 cup molasses (or to taste). Bring to a boil, turn down heat and simmer for at least 40 minutes.
Add 1 15-oz. can of black beans and 2 15-oz. can of red kidney beans that have been rinsed well under cold water and drained, half of a 14-oz. package of sweet kernel corn, and the zest of 2 lemons. Cook for an additional 30 minutes. Ladle out into bowls and top with any of these optional ingredients: sour cream, chopped green onions, crumbled tortilla chips, chopped fresh cilantro and sliced avocado. Makes 14 servings.