Serve a rich, vegetarian-friendly bowl of chili

Julie Falsetti

Every year, in midwinter, the York Hiking Club holds its Chili Hike. The hikers assemble and traipse through the woods for a couple of hours and then return to the clubhouse to warm up with a hot bowl of chili.

For the past few years, I have been the chief chili cook. I usually make both meat and meatless varieties. The meatless chili is supposed to be for the vegetarian members, but it never seems to work out that way. The chile sin carne pot is the one that always empties out first.

In talks with folks around York County in recent years, I’ve met more people who say they are vegetarian/vegan or who have friends and family who are, and they are looking for good recipes.

There is no substitute for the flavor of meat in a good steak or hamburger, but in chili, the meat plays a minor role among a myriad of flavors. Nobody seems to miss it.

The primary flavor in chili is obviously the chile peppers. There is a difference between chili powder and chile powder.

Chili powder is usually a blend of ground chile pods and other spices, such as cumin, peppercorn and salt, and silicon dioxide to keep it from clumping in the jar. Because brands vary greatly, you are never sure of what you will get.

Chile powder refers to pure ground chile pods. Ancho chile powder is made from dried red poblano chiles and is flavorful, with a very mild bite. You can find ancho chile powder at Kramer at Market, our local herb and spice resource. Look for Pam at the New Eastern Market on Fridays.

For the meat texture, I like MorningStar Farms Grillers Crumbles. If you are looking for something less processed, coarse bulgur or quinoa would be good substitutes.

Chile Sin Carne

1 pound dried kidney beans, soaked in 6 cups water for 4 hours or overnight

1/4 cup olive oil

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

3 carrots, coarsely chopped

2 green peppers, coarsely chopped

1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped

5 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 package vegetarian burger crumbles

3 tablespoons ancho chile powder

1- 3 canned chipotles in adobo, roughly chopped (depending on how hot you like it)

2 teaspoons cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano

2 cups crushed tomatoes

11/2 teaspoons salt

Drain the beans and cover with about 2 inches of fresh water and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, cover and lower the heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 35 to 45 minutes, or until the beans are soft but not falling apart.

In the meantime, in a large pot, saute the onions, carrots, green peppers, garlic and celery in the oil until the onions are clear, about 15 minutes. Add ancho chile powder and cumin and fry for a minute.

Add the beans with their cooking liquid, crushed tomatoes, burger crumbles, oregano and salt, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook covered for 30 minutes.

If the chile is too thick, add water to thin.

Serve topped with grated cheese and chopped red onion.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section.