Many if not most Americans have seen the scene in the film "Blazing Saddles" in which the gang of outlaws is having dinner. The food seems to be giving them gas, and if you keep in mind that the standard fare for a cowboy's dinner was chili con carne, we can speculate that there is a possible connection between the meat and beans, and the gas. Well, there is.
If you read Harvey Diamond, author of the series Fit For Life, the combination of starch with protein tends to disagree with our digestive systems. I ignored this possibility for years, until I read Diamond's books after I was diagnosed with a serious health challenge. His system has helped me to get over it, and I am a firm believer in Diamond's theory of combinations, even though I don't always conform to it in my food choices. The thing is, I can now embrace the combining process much more enjoyably by taking advantage of the excellent meat substitutes from Morningstar Farms and other companies.
Tomatoes, beans and chili powder are absolutely a way of life in Southern Arizona, and you can get the best chili powder anywhere just by visiting your neighborhood supermarket's Latin foods section. If you care to stop by Food City or El Super in Tucson, you can go for New Mexico chili powder and even some from Mexico itself. So once you have spent some time getting a good marinara sauce down, why not progress to an ideal chili con carne, that is meat-free but tastes just like the usual meat-and-beans combination that we all know?
All you have to do is equip yourself with some frozen textured vegetable protein. This is a biggish step, though, because I have been informally consulted by a few people who were seeking to impart more flavor to it and wondered what to do. The answer is this: like ground beef, vegetable protein absorbs flavors easily. Begin your recipe by placing the protein in a pot and sprinkle all or part of your chili powder over it with a Tablespoon of cooking oil. Let the protein heat up and it will soak up the chili flavor like a champ and the rest of your chili recipe will proceed normally.
With brisk evenings upon us and cold nights are not far off, chili is a great dinner for autumn and winter. The extent that this Southwestern dish has made its way from Down East to the Pacific Northwest is a testimony to its flavor and savor, so try some--here's how to do it.
CHILI CON CARNE
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 large cans of crushed tomatoes
1 regular can of diced tomatoes
1 can of small red beans, drained and rinsed
1 package of frozen textured vegetable protein shreds
Chili powder to taste
Cooking oil such as canola or safflower
Salt and ground pepper to taste
Vegetable broth or concentrate (dilute the concentrate with water as directed)
Place a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. To it, add 1 Tablespoon of cooking oil and the package of vegetable protein. Sprinkle 1 Tablespoon of chili powder over it and stir to combine. Lower the heat and let the flavor sink in.
Chop the onion and mince the garlic. Place them in a holding bowl.
Drain and rinse the beans and place them in another holding bowl.
Add the onions and garlic to the hot protein shreds in the pot and lower the heat to Medium. Cook and stir until the onions are translucent. Keep the heat at the Medium level so the garlic doesn't burn.
Add the crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes to the protein-onion mixture in the Dutch oven. Cook and stir until the chili begins to simmer. Taste it for seasoning and add salt, pepper and chili powder to taste.
Shortly before serving, add the beans to the chili and allow them just to heat through. Using the vegetable broth, bring the chili to the thickness that you like. Taste once more for seasonings and serve.
You can substitute another type of beans for the small red ones; I used red kidney beans for years, and I know from experience that pinto beans will also be fine. I don't like the look of white-colored beans in chili, so I avoid those that are light in color. But use what you like, by all means.
Many people add shredded cheese to melt over their chili, as well as sour cream. I advise against this, because the reason you left out the ground beef is to avoid digestive conflict between starch and protein. This chili recipe makes a vegetable-starch combination that will not disagree with most people. Introducing protein back into it will produce, at least to a smaller extent, the problem that I devised this recipe to avoid.
Chili con carne is easy to make, especially for a crowd, and my goal with this recipe is to produce a dish that can't be distinguished from the same dish containing the ground beef. Try it on your culinary audience and see how it goes over--hey, football is building towards the Super Bowl climax!
You'll get the ultimate seal of approval when you make this dish on a Monday and somebody says, "Hey, I thought this was a Meatless Monday! What's with the chili?"