Sunday, March 04, 2007

Not Quite Spring

The past few weeks brought us some pretty spring-like weather. Gorgeous blue skies, temperatures in the 70s (F), gentle breezes. The daffodils have begun to bloom, as well as the lovely little ground-hugging purple flowers along the country roads I travel to and from school. Then, a nasty front came through (the same one that has wreaked havoc in the midwest and south of here), and brought us much colder temps (last night was in the low 20s). So, we cranked up the stove, put fresh flannel sheets on the bed, and cooked a big pot of chili!

This recipe for Cheesy White Chili with Cauliflower caught my eye on the CL bulletin board Feb. Inspired Vegetarian thread. For one, its vegetarian; for two, it is made in the crockpot; for three, not a can of tomatoes in sight (tomatoes in the crockpot always come out tasting overly stewed); and for four, it uses cauliflower -- and who can't use another recipe for that cruciferous cousin of broccoli?

Before I leave you to the recipe, let me tell you what I did differently, followed by some ideas John and I had for variations.

What I did different from the recipe:

I used about 4 cups of Great Northern Beans (I have a 10 lb. bag of dried beans in the pantry -- I have plenty of beans!, and 1 can did not seem like enough)
I used the entire cauliflower and put about 1/2 of it in during the initial crockpot cooking stages, to soften it up. There was no need to pre-cook the cauliflower -- after cooking in the hot chili liquid for 30 mins. it was perfect!
I used 3 cups home-made veggie broth + about 2 cups water (my broths are always strong, and this recipe really needed more liquid at the front end).
I used ground cumin (didn't have any seeds at the moment)
I omitted the oregano (didn't have any)
I used ground red pepper and ancho chile powder in place of the chili powder
I omitted the jalapeno pepper and used Tabasco Sauce
I used just under 1 cup Nacho Blend cheese (2%) (that is what I had, and really this recipe does not need all the cheese).
I did not use the optional green chiles or green onions.
I did use cilantro.

Future Variations

Next time I would omit all the cheeses (mont. jack and cream). Pureeing a portion of the mixture with my hand blender yielded a perfect texture. Who needs all the fat and cholesterol?
I might add some red kidney beans as well. It would bring some much needed color to this rather bland looking (but good tasting) soup/chili/stew.
We thought this could be outstanding, and company-worthy, if garnished with any of the following:

-- a cilantro aioli or pesto
-- sauteed greens (think kale, in a little vinegar)
-- chopped fresh tomatoes
-- homemade sourdough and pumpernickel croutons

This recipe made A TON! I am freezing some and of course I just finished a bowl for lunch today!

Cheesy White Chili with Cauliflower

125 Best Vegetarian Slow Cooker Recipes by Judith Finlayson
Serving Size : 16

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 onions -- finely chopped
4 cloves garlic -- minced
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon dried oregano leaves
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns
1 can (14-19 oz) white kidney beans, -- drained & rinsed
3 cups vegetable stock
3 cups cauliflower florets, cooked for 4 minutesin salted boiling water and drained
1 jalapeno pepper -- minced
1 green bell pepper -- diced
2 cups shredded Monterey jack
4 ounces cream cheese, cut into 1/2" cubes, softened -- optional
1 can 4.5 oz chopped mild green chiles -- optional
finely chopped green onions -- optional
finely chopped cilantro

1. In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic, cumin seeds, oregano, chili powder, salt and peppercorns and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Transfer mixture to slow cooker stoneware. Add beans and stock and stir to combine.

2. Cover and cook on LOW for 8 to 10 hours or on HIGH for 4 to 5 hours, until hot and bubbling.

3. Stir in cauliflower, jalapeno pepper, green pepper, Monterey Jack cheese, and cream cheese and chiles, if using. Cover and cook on HIGH for 25 to 30 minutes, until green peppers are softened and cauliflower is heated through. Ladle into bowls and garnish as desired.