Autumn to me is about simple one pot dishes that can be thrown together with little clean up and minimal effort. Pots that can simmer away on the stove for a little while longer while I’m outside petting the clowder of neighbour cats, or waiting for Adam to return home from work. These are the dishes that are hearty and comforting and that you can logistically curl up on the couch with while watching Planet Earth.
Chili has long been one of these dishes in heavy rotation in our home. Even before we had a house of our own and were simply college roommates in a hippy communal house (Adam lived in a yurt in the garden), we were all about chili. Back then I’d whip up a huge batch of it based on my mama’s classic ’70’s variation which included three different beans and a wack load of bulgur wheat. Delicious, but a little dated IMO. Irregardless of it’s era, it was always the perfect dish to make to feed a crowd, and with only the minimal amount of change we university students could scrounge, it was able to provide us with more nutrition than just about anything else we could afford.
Fast forward ten years, and chili is still what I want when the evenings get dark and the nights cold. In recent years I’ve found the black beans and kidney beans a little tough on my tummy, so I’ve opted to switch them for lentils which are a little lighter but just as satisfying. Back in the day I would have seriously added everything to this, from frozen corn to zucchini or yam, but I’ve calmed down a little with age and kept this one really simple. Roasted kabocha adds some much needed sweetness and earthiness that screams fall, but if you’re already squashed out (is that possible?), feel free to add yam, or more carrots, or heck even that corn.
Maybe this is on my mind in wake of recent political events or the death of the most important artist of my adolescents, but this week I can’t escape thoughts of vulnerability, compassion, and the human condition.
For me food has always been an expression of love.
I use it to demonstrate the love I have for myself through providing nourishment and self care; I exercise my love for animal friends by eating mainly plants; and I try to embody my love of the environment by choosing ethically grown produce, seasonally and locally grown whenever I can.
But most importantly for me, food is about highlighting the love you hold for other people. There is a deep rooted intimacy associated with the preparing of a meal. Our bodies work for the finances to purchase the groceries we hand select from the market shelves. We transfer these groceries to our home (our safe spots) where we wash, chop, smell, taste, and touch them as we cook. The final product is a result of the choices we’ve made, our own discerning opinions, and our own unique preferences all wrapped up in one little dish.
I often feel nervous when feeding others. A bit of me feels like I’m put on the line, ready to be judged by all; yet in the years I’ve spent cooking for friends, nobody has once uttered a cruel word to me. Nor would I believe they’d ever.
Unfortunately, opening your home and heart to others by having them sit down to eat communally feels like a privilege these days. But by sharing a meal you are saying to another: I recognize you; I care about your well being; and you are my equal – sentiments which I feel we need more than ever.
Dishes like this chili represent to me all that sharing food is about. It’s warm, hearty, inexpensive, and easy, because food does’t need to be fancy, it doesn’t have to be trendy, or inventive, or life changing. Food just has to heartfelt and shared with people you love. So please, spend a little extra time this week breaking bread with someone you love.
‘It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.’
– Audre Lorde
Other Favourite Go-to Recipes
SMOKY LENTIl CHILI WITH SQUASH
Serves 6. Print it Here
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2 Shallots or 1 onion, Chopped (about 1 Cup)
1 Leek, Chopped
3 Cloves Garlic, Sliced
4 tsp. Ground Cumin
2 tsp. Ground Coriander
1 tsp. Smoked Paprika
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
1 tsp. Chili Powder
1 tsp. Cocoa
1/2 tsp. Dried Oregano (Optional)
1 tsp. Vegan Worcestershire Sauce (Optional)
1 Can Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes (or any 28 fl oz can)
3 Cups Veggie Stock or Water
3 Carrots, Chopped
1 1/2 Cup Brown Lentils
1 tsp. Sea Salt
1 Small Squash, I used a Kabocha
Cashew Sour Cream (Recipe Below)
- Begin by roasting the squash. Slice it into thin crescents and drizzle with a little oil and sprinkle with sea salt. I added a fresh little sage I had in the fridge, but it’s unnecessary. Roast the squash a 205 C (400 F) for 20-30 minutes, flipping halfway through, until soft and golden. Let cool and chop into cubes.
- Meanwhile, rinse the lentils and cover them with water. Bring them to the boil then turn down to a simmer and let cook (uncovered) for 20-30 minutes, or until tender. Drain and set aside.
- While the lentils are cooking heat the 1 Tbsp. of oil on low in a medium pot. Add the onions and leeks and sauté for 5 or so minutes, or until they begin to soften. Add the garlic next along with the cumin and coriander, cooking for a few more minutes. Add the remaining spices – paprika, cinnamon, chilli, cocoa, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and oregano. Next add the can of tomatoes, the water or stock, and carrots. Let simmer, covered, for 20 minutes or until the veg is tender and the mixture has thickened up. You’ll need to check on the pot periodically for a stir and a top of of liquid if needed.
- Add the lentils and chopped roasted squash. Let cook for 1o more minutes to heat through.
- Serve with sliced jalapeno, lime wedges, cilantro, green onions, and cashew sour cream.
*** Alternatively, you can add the raw lentils to the tomato base, but they will take about 2 hours to cook, or you can use about three cups canned***
SIMPLE CASHEW SOUR CREAM
1 Cup Raw Unsalted Cashews
Pinch Sea Salt
1 tsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
- Bring some water to the boil, and use it to soak the cashews for at least four hours. Alternatively, you can use cold water and let the cashews soak overnight, but I’m forgetful/lazy, so often use the boil method which is much faster.
- After the cashews have soaked, drain them and add to a high speed blender. Begin to puree, slowly adding about 1/2 cup fresh water, until a creamy consistency is reached. You may need to add less or more water to reach the desired consistency.
- Add a pinch of sea salt and vinegar (or lemon juice).