Meatless Monday: Vegan Black and Blue Chili

Today’s main course was a riff on something I made, who knows how many years ago, but it was when the Carolina Panthers were in the Super Bowl. I don’t care anything about football, but I care about parties, so for a local Super Bowl party I brought a chili recipe I made up called Black and Blue Chili, because the Carolina Panthers’ colors were black and blue. But I figured it fit just about any football event as well…

I’ve been off on my meal planning the past couple of Meatless Mondays because last week I made Gazpacho, even though the weather was cool and rainy, and this week I made Chili, although the weather JUST got hot and steamy. Still, I thought it was a challenge to make chili, which my family really loves, in a meatless and summer-friendly way.

So here’s my Black and Blue Chili recipe…

I started by cooking some black beans in the Instant Pot, which is a cooler (temperature) alternative to the traditional cooking beans on the stove, especially if you don’t soak them overnight. Then I started making the sauce. I took a combination of regular tomatoes and cherry tomatoes that I got from Parker Farm at the Cary Downtown Farmers Market and just chopped them and put them on low heat in a pot to break down, along with some salt, black pepper, paprika, and ancho chili powder.

My BLUE part of the dish was the addition of about a pint of blueberries to the tomato sauce. Blueberries tend to have some tart qualities, except the ones from our Farmers Market from Altar Cross Farms are SO sweet! But I had some week-old ones that were a bit past their prime and so not AS sweet, and I thought they would work. I thought the sugar they had might balance out the acidity of the tomatoes.

In a separate pan, I sautéed garlic, onions, and bells peppers from Parker Farm, along with some jalapeño peppers from LB Farm.

Finally, I wanted a meat substitute besides the beans. I don’t like to use processed food, and I’m not excited about the vegan/vegetarian “faux” meat offerings. So what I did was to cook up a cup of farro. To me, farro has some of the chewy “mouthfeel” of meat without the processing. It does have gluten, but we still eat that, so I boiled that on the stove.

The tomato/blueberry sauce ended up being a lovely deep burgundy color and having a chunky consistency:

When I added in the farro and more spices, it looked like this:

I mixed it with the black beans and the cooked garlic, pepper, and onions, and it was quite lovely. However, you’ll have to take my word for that, because for some reason, my photographs of the final dish are just big plains of blue.

Both my son and I thought it was pretty good. As my son observed, it had a somewhat “fruity” taste without being sweet…but we had added a good amount of spice and peppers, which may have offset the natural sugars. We had our first small bowl vegan style, but then we both added some cheese to our second servings and, to be honest, we liked it better that way. There wasn’t much fat in this recipe, so maybe that’s it. Still, it’s a lighter and alternative chili to make in the summer based all on the produce at the Farmers Market (although I had to get the beans and farro elsewhere, unfortunately).

Blueberries are so healthy and nutritious, so I’m just experimenting with different ways to use them while they are fresh and in season. This recipe was a winner for us. It’s great to experiment with using seasonal ingredients in different ways.

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