I was 19 when I moved into my first apartment–on-campus housing at Georgetown University with three friends.  Excited about having a kitchen, I ambitiously dumped the meal plan and looked forward to home-cooked meals.  To prepare, I bought a green notebook and wrote by hand many family recipes that I considered essential.  I seem to recall that Buttermilk Pound Cake was the first entry!

I held onto the notebook as the years went by.  Whenever I had to consult my mother on how to make sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving, or Hot Cross Buns for Easter, I would jot down the recipe so I wouldn’t have to call her again.  During the first couple of years of marriage, when I actually tried out new recipes almost every single night, I copied down the ones that made the grade.

Many of the recipes were never made a second time.  But over the years the cover fell off of the notebook from so much use.  Recipes like Apple Cinnamon Bread became dotted with grease and cinnamon stains.

Then the house burned down.  The recipe book was not the first thing I thought of missing, but it’s one of the things I still consistently wish for, over and over.  I’m calling my mother for recipes again, and I’m hunting for other ones on (thank God for) the Internet.

This Vegetable Chili recipe originally appeared in Sheila Lukins’s column in Parade Magazine around 1991.  You’d think that would be an easy thing to find online, but I have not found the exact recipe and I have searched every way I know how.
I remember well the first time I made it.  John looked at it doubtfully and wanted to know how you could have chili without meat.  A few minutes later he was eating his words along with the chili.  It’s been a favorite ever since.  Additionally, it’s a meal I like to make when I am feeding another family (if I know they like vegetables), whether they have a new baby or sickness or a death in the house.  I double a cornmeal muffin recipe and divide a buttermilk pound cake into two loaf pans, and I have dinner for us and enough to share with another family.

I was doing exactly that for a family that happens to be vegetarian last week.  I found a close approximation to the recipe I wanted and I remembered the rest.  Jake did most of the chili under my direction while I did the baking.
Vegetable Chili

  • 1 medium eggplant, cut in 1-inch cubes
  • olive oil
  • 2 yellow onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced; or 3/8 t. garlic, powdered
  • 2 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 3 assorted bell peppers, chopped (I like to use red, orange, and yellow)
  • 1 yellow squash, chopped
  • 1-2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely minced (decide how much to use depending on the hotness of the peppers and your taste)
  • 1 28-oz. can whole tomatoes, cut in half, with liquid
  • 5 fresh Italian plum tomatoes
  • 1 T. cumin, ground
  • 2-3 T. chili powder (to taste)
  • 2 t. oregano, dried
  • 1 t. fennel seeds
  • 1 c. cooked white beans (rinse first if using canned)
  • 1 c. cooked kidney beans (rinse first if using canned)
  • 1 T. lemon juice
  • 1/3 c. red wine
  • 1/3 c. chopped fresh cilantro
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • plain yogurt, shredded cheese, and chopped green onions for garnish

Preheat oven to 350.  Chop eggplant and stir with 2 T. oil.  Place in 8×8 baking dish, cover with foil, and bake 30 minutes, stirring at the 15 minute mark.  Set aside when done.

In a stockpot, heat 3 T. oil on medium.  Add onions and cook for five minutes.  When I made this last week I had Jake chop everything in advance so he wouldn’t be stressed. but normally I chop as I go.  So I add the garlic. and then the rest of the vegetables one at a time, as I finish chopping.  So each one cooks a couple of minutes as you chop the next, and then cook about five minutes more after the jalapenos have been added.
Add the canned tomatoes and liquid, then chop the fresh tomatoes and add.  Add the cumin, chili powder, oregano, and fennel.  Stir in the reserved eggplant and simmer for 20 minutes over low heat.

Add the beans, lemon juice, and cilantro.  (Oh, the difficulty I had finding cilantro in 1991!  I’d never heard of it–had to consult the Joy of Cooking–and no one else had either!  I had to drive to the “rich” Kroger in West Knoxville to find it.) Add salt and pepper to taste (you may need to adjust this later) and simmer for five minutes.
Garnish with plain yogurt, shredded cheese, and green onions, and serve with corn muffins.


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