The Oscar’s are this Sunday night, if my calendar is telling the truth. There isn’t much Oscar fever in India, and I can guarantee there won’t be any Oscar viewing parties, but I like the idea. I went to an Oscar “party” once, and that was in college. If my memory serves me, we ended up studying for upcoming exams, not focusing much on good food or the Oscar’s for the matter. I like the idea to celebrate and create a memorable evening given the chance, and what better chance in dreary February than to enjoy the Oscar festivities with a big bowl of chili.
I stumbled upon this picture on Pinterest months ago (from celebrationsathomeblog.com), and instantly knew that one day I would have to have a chili bar. I love chili. Who doesn’t? But this takes chili, a meal which I would never think of serving guests, to a whole new level. It makes it fun. It might not exactly be glamorous for the Oscars, but as most people will be like me, enjoying the Oscars from the comfort of their home and in their PJs, what could be better than a chili bar?
Since the Oscars will actually be airing at 5:30 am on Monday morning for me, I decided to enjoy my chili a few days early. And since we are still in the midst of packing, our move being pushed back a few days due to a country-wide 2 day strike, there are no decorations. In fact, you’ll have to excuse the horrible pictures in general. Sarabeth will surely make her chili look classy in cute bowls, but for now, all I have to offer is my chili.
As you may or may not know, it is illegal to slaughter cows in most parts of India. Where you can find beef in India, it typically isn’t worth the money. And so, our chili is completely vegetarian, and (nearly) completely homemade. You don’t have to worry about any additives or preservatives in this chili, which is low in calories, and supplemental in protein, thanks to a little friend the Indians call dal. Dal is a lentil that is used all the time in India, and I think is growing in popularity in America. If you are watching your waist (and what woman isn’t?!) dal is a great alternative.
For those who are interested, 1 cup of hamburger (80/20) is about 560 calories, contains 37 grams of fat, and 58 grams of protein. 1 cup of dal contains 200 calories, 4 grams of fat, and has 11 grams of protein.
Dal is cooked similarly to rice at about a 1 to 1.25 ratio, dal to water. It soaks up water, and any seasoning, as it cooks, like rice, and has little flavor of its own. As such, it is a great addition to a variety of meals to give a little more substance to the meal.
1 C Uncooked Dal (or any variety of lentil)**
2 Onions, chopped
4 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 T Ceyenne Pepper (you could substitute chili powder if you prefer less spice)
2 tsp. Salt
2 tsp. Oregano or Italian Seasoning
2 lbs. Tomatoes**, or 4 14.5 oz. cans of Stewed Tomatoes
1 Green Pepper, chopped
1 Green Chili, finely chopped
15 oz. Tomato Sauce (I guess this isn’t homemade, but I’m sure you could make your own!)
15 oz. Kidney Beans, or 9 oz of uncooked kidney beans**
STEW your tomatoes and COOK your lentils separately. Then in a large pot, saute your onion, green pepper, garlic, and green chili. ADD stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce, cooked lentils, and seasonings while stirring. BRING to a boil, and then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook covered for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. ADD in beans, and cook uncovered for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. You can add some water if it is too thick, starting with 1/2 cup until you have your desired consistency.
**DAL – for 1 cup of uncooked dal, add to a pot with 2 1/4 cup of water. Bring to a boil, and then simmer in a covered pot until the dal has absorbed all of the water, about 15-20 minutes. Dal should be firm, but not crunchy. It will continue to cook slightly in the chili.
**STEWED TOMATOES: chop tomatoes and put in the bottom of a large pan coated with olive oil. Cook over high heat until they reduce down, about 10 minutes. Here is a picture of the tomatoes stewing to help give an idea.
**KIDNEY BEANS – to cook dried kidney beans, I soak them overnight and then cook them on the stove for about 2-3 hours. If you have a pressure cooker, it takes about 45 minutes – 1 hour. Just make sure that however you are cooking them, there is plenty of water in the pot, and you check it periodically. No real science, that I am aware of here, just cooking until they reached your desired softness. They really won’t cook more in the soup. I typically add some salt to the water as they cook because I think I read somewhere that they will absorb most of the salt while cooking, not afterwards. Make sure to rinse them thoroughly before adding to the soup, as the cooking water has a strong, unwanted smell and flavor.
I’m not vegetarian, but I’m not going to lie, this chili might just come with us back to the States when we are looking for a healthier, cheaper option to an old-time staple, be it Oscar’s night or not.