HOMEMADE WITH NIKITA: PUMPKIN CHILI

WORDS & IMAGES: NIKITA ANDERSON

October is the brightest month. Here in Colorado, the aspens are dusting the skies with gold and the air is getting crisper. As autumn blossoms and the landscape grows warmer with reds and golds, we find the landscape of our dining choices changing as well – pumpkin coffee, pumpkin bread, pumpkin soup. I'm happy to embrace the pumpkin season in all its true glory by using fresh pumpkin to make a curry pumpkin chili. With the weather getting cooler, I feel more inclined to stay indoors and focus on a rich, spicy, and deeply nourishing cooking project.  Eating this hearty chili over rice or with tortilla chips is a perfect way to warm your soul and surrender to the joy of pumpkin season.

To make this fine, fine chili, you’ll need:

1 pumpkin pie pumpkin

1 ½ cups of dried beans (any kind), or 3 different cans of beans

1 onion, chopped

3+ cloves of garlic, minced

1 small, fresh, hot pepper (optional), minced

2 bell peppers, chopped

2 stalks of celery, chopped

1 zucchini, chopped

2 ears of corn, boiled and with the corn removed from the cob (or 1 can of corn)

1 tbsp. chili powder

3 tbsp. curry powder

1 tbsp. cinnamon

2 tbsp. cumin

¼ cup hot sauce, preferably a vinegary kind (optional)

1. Cook 1 ½ c. dried beans of your choice in a slow cooker or pressure cooker until soft. How long this takes depends on how you choose to cook them, but usually anywhere between 1-3 hours.

2. Preheat your oven to 450°F. Cut your pumpkin pie pumpkin in half, and scoop the guts out (you can save the seeds to roast later, if you’d like).  Sprinkle your pumpkin halves with salt and pepper, and roast, cut side up, in the oven until it is soft (you can test with a fork while it’s cooking) and very slightly browned on top.

3. While your pumpkin is cooking, prep all of your veggies. Keep in mind that chili is a very loose idea; if you don’t like celery, leave it out.  If you want to add broccoli, go for it!  Pumpkin chili truly shines when you make it your own and put your favorite vegetables in it.

4. Fill a large pot with water and boil.  When hot, add 2 ears of corn. Cook until done, then use a knife to remove the kernels from the cob. Set aside.

5. When the beans and pumpkin are close to being ready, pour some oil (I prefer coconut for this chili) into the bottom of a large pot, and place it over medium-high heat.  When the oil is hot, add the onion; cook until it’s almost browned.

6. Next, add the garlic and hot pepper, if using. Cook for 1 minute before stirring in spices.  If your mixture is becoming a little dry, add a bit more oil to the pot.  Cook the onion with the spices, stirring constantly, until fragrant.

7. Turn the heat down to medium, then add your vegetables of choice. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

8. Add ½ c. water, stir, and turn heat down to medium low. Remove the beans from the slow cooker or pressure cooker, drain, and stir them into the chili.

9. Add the corn.

10. At this point, your pumpkin should be ready. Remove it from the oven. When cool, scoop the pumpkin from the skin, and blend the pumpkin until you have a smooth puree. Compost the skins.

11. Stir the pumpkin into the chili. If it feels too thick, add some water to thin it out to your desired consistency. For those of you who love a little extra kick, add ¼ - ½ c. vinegary hot sauce.

12. Salt to taste and adjust the seasonings according to your preference. 

13. Let the chili simmer on low for 10 or more minutes, stirring occasionally.  The longer it simmers, the softer the veggies get. 

This recipe is a recipe for you. Alter it however you’d like. Eat it with tortilla chips, or over steamed rice. Top with cilantro or vegan cheddar (or dairy cheddar if you eat cheese). Cover it in hot sauce. Enjoy it over grits or cornbread. There is never a wrong way to eat chili. 

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