As they say, autumn is in the air. In the same way that the green leaves are just starting to change color along their edges, my nose is constantly sneezing. I’m never sure what to wear—shorts now or a sweatshirt for later—during that delightfully awkward transitional period. The last of the tomatoes or sweet potatoes, that is the question. Before we know it, we’ll be bundled up in scarves, carving pumpkins, and making Halloween costumes. I am eager.
The football season appears to be well underway as well. My former pals are making fun of me by posting pictures of game day meals they made in the college town I once called home; let’s face it, food and beer are what football is really all about. Don’t bother standing in line at stadiums! Give me a cozy seat, some companions, and delectable food and beverages. The fact that a game is playing as I chatter is completely incidental.
Chili made with butternut squash and black beans is ideal for autumnal gatherings and football games. Like a superb mole sauce, it achieves the perfect level of spiciness and sweetness that I adore in Mexican dishes. Ample spiciness is provided by chipotle and chili powder to complement the sweet, nutty flavor of butternut squash. For a filling dish that will satisfy both vegans and carnivores as well as gluten-free eaters, top with crispy tortilla strips and a generous amount of creamy, diced Mexican avocados. You know how hard it is to get meals like that?
Also read: Vegetarian Peanut Soup
It also happens to be really easy to make the chili. When the vegetables are cut, the labor is nearly over. Speaking of butternut, I’ve done my share of cursing at it for being hard to peel and slice, but I had no issue using Simply Recipes’ technique. It was a breeze, although I’m not sure if that was because of her technique or just this butternut squash in particular. Try it!
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium red onion, chopped
- 2 red bell peppers, chopped
- 1 small butternut squash (1 ½ pounds or less), peeled and chopped into ½-inch cubes
- 4 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- ½+ tablespoon chopped chipotle pepper in adobo* (start with ½ tablespoon and add more to taste, I thought mine was just right with 1 tablespoon)
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cans (15 ounces each) black beans, rinsed and drained, or 3 cups cooked black beans
- 1 small can (14 ounces) diced tomatoes, including the liquid**
- 2 cups vegetable broth (or one 14-ounce can)
- Salt, to taste
- 2 Avocados from Mexico, diced
- 3 corn tortillas for crispy tortilla strips (or substitute crumbled tortilla chips)
- Optional additional garnishes: Chopped fresh cilantro and/or red pepper flakes
- In a 4- to 6-quart Dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat, warm the olive oil until shimmering. Add the onion, bell pepper and butternut squash and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are turning translucent.
- Turn the heat down to medium-low and add the garlic, chili powder, ½ tablespoon chopped chipotle peppers, cumin and cinnamon. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the bay leaf, black beans, tomatoes and their juices and broth. Stir to combine and cover for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Taste about halfway through cooking and add more chopped chipotle peppers if you’d like.
- You’ll know your chili is done when the butternut squash is nice and tender and the liquid has reduced a bit, producing the hearty chili consistency we all know and love. Remove the bay leaf and add salt to taste.
- To make the crispy tortilla strips: stack the corn tortillas and slice them into thin little strips, about 2 inches long by ¼ inch wide. Warm a drizzle of olive oil in a medium pan over medium heat until shimmering. Toss in the tortilla slices, sprinkle with salt and stir. Cook until the strips are crispy and turning golden, stirring occasionally, about 4 to 7 minutes. Remove tortilla strips from skillet and drain on a plate covered with a piece of paper towel.
- Serve the chili in individual bowls, topped with crispy tortilla strips and plenty of diced avocado. I added a little sprinkle of red pepper flakes (optional). Cilantro would be nice as well. You might want to serve this along with some chipotle hot sauce (Tobasco makes one) for the spice addicts like myself.