Comfort Food and 9/11

11 Sep

I think, in every generation, there is a time or event that makes others in the same and future generations say, “Where were you when…?”  Today is the 10th anniversary of that event.  I was on duty as an RA in my dorm at Arizona State University, in charge of 60 frantic freshmen, one of which had a sister on Flight 93.  All day, I’ve been on and off the phone with my mom – a New York native – recounting the events, what we did and said, and gave verbal thanks that our family members and friends who were in the towers were able to safely escape.  I know others’ families weren’t as lucky.

The summer sun never came out today on the Oregon Coast, but that’s ok because it gave a great damp chill indicative only of the fall months to come.  Combined with football and munchies leftover from yesterday’s annual Cranberry Festival, it felt like a day to relax, stay home, and be thankful.

I’m sitting here in front of a blank computer page, trying to figure out exactly how to explain this.  Having already typed and then erased quite a few sentences, I’ll give it another go.

WE HAVE VEGETABLES COMING OUT OF OUR EARS.

So with the familiar and fresh fall feeling outside, combined with the feeling of wanting that also familiar warm home comfort, I called my mom, again, this time asking what she would make for dinner on a Sunday night like tonight.  Without me explaining my feeling/craving for comfort food, she immediately unknowingly shared the sentiment and started to list off some of her yummiest comforting dishes.  Beef Stroganoff, Tuna Noodle Casserole, and Campfire Stew were some of the top contenders.  While they all sounded amazing, I had to speak up and tell her about our abundance of veggies.

Our Wintergreen Farms basket has been plentiful the last few weeks, with deliveries of corn, zucchini, summer squash, cauliflower, eggplant, and beautiful tomatoes.  So Rob and I have been swimming in fresh veg.  It is wonderful – don’t get me wrong – but there came a point where we had to figure out how to use it all!

With Notre Dame on the TV last night, we grilled up the veg.  Combined with the choices of a lemon vinaigrette, honey mustard dressing, or cinnamon and garlic aioli, our veggie football night was awesome.  But then, we still had leftovers.

Longer story shorter, and back to the phone call, my mom and I practically came up with the idea for tonight’s 9/11 comfort dinner at the same time: Grilled Vegetarian Chili.  Half leftover grilled veg, half pantry staples, a few hours in the Dutch oven, and another comfort food was born.  The smokiness from grilling the veg really added a lot to the chili, like the familiar taste of meat.  And this dinner was even suitable for Sunday night football.

Rob is on duty, so it’s a girl’s night tonight – my comforting Vegetarian Chili, a roaring fire heating up the house, the “Home Sweet Home” Yankee candle is already burning, probably another phone call to my mom, and most likely a Bravo Housewives marathon.  Not exactly what I was doing 10 years ago today, but a good way to remember.

To all my New York and New Jersey relatives – I love you and miss you and I’m sending you hugs and kisses!

Grilled Vegetarian Chili (makes about 5 quarts)

  • About 6 cups diced, grilled vegetables – I used corn, eggplant, zucchini, cauliflower, and potatoes
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 15 oz. kidney beans, rinsed
  • 1 15 oz. black beans, rinsed
  • 2 large tbsp canned green chilis
  • 1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes (crush them with your hand so less surface area of the tomatoes touch the metal can)
  • 1 qt vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • ¼ tsp ground thyme
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes (or less if you don’t like spicy)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • s&p
  • Your favorite cheese, optional (for topping the chili)

Saute the onions in the butter over med-high heat, and season with a bit of salt.  Once the onions are translucent, add the chopped grilled vegetables, beans, and tomatoes.  Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often.  Add the spices, vegetable broth, and season with salt and pepper.  Note: you will probably notice after cooking for a while that you’ll need to adjust seasoning – it gives you a great excuse to meander into the kitchen and take lots of tastes. 

Bring to a boil, and then simmer for about an hour.  Stir occasionally.  If you like a thicker chili, leave the pot uncovered for the last 15 minutes of cooking time. 

Top with cheese, if you would like.  It’s thick, rich, and smoky – just don’t burn the roof of your mouth diving in!  

Enjoy!  

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