I know that probably sounds odd— beets in chili. I hadn’t planned on putting beets in my chili, it just happened. And am I glad it did.
As a member of local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) this year, we’ve been getting a bounty of locally-grown vegetables every week. Well, now that Fall has come and gone, it seems our weekly goodie baskets have been overflowing with beets and winter squash. I like beets. I usually chop them in to small cubes, roast them in the oven with olive oil and sea salt, and enjoy them just like that. Sometime I add the roasted beets to my salads. Sometimes I add raw shredded beets to my salads. Sometime I juice the beets and drink them up.
After several weeks of getting beets in our CSA basket, I was feeling a bit uninspired by them. Nearly ready to give them away to my beet-loving friends, I was suddenly struck with the idea of adding them to my chili. I wasn’t sure if this was going to be a good idea or not, but not wanting the beets to get the best of me at the end of the CSA season, I decided to give it a try. Chili is one of my favorite winter dishes. It’s easy. It’s filling. It’s delicious. And what I love the most about chili is that my vegetarian versions are super healthy—low in fat, high in fiber, with tons of veggie goodness in every spoonful. My vegetarian chili often has a bit of whatever veggie is in my fridge— sometimes its kale, or carrots. Other times I reach for the lesser known root vegetables like celeriac or rutabaga. With chili, I find that you can put almost any veggie into the pot. It’s flavors will merge with the others, and yet still retain a hint of their natural essence.
For this version of chili, it tasted like chili, and yet it tasted like beets and butternut squash at the same time. The beets and squash imparted some sweeter notes to the dish, with the lovely earthiness of the beets shining through.
I like to make chili in a slow cooker because it just doesn’t get any easier. The most time you’ll spend on this recipe will be chopping a few veggies.
1 can cooked kidney beans (or black beans, or pinto beans, or whatever bean you like)
1 medium to large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped into 1/2″ cubes
2 to 3 medium beets, scrubbed clean, chopped into 1/2″ cubes
1 can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon of medium or hot chili powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 to 3 teaspoons sea salt (to taste)
black pepper, to taste
2 cups water, or vegetable stock (more if you like a wetter chili)
Place everything in the slow cooker. Put the lid on and cook until the beets and butternut squash are soft.