Black Bean + Sweet Potato Chili

The calendar says February which means cooking and eating heavy meats, stews, and braises. Meals meant for winter days. Or like my New England friends, staying indoors while the snow piles up outside.

In San Francisco, the weather isn't exactly frigid with snow on the ground. Looking for something still hearty, full of flavor, and that doesn't require an oven (my kitchen doesn't have one), this chili fits the bill. I also had (almost) every ingredient on the list and made substitutions for what came up missing. In lieu of jalapeno, use one chipotle in adobo (which is really smoked jalapeno in a can). And I didn't have celery or a red onion. My adaptation makes enough for two big meals with leftovers; the original serves eight to twelve.

Pro tips: Even though the chili is vegetarian, I added ground beef on a second go of this for Super Bowl supper, but chorizo or another spicy sausage would work just fine. After browning the meat, keep the fat in the pan, add a little more oil if needed, and then proceed with the rest of the recipe.

Make the chili in advance, and it gets better after a day.

Black Bean + Sweet Potato Chili
adapted from Aida Mollenkamp

1 tablespoon canola or olive oil
1 small sweet potato, medium dice
1 (14 ounce) can cooked black beans, rinsed
2 small garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground chile powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs removed, and chopped
1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes
8 ounces water, chicken or vegetable broth
Salt and pepper, to taste
Avocado, optional, for garnish
Tortilla Chips, cooked white rice, or cooked quinoa, optional

Heat oil in a large, heavy bottomed Dutch oven or pot over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add the sweet potatoes and cook until golden brown.

Stir in the black beans, garlic, chile powder, cumin, and jalapeno and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, water, and a pinch of salt, and bring to a boil over high heat, about 5 minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the liquid is slightly thickened, about half an hour.

Taste the chili and adjust for any seasonings.

Garnish with avocado chunks or tortilla chips or serve over rice, or quinoa. A sprinkle of chopped green onion, chopped cilantro, or squeeze of lime would be great flourishes.