Wednesday it was 60°F here in NYC. Yesterday (Thursday) we had a blizzard and got several inches of snow. Totally normal weather patterns, nothing to see here folks.* So what’s better to cook while my kids were home from school and we were all snowed in, than a big ol’ pot of chili?
This particular pot of chili I made in honor of Moonlight, another one of this year’s Oscar Nominees for Best Pic and a strong frontrunner for the win. I’m going to go ahead and say that I’m rooting for this one to win. The cast is amazing, and the story is just… it’s timely, it’s timeless, it’s beautiful, it’s a true work of art.
A Hollywood Reporter review describes the world in Moonlight as, “richer and deeper and more complex than we ever imagined,” which also just happens to describe this chili recipe that I think makes a great homage. I initially noticed the recipe for Havana Moon Chili simply for the play-on-words, and also because the Cuban flavors are a great nod to the film’s Miami setting. After all, “Havana Moon Chili” is really just a colorful name for a very traditional Cuban picadillo, which is a stew of beef and tomatoes, with raisins and stuffed olives, and of course a very fragrant combination of spices.
I admit that I’d never had an authentic picadillo before, or even a vegan version of one, and the olive-raisin combination was definitely foreign to me and I was somewhat skeptical. But the end result is a truly rich, dark, complex burst of flavors that really do all work so well together. The unusual addition of slivered almonds adds a pleasant crunch, as well. I don’t want to be overly dramatic describing a pot of chili, but this one was kind of revelatory for me, a surprising discovery, and I’m really happy to share it with you.
So I started with the recipe at the link above, and obviously I veganized it, but I also took a few liberties based on what I had on hand, like the addition of vegan chorizo, which added another layer of flavor and spiciness. I think it worked really well. Also, picadillo is usually served over white rice and black beans; instead I add the beans directly into the chili,** and leave the rice as an option for serving. Personally, I liked the chili on its own, it was plenty hearty and filling enough, but eat it with rice or any other grain, or however you want! Also, go see Moonlight.
Vegan Havana Moonlight Chili
serves 4 – 6
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
11 oz. vegan “beef” crumbles (I like Beyond Meat or Gardein brands)
12 oz. vegan chorizo (I like Trader Joe’s Soy Chorizo)
2 cups vegetable broth
one 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, drained
one 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup raisins
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup pimiento-stuffed green olives, halved
1/4 cup slivered blanched almonds
cooked white rice, for serving (optional)
Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven. Stir in the onion and garlic and cook until soft. Add the vegan beef crumbles and chorizo, then cook several minutes until heated through and lightly browned, breaking up any chunks with your spoon.
Add the vegetable broth and tomatoes, breaking up the tomatoes with the back of your spoon. Stir in the beans, vinegar, raisins, spices, and salt. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat to a simmer and cook 30 minutes, partially covered. Add the olives and almonds and cook uncovered for an additional 5 minutes.
To serve, place a mound of rice in each bowl, if using. Ladle the chili on top. Enjoy!
*Just kidding. That’s totally weird. Climate change is real.
**I hope it’s not a cultural faux pas to add beans to this dish, like how Texans totally freak out if you put beans in their chili.