This was the chili I made the Sweet Buttermilk Cornbread to go with last week. It was the smoky factor that called to me when I saw it on Tami’s blog, and it didn’t disappoint! I upped the spicy factor to suit our tastes and it was just wonderful. The only change I would make next time is to take the suggestion to run the red peppers through the food processor (and use two red peppers instead of one orange-lol), because I imagine that makes the chili thicker and more red and visually appealing. I wasn’t reading the recipe closely and just diced the peppers as I usually do, which was fine, but I look forward to trying it the recommended way.
And don’t be scared of the lentils! I personally have a distaste for regular lentils, but red lentils are totally different and do not have that earthy flavor to them at all. I found mine at a Lebanese market (you can get them at N & J Cafe’s market here in Wichita), and hope you’ll be able to find them in your area too. So much tastier than regular lentils, IMO.
This chili has a wonderful balance of flavors and I was impressed that the creator even thought to add vinegar, something I’ve never added to chili, but somehow it’s perfect here. You won’t really notice it, but it did need some tang to balance everything. So good, you won’t even miss the meat.
Smoky Red Lentil Chili
2 ounces dates (approximately 9 Deglet Noor)
1 pound red lentils (they look orange in the package)
7 cups water, divided
2 14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes (fire roasted preferred)
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 large chopped onion
2 large red bell peppers, finely chopped*
8 cloves garlic, finely minced
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1½ tablespoons dried parsley
1½ tablespoons dried oregano
1½ tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons smoked paprika (different than regular paprika)
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon chipotle chile powder (or more to taste – I used 1 teaspoon)
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or more to taste – I used 1 teaspoon)
scallions or Faux Parmesan – optional (for topping at the end)
Blend the dates in one cup of the water until smooth (unless you have a water-tight food processor, use a blender, or the liquid will fly out. Lesson learned the hard way by me). Place the puree, along with all remaining ingredients in a stock pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 20 minutes, or until lentils are soft. Alternatively, you can cook in an electric pressure cooker and cook on high for 10 minutes, or in a slow cooker on low for 8 hours. Sprinkle with chopped scallions or Faux Parmesan and serve with baked tortilla chips or over a baked potato if desired.
*Chef AJ’s note: I like to use the food processor so it’s almost a puree.
*Veronica’s note: If you live in Wichita, go to The Spice Merchant for the smoked paprika and chipotle chile powder – you will pay much less than you would for the pricey McCormick spices, and they’re just as good!
Yield: 8 servings