Let's eat: Black-Eyed Peas and Kale Chili with Monterey Jack Cheese

PG tested

Nothing beats a piping hot bowl of chili on a brisk fall day. All the more so if it’s dished up early in the morning after a long training run.

This healthful and unusual recipe won top honors at a chili cookoff I judged for the Pittsburgh Three Rivers Marathon’s fall fest and charity kickoff last week. Its star ingredient is kale. Cooking the leafy green with bacon and tomatoes takes away some of its bitterness and makes it incredibly tender. Your family members will never know it’s good for them.

The dish from North Hills Community Outreach, which coincidentally ran in the PG food pages many years ago, also includes black-eyed peas, a legume that’s an especially good source of soluble fiber. It also makes good use of fiery chipotle peppers in adobo. Expect a pleasant kick. 

For vegetarians, leave out the bacon. Serve chili in bowls with warm cornbread or crackers. And don’t skimp on the cheese.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

8 slices bacon, diced

1 small onion, diced 

2 celery stalks, diced 

1 clove garlic, crushed

One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, with their juice

One 15-ounce can black-eyed peas, drained

2 cups chicken broth

1 cup of water

1 or 2 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, depending on how spicy you like your chili, including seeds, chopped fine (1 to 2 tablespoons)

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

¼ teaspoon ground coriander

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 bunch Tuscan or green kale (about 1/2 pound), stems removed, leaves washed and cut into 1-inch pieces

½ cup grated Monterey Jack cheese

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over a medium flame. Add the bacon and allow it to render a bit (about 2 minutes), stirring regularly to stop it from sticking.

Add the onion, celery and garlic. Stir well to coat everything in the fat and keep cooking for about 2 minutes until the vegetables start to soften.

Add the tomatoes, black-eyed peas, chicken broth, 1 cup of water and the chipotle peppers, cumin and coriander. Stir to mix everything together well; then let the chili cook, uncovered, over medium heat for about 10 minutes until the flavors come together.

Stir in the honey and mustard. Stir in the kale and cook for 10 minutes or so until the kale is soft.

Serve the chili in large bowls with the Monterey Jack cheese grated on top.

Serves 6 to 8 as a main dish.

— North Hills Community Outreach

Gretchen McKay: gmckay@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1519 or on Twitter @gtmckay.

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