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Vegetarian Chili

Vegetarian Chili

By Barbara Beltrami

I feel like Old Mother Hubbard going to the cupboard and finding it bare or nearly so these days. As I sit and try to order groceries online and find “no delivery slot” or miraculously manage to order online but have to wait a week or so for delivery, I go to the fridge and find an expired container of yogurt, a bottle of ketchup and half a can of cat food. In the vegetable drawer I find a few slimy unrecognizable leaves, a lone scallion and a totally collapsed cucumber and the stark reminder that the fridge could use a long overdue cleaning. I go to the freezer to find nothing but an ancient package of phyllo dough and half a cake from my birthday a year ago. I turn in desperation to my pantry. 

I inherited from my mother the practice of stockpiling multiple cans and jars and packages of staple items so what I do have is lots of cans of beans, tomatoes and tuna, a couple of boxes of pasta, a box of rice and a whole shelf of pickles I put up last year. 

Now the challenge is: What can I concoct out of these few things? I could do a Pasta Puttanesca with the tomatoes and tuna. I could do a Tuna and Bean Salad or I could make a Vegetarian Chili. Here are the recipes I came up with. Things being what they are, all measurements are approximate, main ingredients are generic, and if you don’t have some of the secondary ingredients, no big deal. You’ve got more important things to worry about these days. Be safe, be well, be grateful.

Vegetarian Chili

Vegetarian Chili

YIELD: Makes 8 servings


1/4 cup olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

3 tablespoons chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon coriander

Two 14-ounce cans beans, rinsed and drained

One 14-ounce can tomatoes with juice

Salt and crushed hot red pepper flakes to taste


In large heavy saucepan or skillet, heat oil over medium heat, add  onion, pepper and chopped garlic and cook over medium heat until slightly softened, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic chili powder, cumin and coriander and cook, stirring once or twice about one minute. Stir in beans, tomatoes, salt and pepper flakes. Serve hot with rice, tortilla chips and a salad or green vegetable.

Pasta Puttanesca

YIELD: Makes 4 servings


1 pound pasta

1/4 cup olive oil

One 28-ounce can tomatoes with juice

1 garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon each dried parsley, basil, oregano

1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained

1/3 cup black olives, pitted and chopped]

One 7-ounce can oil-packed tuna, drained

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


Put pasta water on to boil. Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile in a large skillet heat oil over medium heat; add tomatoes, garlic and herbs. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes; add capers, olives, tuna, salt and pepper and cook another 5 minutes. Serve immediately with a dry white wine.

Tuna and Bean Salad

YIELD: Makes 3 to 4 servings


One 7-ounce can tuna, drained

One14-ounce can beans, rinsed and drained

2 tablespoons minced pickles

2 tablespoons minced onion or scallion

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons vinegar

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


In a medium bowl mix all ingredients together. Let sit at room temperature 30 minutes. Serve with lettuce or arugula and rustic bread.