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Spring ahead with vegetarian chili

By Wolfgang Puck, Tribune Content Agency on

"Spring ahead! Fall back!" That's the simple memory device we've all been taught to remember which way to reset our clocks when daylight saving time begins (on the second Sunday in March) or ends (on the first Sunday in November). The practice aims to give people an extra hour of sunlight after their working days during springtime and summer.

I always think of daylight saving time's arrival as a sign that the bounty of spring, beginning March 20, will soon be filling up the stalls in farmers' markets. Yet, I'm also aware that we're technically still in the middle of winter, and bitter cold spells and even snow can still suddenly come in early March -- something I've been well aware of ever since my two oldest sons chose to pursue their university educations in Massachusetts and upstate New York.

So at this time of year, I like to think about preparing dishes that still have the power to warm us up and comfort us if the weather turns chilly, yet still hold hints of the sunnier, warmer, longer days soon to come. And today I'd like to share that exact type of dish in my recipe for vegetarian three-bean and quinoa chili.

Any bean stew such as this one is, of course, a perfect choice to cook when the weather is threatening outside. It calls for long, gentle stovetop simmering, which transforms the kitchen into a warming, welcoming place and fills the entire house with rich aromas. The chile peppers that season the stew add their own uniquely warm flavor to the mixture; though I quickly have to add that this recipe isn't overly spicy, and you can certainly cut back on the chile quantities if you prefer milder results.

The beans themselves are a perfect example of the kind of stick-to-your-ribs food that will keep you feeling warm and satisfied for hours. And the quinoa, an ancient Incan grain that has become widely available and popular in recent years, adds more sustenance, being higher in protein and dietary fiber than brown rice.

But what about spring flavors? Look first to the fact that this is a vegetarian recipe, so it will very likely taste to you -- and rest in your stomach -- far lighter than traditional meaty versions of the dish. Lighter, brighter elements of the dish, including a generous amount of fresh lime juice and garnishes such as tomato salsa, sliced avocado, green onion and cilantro, also evoke warmer months.

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The result is a surprisingly fresh-tasting, healthy chili that is not only a perfect way to welcome spring but also an ideal dish to enjoy as you start thinking of getting into shape for swimsuit season, which is just months away.


Serves 8 to 10

1 pound (500 g) dried white beans


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