Lately I’ve been wondering if I should add "freezing food in individual portions" to my list of interests on Facebook. For one long, dark year I lived in a Park Slope studio with no freezer, unable to save leftovers and frequently forced to eat entire pints of ice cream in a single sitting. Ever since I have appreciated my freezer and used it as much as possible, although the serving size of ice cream that satisfies me now remains tragically huge.
Since I don’t always have the time or ingredients to pack even a sandwich, my frozen stash of soup, stew, and other leftovers has often been the only thing standing between me and a mediocre but depressingly expensive business-district lunch. Although some things (especially potato-based soups, in my experience) suffer for having been frozen, most come out just fine and are given additional relish by the thrill (okay, for me) of enjoying the fruits of my earlier labor.
Here’s what’s in my freezer right now: black bean and eggplant chili. This meatless, bean-filled chili (sorry, chili purists!) was far too spicy for me the day I made it, even with wheatberries, plain yogurt, and cheese stirred in. It mellowed a little overnight, but I will be more careful with peppers next time. (I used chilies de arbol and am wondering if New Mexican red chilies are actually much milder.) In any event, this was solid home cooking but didn’t make anyone weak in the knees, which is why it was an excellent candidate for freezing: I wouldn’t have wanted to eat it several meals in a row, but I will be very grateful to have it when I find myself in a mealtime pinch.
- Yield:4 as a main course
- 1 1/2 pounds eggplant, unpeeled, stemmed, and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 15 dried New Mexican red chilies (about 3 ounces)
- 3 cups water
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 small red onions, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 28-ounce can plum tomatoes, drained and chopped
- 1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cups cooked black beans
- As accompaniments:
- White cheddar, coarsely grated
- Red onions, finely diced
- Cilantro, coarsely chopped
- Cooked brown rice, wheatberries, or tortilla chips
Put the eggplant cubes in a strainer and sprinkle generously with salt. Let stand for 1 hour and pat dry with paper towels.
Simmer the chilies with the 3 cups water in a large saucepan for 20 minutes. Purée the chilies and the liquid in batches in a blender until very smooth. Force the puree through a fine sieve and discard any solid pieces.
Heat the oil in a large, heavy Dutch oven over moderately high heat. Add eggplant and cook, stirring, until almost tender, about 4 minutes. Remove eggplant and set aside. Add onions and garlic to the same Dutch oven, adding more oil if necessary, and cook, stirring, for 4 minutes.
Add tomatoes, ground coriander, cumin, bay leaf, eggplant, and chili puree and simmer 5 minutes.
Add beans and simmer over moderate heat for 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt. Remove the bay leaf. Place in bowls and top with cheese, onions, and cilantro.