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Black Bean Chili with Eggplant
A great vegetarian dish.

1 1/2 pounds eggplant, unpeeled, stemmed,
and cut into 1-inch cubes
salt for sprinkling the eggplant plus additional to taste
15 dried New Mexican red chilies (about
3 ounces)
3 cups water
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small red onion, finely minced
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
cilantro, coarsely chopped

1. Place the eggplant cubes in a strainer and sprinkle generously with salt. Let stand for 1 hour and pat dry with paper towels.
2. Simmer the chilies and the 3 cups of water in a large saucepan for 20 minutes. Puree 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.
3. 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.
4. Add tomatoes, ground coriander, cumin, bay leaf, eggplant, and chili purée, and simmer 5 minutes.
5. 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.

Eggplant's not traditional in chili, of course - but it furnishes a fabulous, meaty chew next to the chew of the beans in this deep, dark, delicious chili. Serve in bowls as a vegetarian main course. Serves 4 as a main course.