Something that I’ve realized between all the eating and cooking I do, is that there is no one way to prepare anything. What you consider traditional cooking is not always the same for someone else. Whether it’s the guy across the street, or someone across the world, people eat with different cultures and backgrounds. I’m always interested in new variations of foods even if it’s not how I’d typically cook myself.

Chili is one of those dishes with infinite variations. Whether it’s with or without beans, has a certain meat, or reaches a degree of heat ranging from mild to charred esophagus. Everyone has a chili recipe and they’re all different. If I had to pick one, it might be this bulgur chili. Meat and bean free (though beans could easily be incorporated), this is not traditional chili con carne, clearly, because the carne is not here. Yet that doesn’t stop it from being everything a good chili should – filling, flavorful, and comforting. It might even ease you into the cool weather that is finding its way back to Vermont.

Bulgur, finely ground wheat kernels, creates a nice chewy, almost meat-like texture. But no one is trying to pretend there is meat here. And why should they? Bulgur provides a good amount of fiber, some protein, and an array of vitamins and minerals. Combined with late summer tomatoes, peppers, zucchini and corn, some onions and cheese – there’s no sense that this is lacking anything. You can try using other vegetables like squash, carrots or celery and add any kind of cooked beans. As with any other chili, this seems to get better in the next day or two, where I found myself snacking on it with tortilla chips.

Bulgar Chili

Makes: 6-8 servings  Time: about an hour, mostly unattended

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 bell peppers, cored, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons minced garlic
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 hot peppers such as jalapenos (for a relatively mild chili)
3 cups chopped ripe tomatoes
1 small zucchini
3 ears corn sliced off the cob
1 quart vegetable stock
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup fine-medium grain bulgur
chopped cilantro (optional)
grated cheddar cheese (optional)

  1. In a large pot, pour in the oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add in the onions, both kinds of peppers, garlic, and zucchini. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste until mixed in and cook for a minute or two. Add in the tomatoes, stock, chili powder, corn, and salt and pepper, to taste.
  2. Bring to a boil and then lower down to a simmer. Cook, stirring every once in a while, for about 30 minutes – until thickened.
  3. Stir in the bulgur and cook for 10 minutes before turning off the heat and letting sit until the bulgur is tender, another 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. Garnish and serve.