Seasonal Flavors: Chili Without Borders


By Denise Zito

Perhaps the best thing about having children in your life is all the things you learn, no matter whether they are your own DNA, or those of friends, or your kids’ friends. I have managed to acquire a vast network of children and their associates and it has made me rich in experiences and affection.

I like to imagine that I taught my parents a thing or two. I remember showing them how one could make a dinner without meat. They didn’t quite buy it. (We always had pasta with clam sauce on Fridays during Lent, but somehow they didn’t think that counted.) I made pan-fried oysters for my dad the week before he died; he had never had that.

I’ve already shared a recipe from my daughter Suzanne, and this month I’m sharing one from Christine. It’s chili with a twist. What a revelation to combine sweet potatoes with black beans!  With the added chipotle it’s kind of part Mexican, and with the sweet potatoes it’s part African. It’s kind of a recipe without borders!

The first time I made this I was informed “yours isn’t as good as Christine’s.” Now isn’t that what we all love to hear? It was because she first roasts the sweet potatoes. But I think the recipe works either way.

Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili

  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups dried black beans
  • Water to cover
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with juice
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes (if you have time, please roast them first, but if not, just throw them in as instructed below)
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp chipotle pepper powder
  • 1 tsp cumin

Sauté the onion and garlic until transparent, add the beans and cover with water, bring to a boil, turn to simmer, and then go start your laundry. Check the beans periodically and keep them covered with water. In about two hours they should be cooked. Add the tomatoes and the spices. Peel the potatoes and cut into 1-inch chunks. Add the potatoes, stir and add water to cover if necessary. It will be ready to serve when the potatoes are cooked—about 45 minutes.

Alternative Bean Cooking Options:

1. Put the beans in a crock pot with lots of water the night before you want to make this soup. When you get up in the morning, the beans will be ready and you can throw this soup together on a weeknight evening.

2. Make the dish in your pressure cooker and put everything in at the same time and pressure cook for 30 minutes. Rapido!

3. Use canned beans. Come on—this is not the best for your budget, but if you must…


  1. Dear Mrs Denise,

    Thank you for sharing your favorite recipes with our beloved community, it means the world to me.
    In fact, as one of your fans, I am always looking forward to ripping open the Gazette, to read what inspiring recipe you have shared.
    This time though, I was stopped short, when I read: “Yours isn’t as good as Christine’s.” And your reaction:”Now, isn’t that what we all we love to hear?”
    I was refelecting on that person and your conversation. I am sure that person only said this, because of the fact that you were about to publish the recipe. This person thought maybe you could tweek it a little, and thought to help you….. Too bad you took that personally.
    Most likely, this person will for ever shut her/his mouth on this sensitive subject though.
    Thank you again for enriching our cullinary lifes.

    Yours truly, your cullinary admirer,

    Marjo van Dijck

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