It has been "April Showers" all day long here in Colorado.  I do love the Spring rain and it puts me in the mood for something warm and comforting.  Hence:  Chili and Dumplings! 

When you eat "vegetarian-ish" for as long as I have, you come across about a million different chili recipes.  I, myself, rarely make the same chili twice because it is such a great way to clear out the pantry and the crisper!  Especially when the grocery budget is tight, I love to challenge myself to make dinner with whatever is on hand.  It often makes you combine things you wouldn't normally have thought to put together and it forces you to get creative with a limited number of ingredients. 

So, inspired by the rain and the contents of my pantry and fridge, I give you this chili.  This dish is deliciously warming and full of flavor!  The cabbage gives it lots of texture and crunch, while the beans and dumplings make it homey and filling without being heavy.  Not to mention the beautiful color pallete of bright purple cabbage, green onions, a rosy-red broth and pale, golden-yellow dumplings.  In the words of Ina Garten, "What's not to like?!?" 

Cabbage and Bean Chili with Herbed Cornmeal Dumplings
serves 8-10

1 cup dried black beans, cooked
1 cup dried kidney beans, cooked
2 T olive oil
1 T peanut oil
1 green pepper, diced
1 red onion, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups red cabbage (about 1/2 a small head), sliced and washed
1 28 oz. can diced San Marzano tomatoes
6 cups vegetable stock
1/8 cup maple syrup
1 T cumin
1-3 tsp cayenne, to taste
salt and pepper
Herbed Cornmeal Dumplings, recipe to follow

In a large soup pot or dutch oven over medium heat, add olive oil and peanut oil.  Add pepper, onions and celery and saute until soft, about 7 minutes.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add cabbage and stir well.  Cook until volume of cabbage is reduced by almost half, about 10 minutes.  Add tomatoes and stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and stir in maple syrup, cumin, cayenne and salt and pepper to taste.  Cook, covered, about 15 minutes.

Gently drop the dumplings onto the surface of the chili and cover again.  Cook until dumplings have puffed up and are firm, about 25 more minutes.  Serve.

Herbed Cornmeal Dumplings
makes 14 dumplings
adapted from a recipe posted by Bon Appetit's website in January of 2011:

3/4 cup white flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
1 T sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp coarse salt
3/4 cup almond milk or other milk substitute (or regular milk)
1 1/2 T peanut oil
1 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 T fresh rosemary, finely chopped

In a medium bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Add the wet ingredients and stir to combine.  Add chopped herbs and stir once more to combine.  Allow mixture to sit for at least 1 hour and up to 2 hours.

Wetting your hands periodically with cold water, roll dough into golf ball-sized pieces.  Drop into hot liquid, cover, and cook for 25 to 30 minutes.

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