“Little Toasts ” Make Big Splash in Black Bean Chili

My mom would have called it garlic toast. She would often slice up a loaf of Italian bread, brush it with butter and sprinkle each slice with garlic salt and a little paprika before she baked them to crispness. Most times we’d gobble that toast down between mouthfuls of spaghetti with marinara (I’m pretty sure we called it spaghetti sauce).

But me? I make "crostini." Sliced rounds of French baguette. Butter? No, no, no. It’s olive oil for those who want a healthy heart. Garlic salt? Never. Only fresh, chubby cloves of garlic, minced so fine. I do sneak in a little paprika, too. Yes, that’s my crostini.

Crostini is an Italian word that means "little toasts." They can be eaten with anything you’d eat with crackers. Crumbled over a salad of fresh greens, Garlic Crostini become croutons. Try dippping them into cheese fondue — divine. Float them in a bowl of homemade tomato soup — they really make a splash.

I pulled some Black Bean Chili out of the freezer the other day to heat up for a quick meal. I happened to have some Garlic Crostini in a container on the counter. I’d made it to serve with Artichoke-Green Chile Slather and had just a few slices remaining. With a can of green chiles and few other ingredients, I mixed up a topping for the Garlic Crostini. The little Italian toasts would have looked like a fish out of water sitting on top of a bowl of chili, but with a shot of New Mexico green chiles, they seemed quite comfortable.

I’m sharing my recipe for Black Bean Chili along with the recipes for Garlic Crostini and Green Chile Topping.

The pick-me-up in the chili is the espresso powder that’s added to the pot. You’ll think it’s lots of onions and garlic. It is. And that’s what adds the kind of flavor I appreciate in chili. It’s a thick, meatless, tummy-warming concoction. Topped with Garlic Crostini with Green Chile Topping —  well, it’s just as pretty as a picture. Pretty adaptable, those "little toasts."

Pick-Me-Up Black Bean Chili

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 5 medium-sized yellow onions, chopped
  • 6 large garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ cup instant espresso powder
  • ¼ cup chili powder
  • ¼ cup ground cumin
  • ¼ cup dried oregano leaves
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes with added puree
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 4 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black eyed peas, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon chipotle chili powder or chili powder

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until tender, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and saute for another minute or two. Remove from heat and mix in espresso powder, ¼ cup chili powder, cumin, and oregano. Return to heat and cook 1 minute. Mix in tomatoes and honey. Bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low heat, cover, and simmer 30 minutes. Add beans, 2 cups water, salt and chipotle chili powder. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer uncovered until mixture thickens slightly, stirring often, about 30 minutes. Season with salt. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Refrigerate uncovered until cold, then cover and refrigerate. Rewarm before serving.) Serves 8.

Garlic Crostini with Green Chile Topping


  • 1 baguette
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon Hungarian paprika

Cut the baguette into ¼-inch round slices. Whisk the olive oil, garlic, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper in a bowl. Brush each side of the bread rounds with the olive oil mixture. Arrange bread rounds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 13 to 15 minutes, turning bread rounds over after 10 minutes through the baking time. When crostini is crisp and golden brown, remove from oven. Cool on a wire rack. These can be made up to 3 days in advance. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

I make extra of the olive oil mixture. I love dipping chunks of whole wheat French bread into the garlicky oil for a mid-afternoon snack. Have breath mints close by.

Green Chile Topping:

  • 1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chiles, drained
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
  • 1 chubby clove garlic, minced
  • Pinch of salt or to taste
  • Diced tomato, for garnish (This time of year I use Glen Muir Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes)
  • Cilantro leaves, for garnish

Mash half of avocado in a bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours before eating. Just before serving, chop the remaining half of avocado and gently stir into the topping. Place a heaping teaspoon of Green Chile Topping on each of 8 slices of Garlic Crostini. Garnish with tomato and cilantro. Nestle one slice on each serving of Black Bean Chile. Offer extra Garlic Crostini and Green Chile Topping at the table.