Pumpkin and Black Bean Chili

Pasta is my default entree, my go-to for dinner. I can tear into a baked ziti, a mac-n-cheese or a lasagna like nobody's business. But I'm starting to see that I have a culinary weakness--  I don't have a large non-pasta, main-dish repertoire. And I need to branch out. Indian and Ethiopian cuisine are two great ethnic choices to draw from. But at the end of the day I'd rather do take-out because the Indian restaurants in our neighborhood are actually quite good. And as far as Ethiopian food goes, I mean who can really compete with Meskerem, which is only a few stops away on the B train. For a few bucks and a subway ride, I've got 8 delicious Ethiopian mezes...all without even messing up a pot. But I've come to the point in my life where I have to start making great mains that aren't Italian pastas. This is me taking a stab at it. And the verdict? Well let's just say, mission accomplished. 
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Pumpkin and Black Bean Chili is seasonal, flavorful, spicy, easy to make, packed with protein and it will warm you up on a cold night.  This was my first attempt at making chili at home and it was a total success. 
Getting the 'pumpkin meat' out of the shell was a fun little exercise that had me heating the pumpkin in a 450 degree oven for a few minutes, then wrapping it in a towel and smashing it on the ground until the shell completely opened.  What a great way to get out stress or extra energy! When I googled "how can I cut through a pumpkin shell/skin" I kept on getting advice that required me to use a microwave. Well, I don't have one.  So after calling a friend and using my smarts, I got to the pumpkin meat by the method described above. It was pretty easy. I also used a habanero sauce I got in Belize, which infused the chili with more great heat.  
Pumpkin and Black Bean Chili 
Adapted from Good Food, Good Wine and a Bad Girl
by way of Saveur Magazine, January 2010
1 small pie pumpkin
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (28 oz) plum tomatoes.  (The original recipe calls for chopped tomatoes, but I ran mine through the blender really quickly because I am not a fan of super chunky tomatoes.) 
2 cans (15 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 bottle (300 ml) stout (such as Guinness or Dragon) OR (this is my adaptation) 200 ml of Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout.  It wasn't sure it would work, but it was a really nice pick and/or gamble. 
2 tbsp brown sugar or maple syrup
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp each cinnamon and oregano
1 individual chipotle pepper, finely minced 
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped 
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 pinch of Ancho Chili Powder (I added this and it gave the chili some nice, smooth heat.)
I added a few drops of Marie Sharp's Habanero Pepper Sauce. Pop!
For garnish: a tablespoon of chopped scallion, a dollop of sour cream, and a bit of good cheddar cheese. (All optional, but really the way to go.)
Using a sharp paring knife, cut the pumpkin into 1/2" cubes.
Pour the olive oil into a large heavy-bottomed pot set over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and squash, and continue cooking for another 5 minutes, or until onion is golden. Stir in tomatoes, beans, beer, brown sugar, spices and chipotle peppers.
Bring the chili to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 25 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender. Stir in red pepper and corn, and continue simmering for another 5-10 minutes or until corn is bright yellow and peppers are soft.
Optional: Add a pinch of Ancho Chili Powder and/or Habanero Pepper Sauce.  Adjust heat and seasonings to your liking.
Serve piping hot with your favorite chili toppings.