The first and second chili recipes in my mini-series. Oh, and I yabber on about chili.
I have already shared that one of my very favorite things is chili. I suspect that I am not alone. Now, I don’t get all crazy about chili rules or a specific type of chili, I just love them all. Some of the reasons I love them: dinner in one pot (unless you add a grain, which I often do; then it’s two dishes); veggies are easily sleuthed; it’s filling and homey and comforting; it tastes good; it can be quite healthy; easy to make; and economical (usually). So, since it’s now chili season, I am going to do RealisticChef’s first ever series featuring, what else?, chilies.
Technically, chili is a combination of meat, chili peppers, (garlic, onion,) and cumin, with or without tomatoes. Ground beef is the traditional meat, and cumin is often included with the use of a chili powder (as is, often, the chili peppers). In the 1500s, chili (or chili con carne, meaning chili peppers with meat) first appeared in a cook book from experiences with the Aztecs. The American settlers made a version of chili astronaut food (dried, in bricks), which they would boil up in pots as they traveled. It became the iconic campfire food, easy to prepare on the trail and use up bits of whatever you had lying around, like the morning’s coffee or dried meat. By the end of the 1800s, chili was spreading across the nation, but it remains an important part of Southwestern culture. Indeed, it is the state food of Texas.
Chili has become quite the famous food. There are chili cook-offs, disputes between chili ingredients, chili joints, chili dogs, chili fries, and many, many restaurants–from fast food to posh diners–feature chili on the menu. There’s even vegetarian chili, green chili, and white chili (if you want to go there). Like I said, I like chili just about any which way, as long as it’s made with healthful, natural ingredients. I even use canned chili, sometimes, for Coney Dogs or Chili-Cheese Dip. Rowdy, I know.
I’m not in the least concerned about what ingredients you consider necessary for an authentic or tasty chili. I am, however, concerned about what sorts of ingredients you throw in your chili pot. For one, your chili powder and ground cumin should be top-quality and free of fillers and additives, especially MSG. Your meat, in my opinion, should be conscientiously sourced (if not just for the world, then for health reasons; free range if possible, or small-farmed). Your beans should also be optimum quality, which isn’t too hard to do, and if you buy them conventional you want to give them a real good rinse. Veggies (including tomatoes) are best organic, but if you buy them from the farmer’s market or at a reputable grocer, you will be doing okay. Accompanying grains (pasta, rice, quinoa, cornbread) should be whole grain and either homemade or made somewhere you trust the ingredients.
MILD CHILI SOUP
This first chili is the one I grew up on, basically, and it remains one of my favorites. It can be made with meat or not (which came in really handy those eight years of vegetarianism), because–let’s face it–it’s really more of a chili soup than a traditional chili.
- In a soup pot with 1 tablespoon peanut or safflower oil, saute 1 large, chopped onion and 2 chopped green bell peppers until soft. Optionally, add 1 pound ground beef or turkey and cook, breaking up, until browned.
- Add 1 can kidney beans, 1 can pinto or black beans, 30 oz can diced or whole, chopped tomatoes, 2 tablespoons chili powder, 2 teaspoons garlic powder or granules, 2 teaspoons ground cumin, 2 heaping tablespoons brown sugar, 1 can tomato sauce plus 1 can water, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to boil and reduce heat to simmer.
- Simmer as long as you need to, within reason, and taste for spice and seasoning before serving over cooked, whole grain macaroni with optional grated cheddar or sour cream.
DARK, SWEET AND SPICY CHILI
For this chili, the tomatoes are entirely optional. There are chili enthusiasts who tell me that chili should never have tomatoes. So, there you are. But I love tomatoes in my chili. So, there you are, too. Pick one or the other. Try them both. Pretty standard campfire-in-the-olden-days kind of chili. (Without the tomatoes, you may want to add a veggie or some roughage on the side.)
- In a soup pot with 1 tablespoon peanut or safflower oil, saute 1 chopped onion, 1 peeled, halved and sliced carrot, and 2 cloves minced garlic until soft. Add 1 pound ground beef or bison and brown, breaking up.
- Work in 3 tablespoons chili powder and 1 teaspoon ground cumin. Add 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 oz unsweetened, chopped chocolate, 1 cup 100% natural apple juice, 2 15 oz cans pinto beans, 1-2 seeded and diced jalapenos, 32 oz crushed tomatoes (optional), and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to boil and reduce heat to simmer.
- Simmer as long as you need to, within reason, and taste for spice and seasoning before serving with raw pumpkin seeds and some hearty, sweet rolls.
*To continue with the Chili Series, click here.