Thursday, December 1, 2011

Chili Nights

It has been chilly here this week, which means it’s time for some Chili!  I like chili, especially when it is topped with sour cream and served with chips,  grilled cheese or cornbread.  There are many opinions about what makes chili, well... chili.  And some people passionately defend their definition of chili as the way it is meant to be.

There is Texas Chili, which is typically meaty, with chili peppers and spices added.  It is usually thick.  It can be made with ground beef or with beef tips – or even with venison.  

Then there’s the question of beans and the option of tomatoes: to include or not to include?  I think yes on both accounts, but some people disagree. 

And there are varieties of soups in the Chili category like Taco Soup, which includes beans, ground beef, as well as corn and tomatoes.  
And chicken chili OR white chicken chili (which is white because it has chicken and white beans and no tomatoes, so really I guess it’s the presence of chili peppers that even allows it to be called chili.  I'm guessing Texans would call it sacrilege to have chili in its name.)

I like them all!  I really like the flavor and heartiness of chili.  And since I don’t adore meat and don’t love what beef does to my stomach, I really like vegetable chili.  (It is also healthier and less expensive!)

So last winter I decided to try to create a Vegetarian Chili recipe that would be so yummy that meat-lovers wouldn’t even miss the meat.   I recall making Barefoot Contessa’s Chicken Chili from her Parties Cookbook, which calls for an unbelievable 8 cups of onion and 8 cups of peppers in the recipe and and it is delicious!  So I decided to start with gobs of onions and peppers and improvise from there.

Here is what came of it.  

As I was throwing things into the pot, I began scribbling down on a piece of paper the ingredients and measurements that I used, JUST IN CASE it turned out good.  [I recommend you do this, when you are experimenting with recipes, so that you don’t forget what you did, in case it was good enough to repeat it.]

2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups onion, chopped
3 bell peppers, a variety of colors, chopped

2 tsp. cumin
3 tsp. chili powder
4 tsp. salt
a sprinkle of crushed red pepper
if you want more kick sprinkle enough cayenne pepper to your liking

2 cups tomato juice
1 cup apple juice

1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 can Rotel tomatoes with chilies
4 cans of beans (of your choice) I use black,
kidney, and white

Chop peppers and onions.  Drain and rinse beans. Heat olive oil in large pot on stove top.  

Add garlic and onions, cooking until onions are translucent.  
Add peppers and spices.  Stir together and cook for a few minutes. 
Add beans, tomatoes and juices.  Stir together.  

Bring to a boil, then return to a simmer for 30 minutes, 
or until the flavors meld.  
Serve topped with sour cream, cheese, etc. 
(It tastes even better day 2!)

I thought about calling it "Vegetarian Chili", but then it seems a little off-putting for meat eaters, like it's a chili for a specific people-group.  

So then I thought about calling it:
"You Won’t Miss The Meat Chili"
but maybe that is too maybe 

"Where’s the Beef? Chili"
and then I quickly realized this would date me and not make sense to many of you.

[For those of you who were born before 1980 will probably remember the funny Wendy's "Where's the Beef" commercials that were popular in the early 80's. ]

This time-lapse seems to be a trend for me this week. 

Yesterday in my social work class, we watched a video, after which I asked the students if anyone else thought the man in the video sounded like Michael Douglas.  They said, “Who?” I said, you know Michael Douglas! Super star! He's got that amazing, raspy, intense voice.  He's been in a ton of movies: The American President, Fatal Attraction, Traffic, etc."  A couple of students, two I think, said they knew and tried to help the others to remember.  One said, "You know, he's battled cancer." Another said, "He's married to Catherine Zeta-Jones and he was really popular in the 90's."  I realized that all of the films I mentioned were in the 90s and my students were born in the 90s! They were probably not seeing Fatal Attraction at age 4! (I would hope not.) 

 So maybe let's call it: Vegetable Chili

And alongside Chili I recommend fancy grilled cheese sandwiches, or these corn cakes made on the griddle. I like cornbread, especially nice, moist cornbread.  I am not the best at getting cornbread cooked properly and without dryness, so corn cakes are great.  You can’t mess them up. They are fun individual little cakes, and delicious hot off the griddle.  
When I was looking for the recipe the other night to make them, I laughed when I found 3 different handwritten copies of the recipe in various places in my kitchen.  All of them were written while calling my mom on the phone for the recipe.  It’s a winner and can be altered as you’d like.

½ stick butter, melted
2 cups self-rising cornmeal
2 eggs
½ cup onion, finely chopped
1 small can of creamed corn
1 cup  sour cream           

Melt butter, add other ingredients, stir until blended.  Heat a griddle, or skillet on medium high heat.  Lightly grease with butter. 

Pour blobs of batter onto griddle.  When the edges start to come up, and bubbles form on the wet side, flip. 
Serve with softened butter and with a bowl of Chili.

I think I might put on a pot of Chili, make some corn cakes and turn on The American President (since it's in my instant queue) and enjoy a little Annette Bening and Michael Douglas on a cold night this week.

1 comment:

  1. First of all, I was born in 1980 and loved those Wendy's commercials! I think they're trying to bring back that promotion based on a commercial I saw recently.
    Second, your students didn't know who Michael Douglas is? That is shocking to me!
    Third, apple juice in chili? I never would have guessed.