I did not grow up eating chili.
Well, technically, that’s not really true. I did eat chili, but it came out of the infamous red and yellow can and it was only eaten for lunch, usually on a day home from school. Stuff like that (I’m looking at you, Dinty Moore Beef Stew) wasn’t considered “real food” when I was growing up so it was eaten on the down-low, usually when my family wasn’t around.
I gradually moved away from the red and yellow can and I started making chili. Armed with a recipe from “The Good Housekeeping Cookbook” (the 1952 edition or something like that), I made a pot of…something with ground beef, onions, a green pepper, chili powder, canned tomatoes and kidney beans.
No, this was not chili. This wasn’t even close, but I used the recipe as a blueprint and over the years I started adding more chili-ish things to it (fresh jalapenos!) and it was good. It still wasn’t what pure chili-heads call authentic “red”, but with a scoop of sour cream, some grated Cheddar and a handful of Fritos on the side, it was just fine.
When I became a vegetarian some 15-odd years ago, one of the first things I wanted to make was a pot of chili, so I pulled out my cookbooks and realized that pretty much anything was fair game in Chili World. Whoa! There were recipes for chili with TVP (texturized vegetable protein), bulgur wheat, frozen shredded tofu, edamame, custom chili powder blends from artisanal Californian dried chilies, Dos Equis, organic heirloom dried beans, cocoa.
And while they all sounded great, all I really wanted was a bowl of something with onions, green peppers, chili powder, canned tomatoes and kidney beans. With sour cream and cheddar and Fritos, natch.
No cilantro, though. Cilantro is evil.
Anyway, I came across a great recipe for chili in “New Classics” and I’ve been making it for years. This isn’t a “hot” chili since I don’t care for food that’s hot just for the sake of it being hot. Sparky and spicy yes; hot, no. Feel free to make this as screamingly torrid as you see fit.
The chili purists will scream that I still don’t make chili. I don’t really care; this one makes me happy.
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 Spanish onion (or large yellow onion), chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
- 1 Tbsp. ground cumin
- 1 Tbsp. ground coriander
- 1 Tbsp. good chili powder
- 1 tsp. oregano
- 2 medium summer squash (zukes, gold bar zukes, summer crookneck), diced
- 1 hot pepper, stemmed, seeded and chopped (wear gloves if you’re really sensitive), optional
- 1 large pepper (red, green…orange or yellow look really snazzy), stemmed, seeded and chopped
- 1 28-oz can tomatoes in juice, not puree (diced, chopped plums or crushed…your call)
- 2 15-oz cans beans with liquid (I like pinto and black…your call)
- 1 cup of frozen corn kernels
- 1 6 oz. can tomato paste
- minced fresh parsley and cilantro (if you must)
- salsa and/or Tabasco to taste
- Heat the oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven.
- Add the onions and saute on medium-high heat until golden. Add the garlic and give it a good stir.
- Add the spices and oregano, stir.
- Mix in the diced squash and the peppers. Cover the pot and cook on low for a couple of minutes.
- Remove the lid and add the tomatoes, beans, corn and tomato paste. Give it a good stir, cover and let it simmer for about half an hour or so. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn.
- Add the parsley, salsa, Tabasco and salt. Taste for seasonings and adjust.