The three of you who were reading my blog last year at this time may recall that I am not a fan of winter. “What?” the rest of you ask, “and you from Montreal?”
Well, I’m here to tell you that being born in a certain place doesn’t automatically predispose one kindly toward the weather of said location (nor does it predispose one to winter sports; in other words, no, that’s not a tatoo on my rear, but a lingering bruise from a skating accident back in 1981). To me, the ideal climate would be temperate, neither too hot nor too cool (I’m thinking between 68 and 80 Fahrenheit, or 20 and 22 Celsius), with sun about 95% of the time (just enough rain to ensure there’s no drought) and terrain surrounded by lush, grassy, fragrant forests with treetops that sway and quietly rustle in the breeze, like Hawaiians doing the hula. Oh, and no bugs. And no snakes. Or spiders. And, what the heck, may as well throw in a yellow brick road, while you’re at it.*
But here we are, too far into November to deny the imminent crystalline entombment, and I must face the fact: it will be winter soon. And what is there to do? Generally, when I’m feeling down, my options fall into two categories: 1) food-related; and 2) dog-related. As I write this, The Girls are sleeping off their early walk with the HH; and so, it seems, the next step is alimentary, my dear.
While baking is always my first instinct in the kitchen, I do enjoy cooking as well. These days, it’s rare for me to spend any more time than necessary making dinner (read: 20 minutes, tops), but yesterday, I felt the need for the extended, meditative experience of slow cooking. In the morning, I loaded the dutch oven with dried beans and water; and by 7:00 PM, we were feasting on my age-old, many-times-refined, much-tweaked recipe for chili with mixed beans and “ground turkey.”
[Seems I still haven't quite mastered the focus on my dandy new camera, but you can still make out the meaty-looking crumbles in there, can't you?]
When I was a kid, I used to think chili acquired its name because it was meant to be eaten in cold weather. While it’s true that this soup-cum-stew is best served in cool weather, it wasn’t until I began to read up on Indian cuisine that I discovered the name actually referred to a spice blend often used in the mix. Trusty Wikipedia tells me that Chili con Carne is the official dish of Texas; and that particular bowlful, it turns out, is the version made without beans. Most of us, I’d wager, still think of beans when we think of chili, however.
I also think of chili as the chameleon of stews: years ago, a friend who’d just returned to Canada from three years in Mexico served me mole, another form of chili; the notion of sharp spices with just an undertone of bitterness seemed immensely appealing (don’t be alarmed at the coffee and chocolate in this version!). And a recipe once given to me by a former student from India featured simmered, pulled beef and a variety of curry spices with lentils.
I first cooked chili when I was an impoverished graduate student living in Windsor, Ontario. The recipe developed over the years, and what was once a fairly basic vegetarian chili has morphed over the years into my own version of the dish. I include frozen tofu that’s been defrosted and crumbled to resemble ground meat (in fact, the first time I made this for the HH, he assumed the tofu was ground chicken. Perfect for skeptics!). The HH and I also both agree that chili should be more of a stew than a soup, so I simmer mine until almost all the liquid is absorbed and the beans are suspended in a kind of spicy tomato sauce. If you prefer yours thinner, simply cook a bit less or add a bit more water.
Eventually, my own additions became so numerous that even my enormous dutch oven was barely adequate to hold the stew, and I had to stop adding ingredients. As a result, this makes a huge batch, and enough to freeze in single-serve containers that will sustain you through the winter. While you slurp it up, just imagine that you’re somewhere warm, and green.
Oh, and with all these legumes in here, I thought this would be the perfect submission to My Legume Love Affair, the monthly event started by Susan at The Well Seasoned Cook and this month hosted by Simona at Briciole.
Chili to Last Through the Winter
This chili provides a thick, spicy, filling and very substantial meal. Don’t let the long ingredient list deter you—this recipe makes a big batch that you can freeze for later, and it’s definitely worth the effort!
2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small jalapeno pepper, minced (remove seeds for less heat)
1 green pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1 large carrot, diced into small cubes
1 block firm tofu (about 12 ounces or 350 g.), frozen at least 24 hours, defrosted in boiling water, squeezed dry and crumbled
1-1/2 cups (375 ml.) dried beans, soaked overnight and cooked (try a combination of kidney, black, pinto, romano, chick peas, yellow peas, lima beans, great northern beans, navy beans, or other beans of your choice)
2 large cans diced tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
1 Tbsp (15 ml.). chili powder
1 tsp. (5 ml.) dried coriander
1 (5 ml.) tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. (5 ml.) dried basil
1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml.)dried cumin
1/4 tsp. (1 ml.) cayenne
1/2 tsp. hot pepper sauce (such as Tabasco or Red Hot)—omit for less heat
1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) instant coffee or coffee substitute
1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup (120 ml.) corn kernels (use drained, canned, or frozen)
Heat oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and jalapeno, and sauté until onion is soft. Add peppers, celery, and carrot, and sauté about 5 minutes, until vegetables begin to soften.
Add remaining ingredients except corn. Stir well and allow to simmer for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. (This chili is best if left to simmer over very low heat for about an hour). Add corn and heat through.
Serve in soup bowls with hearty bread. Makes 8 servings. May be frozen.
*That’s right, mate, it’s no coincidence that my dreamscape is pronounced “OZ.” (Well, except for the spiders and snakes. Darn.)