Chilis Are Not Created Equal

Once the morning sun disappears, the afternoon brings an icy biting wind. We need to warm up our internal system to guard against the onslaught of the Midwest weather. It is definitely chili weather in Chicago.

Outside of my mom’s and my own chili and the Heartland Café a couple times, I really haven’t taste-tested chili. I was in a rush to get from point A to B, ran into a veggie restaurant and ordered a chili plate to go – chili, rice, and a vegan corn muffin. I cracked the to-go container open when I got to point B. Hm, when a food item contains (or IS) the word chili, I am expecting some flavor of chili – could be ancho, could be garden variety chili powder, or something with a kick. My friends, this was a pinto bean stew – thick brown non-seasoned sauce with uber-amounts of pinto beans and nothing else. It wasn’t unpalatable but it was not chili. For an obnoxious price ($13.59 to be exact) I received 1 cup of brown rice, 1-ish cups pinto bean stew, and an undercooked more-like-a-dumpling corn muffin. A couple days later, once again in a rush, I grabbed a to-go cup of chili from a restaurant in River North. Hm, again, what should be in a chili? This was a ground beef variety. It contained your garden variety chili spice, a little onion, a few black beans, meat and grease. Not a veggie to be found. A ladle of chili – roughly 6 ounces – cost 10 cents more per ounce than the chili plate. I understand they are downtown and have greater overhead, but their tuna sandwich costs less than 6 ounces of chili. I spent about $10 to make an entire vat of organic veggie chili today and even selling it at 3 times the cost; you would pay $2.50 per cup. And I am throwing in a side of sautéed swiss chard.

I like my chili semi-thick, chunky tomato, some strong chili flavor – smoky or not, onion, garlic, peppers, and a root vegetable. I can take or leave the ground meat.

So here is chili that I made recently. It isn’t exactly what I like since the little store down the street didn’t have any prepared tomato products so I grabbed some real tomatoes, blanched them, removed the skin and core. The flavor will be more chili, less tomato and not as thick.

I cooked ½ cup dry adzuki beans, then tossed them into the slow cooker with 5 small vine tomatoes, 10 diced sun-dried tomatoes, a diced green pepper, potato, carrot, a small to medium diced sweet onion, and 2 large garlic cloves; 1 dried ancho pepper, 1 T chili powder, 1 tsp chili g powder, 1 tsp marjoram, several black peppercorns, a large pinch of salt and poured 3 or more cups of water to fill the cooker. I want a long simmer to marry the flavors and make it a little stewier with the starchy potato. I let it cook overnight and throughout the morning.

It was just ok, but here is one I made a while back

1 medium onion, diced
3 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 garlic cloves
1 cup adzuki beans (cooked)
2 dried ancho pepper
10 sun-dried tomato
1 16 oz can crushed tomato
1 T chili powder or more to taste
1 tsp each fennel, rosemary, and salt
10 black peppercorns
4- 6 cups combination of Vegetable and Tomato broth
(can add some tomato paste if you wish)
1 ¼ lb ground turkey

Simmer onion, carrot, celery, and garlic. Add beans, peppers, both tomatoes and broth. In separate pan brown turkey with spices and add to pot. Simmer until done. (if no turkey used then just toss spices into pot and stir).

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One Response to Chilis Are Not Created Equal

  1. Kari says:

    geez. when you put it that way, i should never eat chili from a restaurant again. seriously, beans are like the cheapest food item one can buy!