Saturday, January 27, 2007


Though I never disguise my feelings about winter, my recent lingering cold/flu hybrid (newest development: lost voice!) has lately sharpened my denunciations of this terrible season. What is there to like? Winter is life without its best parts: get up, go to work, pay your credit card bills, clean the catbox, etc., without consolations like sunshine, fresh berries, spending the morning at the greenmarket, riding bikes, walking around the city, picnics in the park, etc. Instead, I've been huddling under my light-therapy lamp, drinking ginger tea and eating the same veggies every day (all from the grocery, none local: spinach, green beans, carrots), totally uninspired and demoralized.

However, I will grant winter one (and only one) advantage over other seasons: winter is the best time of year to make chili, and chili is one of the very best foods. Though its spiciness might make it seem appropriate for warmer seasons, it's far too hearty and cooked too slowly to fit anytime better than a winter's evening when conditions make leaving the house impossible; the three or so hours of cook time a pot of chili wants are best passed with a cozy occupation such as reading curled up on the sofa, enjoying the lovely smells as they overtake the house.

One such pot of chili is bubbling away on my stove at this moment; I'm debating whether to add some diced zucchini for the last few minutes of cooking, to add vegetable value...but regardless, here's the recipe. As chili is always different depending on what peppers and beans are available/everyone's favorites, I'm providing the recipe I used this time around, which is turning out quite well, and is on the spicy side.

Three-bean winter chili (makes about 8 servings)
3 poblano peppers
2 anaheim peppers
4 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3-4 jalapeno peppers, diced finely
6 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. oregano (dried)
2 (28-oz.) cans diced tomatoes, drained, with liquid reserved
2 (15.5-oz) cans black beans, drained
2 (15.5-oz) cans red kidney beans, drained
2 (15.5-oz) cans pinto beans, drained

Roast poblano and anaheim peppers under the broiler (or over a gas flame); remove skins and dice when cool (this can be done far ahead of time; cooled, peeled peppers can be refrigerated for up to two days or so). Add olive oil to a big, heavy pot over medium-low heat (an enameled cast-iron Dutch oven is ideal); when hot, add onions and cook, stirring, until almost softened, about 10 minutes. Add jalapenos, and continue cooking, stirring, until onions are soft and peppers are beginning to soften, about 5 more minutes. Add garlic, cumin, and oregano, stir well, and cook until aromatic, about a minute. Add tomatoes roasted diced peppers, and beans, and stir until well-combined. Cover pan and let simmer, stirring every ten minutes or so, for about an hour (the longer, the better!), adding liquid from tomatoes if chili becomes too dry (this isn't very likely). Taste chili and adjust seasonings if needed; every time you adjust seasonings, stir chili and let it simmer, covered, for ten minutes. At this point, the chili will be very liquid; remove cover halfway and cook, uncovered, until chili has reached desired thickness, about another hour.

Serve in bowls with a dollop of sour cream, crumbled cheddar cheese, and/or cornbread. Leftovers should be frozen; they'll taste even better when you heat them up.

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