December 13, 2011
Two Bean Chili
All summer I dreamed of making this chili. Well, not this chili exactly or any chili actually. But as I was canning and freezing as many vegetables as I could get my hands on, this was what I was waiting for. Remember all those posts I wrote about preserving food this summer? And how during those hot sweaty evenings, humid from the air outside and the large pot of boiling water on the stove, I would think about how my hard work would pay off during the bleak months of winter?
Well, hello winter. Although I wasn't snowed in and the temperature was actually above freezing on Sunday, I was determined to make a pot of what seemed like an ideal hearty winter meal. It would be even better on a day that was frozen with snow and wind, when leaving the house seems like a terrible idea and staying inside near a bubbling pot of chili is the right place to be. I had nearly all the ingredients in my pantry or freezer. Tomatoes, tomato paste, bell peppers, onions, garlic, and jalapenos were all canned, frozen, or stored from the farm and farmers markets. I usually have dry beans in a jar in the cupboard. The only think I had to buy was the chili powder and since I was at the store, I picked up some cilantro and cheddar cheese for garnishing.
Of course even in a blizzard I probably could make it to the store, which is a block away, but happily my time in the kitchen this summer is providing for us now. In 2011 and I could get by without working for anything but dollars to buy my beans, tomatoes and chili powder. Instead I chose to put in all that time preserving because it is work that is more satisfying to me than swiping my debit card and carrying the groceries home.
When filling jars and our freezer this summer, I didn't anticipate finding a recipe that used so many of the things we already had preserved. I flipped open to this very chili in Cook This Now, Melissa Clark's newest book. I made her cornbread for Thanksgiving and I love reading her beautifully written recipes notes that give a bit more insight into the origins, taste, and place of each one. In describing her three meat chili, Melissa Clark mentions that she tries her best to avoid meat-less chili. I felt bad going against the author's taste, but I adapted her recipe to make a chili with beans instead of meat.
The recipe makes a lot of very hearty chili. I know that you are probably busy planning holiday meals and activities and the thought of a day with nothing to do but cook chili and stay warm inside is far away. Save this one for January (when you can dream of the summer preserving you will do for next year's chili making). Or make a pot of chili now for all of the times in the next few weeks that you won't have time to cook so you can feed your family and friends when they stop in for some holiday cheer.
Two Bean Chili
Adapted from Three Meat Chili in Cook This Now by Melissa Clark
You can use a variety of beans, I just happened to have black and red beans, so I made two bean chili. You can, as always, adjust the spiciness to taste by adding more or less jalapenos and chili powder.
2 cups dried beans (I used black and red, but you could use kidney, pinto or others)
3 teaspoons salt
1 medium green bell pepper
1 medium red bell pepper
1 medium onion
3 garlic cloves
1 to 2 jalapenos
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 quart jars (or 2 28-ounce cans) of whole or crushed tomatoes
2-3 tablespoons chili powder
Cook the beans: place the beans in a dutch oven or other oven-proof pot with a lid. Cover the beans with plenty of water add 1 teaspoon of salt. Put the lid on the pot and place in the oven at 400 degrees for 1 hour. After an hour, check the beans to see if they are completely soft (but not mushy). If they are not fully cooked, add more water if needed and continue cooking until they are soft. OR cook the beans using your preferred method. When the beans are cooked, drain them.
Seed and dice the bell peppers. Finely chop the onion and garlic. Seed and finely chop the jalapenos. Place your soup pot over medium heat. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, until the paste turns golden brown. Add the bell peppers, onion, garlic and jalapenos. Cook for 7-10 minutes until the vegetables are softened. Add the chili powder, stir and cook for about a minute. Pour in the tomatoes, beans and the rest of the salt. Add 1-2 cups of water for your desired thickness. Let the soup simmer for at least 30 minutes.
Serve with a side of brown rice or cornbread and the garnishes of your choice such as chopped fresh cilantro, lime wedges, chopped scallions, sour cream or grated cheddar cheese. Serves 4-6 heartily.