Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Chili for Chilly Nights

Sarah and I both love to cook. We especially love cooking for other people.  When we were deciding what to bring as gifts on the trip for our hosts, our rides, and our friends, we picked several things but one was a special blend of Cajun seasonings that I whipped up and put in little baggies. We also thought for a while about what sort of food we could cook for people that would be: 

a)      Easy and quick
b)      Quintessentially American
c)       Have ingredients that are easy to find in almost any market or grocery store
d)      Be scalable from 3 to 15 servings
e)      Easy to make vegan, but still leave omnivores (like me) full (Traditionally it has browned ground beef in it)
f)       Tasty!
g)      Keeps us warm on chilly nights

We decided on chili. We’ve had several requests for the recipe so here is the best approximation we can (as neither of us ever follow a recipe). This is for about 4 people to eat as the entrée.
Sarah and I cooking chili in at a wonderful house outside Novi Sad, Serbia

1 box or two cans tomato sauce
1 can of kidney beans (dark red) (black beans are good as well)
1 teaspoon cumin (5 ml or a small spoon full) (Here is the thing, in Europe caraway is called cumin as well, what you need is the more bitter pungent cumin usually found in Indian, Moroccan and Mexican dishes.  If you can’t find it, leave it out or use a chili con carne spice mix which usually has it, caraway can be used but it will be fairly different)
A heaping of cayenne pepper or other spicy red pepper (depends on how spicy you like it, you can’t make it too spicy for Sarah or me)
1 Tablespoon Paprika (15 ml or just a big spoon full)
1 teaspoon oregano or savory (5 ml or a small spoon full)
1 medium onion (chopped)
Several stalks of celery (celery root can be good too) chopped
Several cloves of garlic, minced (green garlic use more!)
Various sweet and hot peppers (Paprika)

Optional additions: 1 can of sweet yellow corn, 100 grams Texturized vegetable protein (TVP or TSP), other various yummy garden goodies (we added fresh green peas the other night in Serbia)
Good Toppings/Bottomings (ha): sour cream or sour yogurt, chives, shredded cheese, rice or pasta
Instructions: Chop everything and sauté it in oil until soft and maybe a bit brown but before it burns.
Add the seasonings and sauté for a minute or so, add everything else and heat to a boil. Cover and simmer as long as you can stand waiting for it, the longer the better, just keep stirring it to keep it from sticking/burning. Half an hour to an hour is common.
Taste as you go and add more spices if it isn’t hot enough (spicy wise).

We often serve it over rice or pasta to make it go further. You can add toppings if you want (or to cool it back down if you were overzealous with the red pepper (always taste the pepper if you aren’t using your own it varies in spiciness a LOT, just ask our hosts in Slovakia, they could barely eat it)!
Twice so far people have said they know chili from the Simpsons. We like ours as hot as Homer does!

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