Chili can be enjoyed lots of different ways, but one of the oldest American versions is Chile con Carne, which means chili peppers with meat. Most current recipes for this dish include beans, tomato sauce, chili peppers or chili powder, and ground beef or cubes or strips of chuck. Back on the American frontier, settlers made a chili dish out of dried beef, dried chili peppers, a little suet, and salt. The ingredients were mashed together and made into dried bricks that could be stored and used throughout the winter. Yum, right? Or not!
Since I love chili, and I’m always playing around with different versions of it I was glad to learn that my hometown played a significant role in chili’s current culinary prominence. The 1893 Columbian Exposition hosted in Chicago featured a food stand serving San Antonio Chili. This style of the dish contained beans and was tasted by exposition visitors from around the globe.
Today loads of varieties of chili exist, and everyone seems to have their favorite. I make several types, depending upon whom I’m serving. Sometimes I use ground turkey to reduce calories, or leave out the meat altogether, as I did in my Sweet 'N Spicy Chili recipe from Easy Weekly Meals For Moms on The Go, featured below. I keep the fat content low in that version. But Coney Island Chili Dogs or Chili Cheese Fries may call to those who like to throw caloric caution to the winds.
Lately I’ve been playing around with a chili recipe that uses roasted red bell pepper meat in place of tomato sauce. The resulting purée imparts a slight sweetness to the chili that doesn’t cloy. Other fun ingredients to try in chili are onions, garlic, and mole sauce. When you’re in a hurry you can get mole’s slightly chocolaty flavor with a little unsweetened cocoa powder. And since chili freezes well it’s a great dish to make in large quantities for reheating and recycling during busy weeks, or freezing to use in subsequent ones. Frozen portions can be kept to one-dish size and pay homage to the old chili bricks used on the American frontier.
The nuts in this sweet and spicy dish provide protein and rich flavor, but you can add meat if you like. See the substitution note at the recipe bottom.
Sweet 'N Spicy Chili
· 1.5 Tbls extra virgin Olive Oil
· 1 C shelled, blanched Pistachios, coarsely chopped*
· 1/2 C blanched, raw Cashews
· 1 small Sweet Onion, chopped
· 2 Red Bell Peppers, cored, seeded, and chopped
· 1 Yellow Bell Pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
· 1 C Yellow Raisins
· 2 cloves Garlic, minced
· 3 C Tomato Puree
· 2 Tbls Chili Powder
· 2 Tbls Honey
· 1 tsp Red Pepper Powder
· 1 tsp Ground Cumin
· 1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
· 1/2 tsp Ground Nutmeg
· 2 Tbls fresh Lemon Juice
· 2 C Water
· Salt and Pepper to taste
· Heat olive oil in Dutch oven over medium heat.
· Sauté onion, bell peppers, pistachios, and cashews about 5 minutes, until vegetables soften.
· Add raisins and garlic and sauté 2 minutes more.
· Blend in tomato puree and stir to coat well.
· Stir in honey and spices and blend thoroughly.
· Stir in lemon juice and allow mixture to bubble on stovetop. Then reduce heat.
· Simmer for 1 hour, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.
· Add water after chili cooks 1 hour, and cook 1 hour longer.
· Serve hot with brown rice or tortilla chips.
Substitution: Carnivores can add 1 lb browned Ground Beef or Ground Turkey with the nuts, and double the tomato puree.
*If you must blanch nuts yourself to remove their skins retain the water, strain it, and use it when the recipe calls for adding water. This will add flavor to your chili.
What’s your favorite chili dish? Be sure to enjoy it this week and share your recipes with our readers. However you eat your chili, have a happy and satisfying National Chili Week!
Photo Courtesy of Easy Weekly Meals