Sunday, July 4, 2010

Heat It Up, but Don’t Lose Your Cool: Summer Chili

In my family’s house, summer chili usually refers to putting on the air conditioning. Alright, that was a groaner. But you learn to love it – chili in the summer I mean. Chili might have a reputation to show up on your table during bone-chillingly cold winter nights, where you need food to stick to your sides and keep you warm. Yet, with such a variety of ways to make chili why confine it to one season? Can’t one still enjoy the standard culmination of tomatoes, beans, beef and chili powder in the summer? I say, yes.
Tonight’s chili featured a special guest, orzo. And not just any orzo, but Parpardelle’s Southwestern Orzo, which incorporated Indian maize, black bean and chili flavors in the orzo.
Once I finally brought it to the table, I was salivating like a hungry dog waiting for a juicy bone. I’ve watched and stirred it over a smoldering burner for hours. Now that it’s in front of me, it’s like majesty in a bowl: bottom layer lined with orzo, on top is a mountain of chunky chili, followed by finely shredded cheddar cheese and sprinkled with cilantro. My spoon is buzzing in my hand, like a spaceship ready for takeoff. It crashes in the chili, but returns to home base with an amazing crew. Chili powder and cumin are the first to land on my taste buds, making way for the burst of juicy tomato. Then I am greeted by the heartier, filler characters: beans, beef and orzo. My mouth is happily getting to know everyone, when a warm undertone slips in: cayenne pepper. The heat it delivers is slight, not the kind to set your mouth on fire, but enough to rosy your cheeks. Now that’s a complete guest list.
Whether it’s your Fourth of July party, or just a neighborhood get-together, don’t cross chili off the list of possibilities.
Beef and Bean Chili with Orzo
3 cans [28 oz] whole, peeled tomatoes, diced
1 lb ground beef
1 large onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
½ green pepper, diced
About ¼ cup chili powder
About 1 tsp cumin
About 1 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
1 can [15 oz] kidney beans
1 can [15 oz] plain baked beans

1. Dice tomatoes, cutting out pits and skins. Put into large pot over medium low heat.
2. Brown hamburger in skillet over medium high heat.
3. Drain off grease/fat into glass container. Place meat on newspaper and paper towels to soak up any remaining grease/fat.
4. Dice onions and peppers, mince garlic. Cook in same skillet over medium high heat until onions have turned translucent.
5. Add meat back in. Season with chili powder, cumin, cayenne, salt and pepper. [Make sure you taste!]
6. Add meat mixture into pot of tomatoes, along with the two cans of beans.
7. Cook for about 3 hours, or until thickened, over low to medium low heat, stirring at least every 30 minutes.
8. Chili should turn out thickened and chunky.
9. Can be stored overnight in fridge. Once served you can add anything from cheddar cheese, cilantro, saltine crackers, sour cream, orzo, spaghetti, or rice to it – it’s all delicious in its own unique way.

1 comment:

  1. This meal was amazing! It was beautiful in presentation - the multi-color orzo was so unusual and was a great complement to the chili texture. When I sprinkled on the cilantro that was so refreshing (as I'm not one to like spicy) so the rest of the family could enjoy hot and I got to enjoy cool too.
    As always - Rachel's dinners are something I relish every day and when I'm out of town I truly know I missing something extraordinary.