Sunday, July 31, 2005

What I cook on my day off

How to make summer chili

It's just like winter chili, but everything's fresh.

Get the best vine-ripened tomatoes you can find. If you have a farmer's market nearby, so much the better. Avoid the stall run by the woman with the flower-print dress and big sunglasses, whose tomatoes are all packed head-down in little plastic baskets. Those will be cracked and still green. Go for the fat old guy in overalls with various-sized tomatoes laid out casually on a folding table.

While you're there, pick out an onion. Yellow or white or red doesn't matter.

And some beans. If you can find black beans, fresh, still in their pods, get those. And a couple of ears of corn.

Maybe a pepper or two, if you're feeling adventurous.

Be sure to talk to all of the people selling patty-pan squash, even if it has no place in your chili. Complement them on their produce. Good cooking kharma will follow.

Snag a pint of blackberries or raspberries to snack on while you cook.

When you get home, dig through the freezer for the vegetable or chicken broth you put up last month (or was it the month before?) . Dice the onions, shell the beans, chop the tomatoes. Cut the corn off the ears. Don latex gloves and chop the pepper, leaving as many seeds as you dare.

Throw it all into a huge pot. Add a little cumin; maybe a little extra chili powder too.


Now, then. The important part of this entire process is the music you use to cook by. I recommend Alison Krauss, Emmylou, Cathie Ryan, The Chieftans, early Indigo Girls, and Joni Mitchell. You want women's voices for this--high ones, sweet ones, gravelly ones, all kinds. The Chieftans are in there to bring out the heat of the peppers and to keep you from adding too much salt. Singing along is mandatory.

Midway through the simmering process, which should take at least an hour but can stretch as long as you like, go outside. Making summer chili is the perfect time to talk to the rosy finches who land on your porch railing to tease your cat. They won't fly away when you open the porch door; instead, they'll cock their heads at you, shift their feet, and trill cooking tips.

Winter chili is best made when the wind is awful and the sky is gray. That way, when the smell of the beans takes over the entire house, you can bundle up, go outside, and take counsel with the crows. Summer chili is best made when everything is so ripe it's about to pop.

Turn the heat off under the chili. Whip up some hot-water cornbread right quick and find that hunk of fresh cheese you got from the friend with the goats last week. Have a bowl of chili, sprinkled with mild goat cheese and crumbled cornbread. Sweat.


The Village Idiot said...

I'm offended at your sexism with regard to choosing a tomato grower. Otherwise, you've done a decent job here, (except that my chili is the world's greatest).

Judy said...

It sounds yummy. I was with you right up to the "don latex gloves" part. I might die (literally) if I did that. You sure you want to eat that stuff? It's bad enough to get exposed at work.

Jo said...

VI, what's your chili recipe? And the avoidance of the woman isn't necessarily sexism; she just has bad tomatoes.

(I'm sure that's a straight line for *something*.)

Judy, how 'bout we just agree to don gloves? Death might be preferable to the feeling you get after removing contact lenses with hands that have chopped peppers, though...that oil just does *not* wear off.

Remind me to tell you of the time a (male) acquaintance of mine took a bathroom break after eating habanero hot sauce on chips and didn't wash his hands first.

shrimplate said...

Sometimes the simplest recipes are just the best.

Judy said...

I think you're right about the contact lenses. Gloves for sure, even though I don't wear contacts any more!