Friday, March 25, 2005

A stew to drag out winter by its feet

ChiliI'm definitely growing impatient with winter. Yesterday was windy and bitter in Providence, and we got a fresh coat of slush on the ground. But yet another gray day was a great excuse for chili. Armed with MA-grown rutabagas from the latest Urban Greens order, an orange fresh from a friend just-returned from her family's California grove, and 7 different kinds of beans, I set off to make a hearty, slow-cooked meal. Plus, it didn't hurt that there were stewed tomatoes waiting patiently in my freezer from last fall.

This chili is like a red raincoat, protective against the elements and visually catchy, and its citrus flavor offers the hint of a wonderful spring in the making. The recipe is pretty simple, go-with-the-flow-ish. I made a huge pot, but I've tried to adjust down the portion sizes:
1.5 cups dried beans of as many kinds as you can get your hands on (kidney, garbanzo, adzuki, black, black-eyed, pinto, navy, green lentils) -- go wild, it will look prettier for it
1 decent rutabaga
1 onion
1 orange
1-2 cloves of garlic
1.5 cups stewed tomatoes (with parsley, rosemary, basil)
salt and pepper to taste
1. Soak whatever mix of beans you'd like in 3x the amount of water for a couple of hours or overnight.

2. When you're ready to cook, drain the beans (reduces later flatulence) and add another 2-3x the water. Then set atop the stove so it barely simmers.

3. Add onions, anywhere between diced and sliced depending on your preference.

4. Add minced or thinly sliced garlic.

5. Add rutabagas. I sliced them into thin 1/2"-ish squares and I left the skin on (washed) because it all gets real soft. Also I like a chili full of different textures and chunk sizes.

6. After 30-40 minutes, when the beans are fairly tender, add chunks of orange peel. They'll add a wonderful zesty flavor (it's almost spring after all) and float to the top so they're easy to scoop out after. Et voila you now have an orange to snack on. You can also add a bit of lemon juice (to the chili) to stem any color bleeding.

7. Add frozen tomato stew and mix around while it dethaws. (To make tomato stew, slice fresh tomatoes with fresh parsley, basil, and rosemary and add the same amount of water. Let it all lightly simmer for 5-6 hours, stirring every hour or so until you have a semi-liquidy, mostly-tomato... stew! A great way to make summer last into the colder months!) You probably wouldn't be disqualified for using canned tomatoes and dried spices, but it might be worth waiting 'til tomato season.

8. Let the stew-to-be continue on a low heat (depending on your patience) until it's as thick as you desire. If you're in a rush, you can also add green lentils at almost any point and they'll absorb a bunch of the water.

9. Add salt and pepper to taste. The flavor punch of the chili really comes from the vegetables as they slow-cook. Not particularly spicy, but if that's what you prefer it's just a few jalapenos away!


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