Pop's Peppery Chili
Next to jazz music, there is nothing that lifts the spirit and strengthens the soul more than a good bowl of chili
~ Harry James
On the stove, simmering in a saline broth are fluffy pods of supple-skinned beans bearing pearly starch on the inside, like a patch of fertile brown earth unfolding in a pot. In that patch of earth, one sees a flash of harvest season, Dad’s mulch-smeared hands at work, stripping away dry pods of dark red beans. With a little help from sauteed vegetables cajoled by robust spices, the starchy bean bulk can be magically transformed into a pot of chili. The onions and garlic that leave a trail of gossamer skins and piquant aromas are suggestive of the warmth at the dinner table, with Dad passing bowls and spoons around as the hungry munchkins sing the stir-the-soup song to complement Mom’s actions. The chillies are in a league of their own. From groovy greens to raging reds, not to forget the mellow yellows and coy oranges in between, the shiny hues belie the fieriness within. With their cooked-down textures, and stray seeds that sneak in, trailed by feeble tails of piths, they suffuse the vegetables and the beans with heat and vigor. The veracity of their meaty essence is somehow evocatory of a backyard scene in the summer, where Dad clearly seems footloose, free of that workday stiffness, with his loveable stubbly cheeks and cotton shorts. Whether it’s piles of hamburger buns that are readied for a sloppy joe showdown or Mom’s lineup of rotis and naans skittering off a hot tava, there’s nothing that can come even close to the smiles that reach Dad’s eyes as he digs into his bowl of red. A big bowl of red and all that jazz for Dad this Father’s Day, from Mom and her helpful but noisy nuggets.
Peppery Chili with Pickled onions and Makki-ki-rotis
- Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and add the cumin seeds and dry chilli. Once they sizzle and darken, add the onions, carrots and a big pinch of salt and let the vegetables soften on low heat, about 5 minutes. Grate in the garlic, and after a few stirs add the peppers and zucchini. Cook for about 8-10 minutes, stirring often, and then toss in all the spices and salt. Stir for about a minute and then pour in the tomato purée, beans and liquid. Mash the chili slightly with the back of a ladle. Stir in the chicken if using. Cover and simmer on low heat for 15-20 minutes. Allow the chili to rest for half an hour or so, if possible, for the flavors to mingle. Re-heat and serve in bowls topped with pickled onions, grated paneer and chopped cilantro/coriander leaves with hot, buttered makki-ki-rotis to scoop it all up.
- Heat the vinegar, sugar and salt in a small saucepan until it boils. Add the onion rings and chillies, switch off the heat and allow to cool. The onions will quickly leach their color into the pickling liquid and turn it pink. The onions can be served right away, store leftovers in a covered glass jar in the refrigerator and use over the next 4-5 days.
Makki-ki-rotis (Corn flatbreads)
(Makes 12, each about 4" across)
¾ Cup Makki-ka-atta (corn flour available at Indian markets)
¼ Cup whole-wheat flour
¼ Teaspoon salt
Warm water to knead (about ½ cup)
Mix the flours and salt in a wide bowl and make a well in the middle. Pour in enough water to make a dough. Knead for a while and then break off 1 inch balls, press flat between sheets of plastic or wax paper and cook both sides on a hot cast iron griddle until browned and toasty, adding a few drops of oil/ghee. Butter the rotis liberally while they are hot.
We're linking up Pop's Peppery Chili to
- My Legume Love Affair - #36, an iconic event that is the brainchild of Susan, The Well-Seasoned Cook. This round is hosted by Aqua, from Served with Love