Harissa and Harissa Table Sauce

December 7th, 2009 / comments 3

If you are lucky enough to live in  city where with a Middle Eastern Market you can buy a tube of harissa paste.

ZPV Chili 02 c egbert Harissa and Harissa Table SauceIf not or if you prefer to make it your own, here’s how I did do it: … read more

Chili for a Crowd

October 7th, 2009 / Comments 0

Autumn. The air is brisk. The leaves have changed from green to a rainbow of warm reds and oranges

Oak leaf c egbert Chili for a Crowd

and the surprising smell of cumin floats across the village green. Yes, cumin, for autumn is the season when town greens are transformed into arenas for annual chili cook-offs.

I never thought of cooking as a competitive sport, but I do enjoy a good bowl of chili, so I ignored the rain and went to the 20th Annual Chili Cook-Off on the green in Woodstock, Vermont.

For five dollars I received a scorecard, a small cup and a plastic spoon. I set out to sample eleven different bowls of chili and then cast votes for my two favorites. With rain bucketing down, this was not an easy task. Huddled under canopies, my fellow judges and I tasted, discussed and rated the offerings. It was impossible to make notes on the sodden ballots.

The spices overwhelmed my tastes buds. A cook-off neophyte, I had reached my limit after sampling the eighth cup of chili. Determined to do my part, I pushed through my culinary confusion and voted. My stomach was filled with chili and my head filled with a hodgepodge of chili facts.

cowboy boot 01 c egbert Chili for a Crowd

Was the first pot of chili created in a chuck wagon on a cattle drive somewhere west of Laramie, Texas, in the 1800’s or four centuries earlier in an undisclosed location in Mexico where legend has it enraged Aztecs seasoned Spanish conquistadors with chili peppers and served them for dinner?

Although the history is a mystery, certain facts cannot be disputed. The Incas, Aztecs, and Mayan Indians ate stews of meat, beans, peppers, and herbs, long before Columbus and the conquistadors came calling. Nearly five centuries later, in 1967, the first documented chili cook-off was held in the remote Texas ghost town of Terlingua.

There are three basic types of chili – chili con carne, chili with beans, and vegetarian chili – but there are endless variations. The carne part may be beef, pork, chicken, turkey, buffalo, venison, moose, bear, rabbit, etc.

Chili 01avatar Chili for a Crowd

The list of vegetables is limited only by one’s imagination. Beans may be black, purple, red, pink or white. Chili toppers include corn chips, sour cream, guacamole, grated cheese, chopped onions, and fresh chili peppers.

The chili cook-off reminded me of a non-competitive chili dinner I served to a group of friends after a play reading last spring. A vegetarian in the group was pleased to hear that that the ‘meat’ in the chili was bulgur wheat. Here’s how I made it: … read more

Chili Pepper

May 25th, 2009 / comments 3

Cayenne pepper, chili pepper flakes, fresh jalapeno, canned chili in sambal, and assorted whole dried chilies are always in my pantry.

Chili+01jpg Chili Pepper

A Pantry Basic
I use cayenne pepper in everything from creamed spinach to chocolate sauce for ice cream. The handle of a teaspoon or the tip of a butter knife are what I use to measure out the tiny quantity necessary to give a boost without a burn. Aztecs combined chili and chocolate in hot chocolate. I wonder if it was called Hot, Hot Chocolate.

I add a pinch of chili pepper flakes to olive oil, garlic and onion at the start of a marinara sauce. Poblano chili in adobo sauce combined with sour cream is a great sauce for grilled chicken.Jalapeno peppers are usually the only fresh at my market. I find the habanero and Scotch bonnet peppers too hot for my palette.

Sambal, an Indonesian condiment I first tasted when we lived in Singapore, heats up my nearly daily lunch of Asian Noodle soup with bitter greens.

I store whole dried and Serrano chilies in a tin until needed for a mole sauce. Experiment with chilies. Start cautiously, the goal is to enhance flavor not to set any fires.

Chili+03+Pepper+w+blk Chili Pepper
Capsaicin, the chemical in chili, has been shown to stimulate endorphin release. Using chili may not only zip up what you’re cooking but put a smile on your face as well.

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