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Chili is one of my fall and winter weeknight staples. It’s one of those things that cooks up easily, is fairly forgiving and can expand endlessly. Whenever I pull out my chili pot, I make it a point to cook up a batch big enough to last for at least two nights and a couple lunches.
My standard approach involves lots of vegetables, a pound of ground turkey, plenty of spices and two or three cans of beans (I tend to use black and pinto beans, but anything I have in the pantry is fair game).
After years of eating bowl after bowl of my improvisational chili, however, my husband sweetly requested that I try to vary my chili game a little. And so, I started auditioning new recipes.
As I’ve searched, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not really looking for authenticity (my regular recipe includes Swiss chard). Instead, I want a one-pot dish that has a lot of flavor, features vegetables and beans, and if it includes meat, uses a relatively small amount.
So far, the recipe that best hits all the marks for me is Rachael Ray’s Zucchini Chili. It has great flavor (love the base of roasted and pureed poblano peppers), doesn’t require a lot of equipment and gets better with time. It’s also useful this time of year, since summer squash plants continue to work away. Truly, it’s just perfect for The Weekender.
Before you start cooking, read these tips:
— As you can see from the photos, I used a yellow summer squash in place of the zucchini the recipe called for. It was what I had on hand and it worked beautifully. Feel free to make similar swaps.
— If you use a beer that is a bit bitter, stir in a tablespoon or two of sugar for balance. If you want to avoid added sugar, mince a carrot and add it to the browning onions.
— My only quibble with this recipe is that as written, it doesn’t yield my desired level of leftovers. If you expect a goodly amount of leftovers from this pot of chili, double the recipe.
— And one last thing: Don’t skip the green rice that Rachael suggests serving with the chili. It’s good with the chili and the leftovers are great underneath a fried egg.
Marisa McClellan is a food writer and canning teacher who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her food (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars. Her first cookbook, Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round, is now available.