When It’s Chilly Outside…

I’m not sure if it means I should have been an English major, or a logician, but I love the Venn diagram on Wikepedia that illustrates the differences between homographs, homonyms, homophones, heteronyms, and heterographs.  I was sidetracked here for at least 10 minutes contemplating all the relationships between the words chilly and chili.

Chili: just say the word and you start to feel warmer.  Chili isn’t quite soup, nor quite stew and can be based on anything from beef to vegetables. The only constant (for me anyway,  a real chili aficionado surely has much more stringent criteria), is some kind of beans, tomatoes, and lots of cumin, coriander and chili powder. I am the type of person who grates cheese over every serving.

It’s the kind of food I crave this time of year, when the days are short, football is on TV, and the cupboard is stocked with last summer’s canned tomatoes.

I’ve had a lot of favorite chili recipes over the years;  everything  from a heavy-on-the-mustard pork baked chili, to an elaborate vegetarian version that featured eggplant (It was good – but eggplant in chili? Not for me, anymore. Why the hell not make ratatouille?) For the last years I’ve stuck with a white bean chicken chili. But this winter, I have a new favorite: roasted butternut squash chili.

I’ve been roasting squash pretty much non-stop, since  back in October, when I was so delighted to have pumpkins in my garden.  And a few weeks ago, on a whim I roasted several poblano peppers and a few jalapeños in the pan too, with no clear vision of where I was going. Until the wonderful smell began to make its way through the house; (I can never smell what’s in my oven until I step away for a few minutes to another room. Why is that?) sweet with a smokey edge, it seemed to me to be a perfect chili base.

I’ve given up canned beans, so it wasn’t going to be an instant meal. My mixture of pinto beans and black beans required overnight soaking. (I know some would dispute the word required, but I’m a believer.)  Cooking with dried beans really isn’t a sacrifice once you get used to it – what you lose in instant gratification is more than made up for in flavor.  I’ve made this recipe  three times now, and I promise you, it will warm you up even on the chilliest winter day.


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