I know what you're thinking: Chili? Seriously? It's spring - enough with the heavy winter meals.
I get it. I do feel self-conscious posting a hearty wintery recipe when all my fellow bloggers seem to be touting strawberries and asparagus. But seriously, guys - strawberry season hasn't started around here. It might be warm outside (most of the time), but it's still pretty early in the season. Asparagus only started showing up at my local farmers market a few days ago. And, to be honest, I had planned to tell you about the nice little pasta dish I made last night with asparagus, shallots and ramps (yes, ramps!), but every one of my pictures turned out blurry (my pictures seem to deteriorate somehow between the camera screen and the photo editor - perfectly good images suddenly look hideous). So chili is what you get.
There's nothing wrong with chili in the springtime, though. Spring evenings can be quite cool - it's just as nice to be able to snuggle down on the couch with a bowl of steaming chili on a spring evening as a winter one. And I'm really wishing I had some leftovers today to stave off the chill of the cold, steady rain outside.
I like making chilis because you can't mess them up. Everything goes in one pot and, usually, the longer they simmer, the better they taste. I also like the variety of serving options. They can be eaten straight from the bowl, with chips or over rice. They invite lots of tasty toppings, too. This time I went light and topped mine with some sliced green onions and a big dollop of Greek yogurt, but you could go with sour cream, any kind of cheese, and even bacon. It's a total crowd-pleaser!
Hearty Chili with Sausage and Beans
Adapted from The Locavore's Kitchen.
2 tbsp olive oil
2 large shallots, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
5 tbsp chili powder, divided
1 lb Italian sausage, casings removed
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, to taste
salt and pepper to taste
1 28 oz can chopped tomatoes, with juices (if using home canned tomatoes, a quart will do)
1 c local beer (we used Yards' Philadelphia Pale Ale)
2 c kidney beans, cooked (or two 15 oz cans)
2 tbsp cornmeal (which serves as a thickener)
1 tbsp honey
Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute 3-4 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant. Add 3 tbsp chili powder and stir for an additional minute. Transfer the onion mixture to a separate bowl. Use a paper towel to (carefully!) wipe the excess spices off the bottom of the pot (otherwise they will quickly burn).
Increase the heat to medium-high and add the sausage. Cook for five minutes, stirring often to brown the meat on all sides. Return the onion mixture to the pot and stir everything together.
Add the remaining spices (the cumin, oregano, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper and 2 tbsp chili powder) and stir well. Then add the tomatoes and beer. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and let simmer 20 minutes.
Add the cornmeal and honey and stir to thicken the mixture. Add the beans and cook another 10 minutes. Taste and add additional seasonings, if required.
Serve with chips and a dollop of Greek yogurt and some green onions (or whatever else you dream up!).