My grandmother, Yankee though she was, made chili in her Revereware pot, with cans of kidney beans and lots of chili powder and hamburger. We loved it. We’d never had real chili, and this was a far cry from the real thing. Some cornbread and lots of butter helped to satisfy the 3 generations at the table. When my folks moved to Denver, I had real chili, and was astonished at how hot it was, and how it lacked acidity. This recipe embraces all of this food history, and comes to a happy medium.


[In this picture, I substituted chickpeas for black beans, as I had no black beans but had to make soup. It worked, but I prefer the black ones.]

Red and Black Chili
serves 8
[Note: This recipe is best if you make it a day in advance]

1/2 lb. black beans
1/2 lb. small red beans
2 onions, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped, or 2 small cans of green chilis
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, diced
1/2 C short grain brown rice
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
2-3 T chili powder
1 t red pepper flakes (omit if you don’t want heat)
1 T ground cumin
1 t oregano
2 t salt, or to taste
2-3 T olive oil

Soak beans separately overnight (or see the quick method here), cook them separately to retain their color. The black beans will make both beans black if you cook them together. Add a teaspoon of salt to the water, about 3 cups for each pan, as they cook.

Saute the onions and peppers in olive oil until wilted, 3-4 min. Add garlic and carrots and saute 4 min. more. Add 2 cups of water and the rice, seasonings, and salt. Cook for about 30 min. Add tomatoes, and fully cooked beans with their cooking water. Acid inhibits beans from cooking, and if they’re in the pot with the tomatoes but are not completely cooked, you could be waiting a long time for dinner.

I usually simmer this chili for 30 min., and then refrigerate it overnight. Something magical happens, rough edges smooth out, the spices bloom, flavors mingle and it becomes a finished dish. Heat it up, and taste for acidity. Sometimes it mellows too much, and needs a little zip. My secret? A big squeeze of ketchup. The vinegar in the ketchup does the trick. Stir it in and taste again. Yummm. Serve with grated cheese, chunks of avocado, salsa, corn chips, sour cream, or any other condiment you desire.

On chili powder – this can make or break a chili. Find a good one, I use Frontier, I’m sure Penzey’s would be fine too. Just stay far far away from large discount jars that are who knows how old.

Traditional chili uses no tomato, I find the flavor is flat without the sharpness of the acidity it provides. In a vegetarian chili, tomatoes are a necessity.

If you want hamburger or stew meat in your chili, by all means! Saute it before you do the onions to give color to the meat. About a pound will do nicely.

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