It’s still winter, which means we want easy, fast, comforting meals. The kind of meals that make us feel cozy. Meals that taste even better the next day, so we don’t have to cook twice, and are great for a crowd. We often travel in packs in the winter, moving from skating rink, to hockey arena, to tobogganing hill. And then we want to reward ourselves for braving the cold, with hot food. So to this I say, chili! Even if it weren’t winter, but say, just a super chilly day, chili is still the answer!
Chili is one of those meals that inspires individuality and personality. It can be as simple or as complex as we want. After developing the basic skills to bring various veggies, legumes, spices and perhaps meat together confidently, we aren’t worried about the numbers: how many carrots, how much garlic, how much meat, etc. We get a ‘feel’ for what we want the finished chili to taste like. Perhaps our heritage will influence our choice of ingredients. So we forgo everything that we’ve been told and put our own spin on it. So truly, a simple pot of chili becomes a delicious expression of our skills, our heritage, and our creativity.
I’m putting my own spin on a standard chili recipe that will feed eight. With a few changes, we can make an Italian, Spanish, or even Moroccan inspired chili. I’m heading to Spain with the recipe below. I really wanted to develop a recipe that allows for vegetarian options. While I use a fresh sausage for the protein, you can totally omit and just increase the beans and veggies for a vegetarian option.
And even better, while the chili is bubbling away, we get to think about the toppings. There are the obvious ones: chopped avocado, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, but how about shaking it up with something new? I’m thinking of Tre Stelle® Ricotta blended with Italian herbs and roasted red peppers, spread on ciabatta and grilled for an Italian crostini topped chili. Or perhaps crumbling Tre Stelle® Feta and tossing it with ground almonds, pistachios, fresh mint leaves and spices for a Moroccan twist. For my Spanish inspired chili, take Tre Stelle® Bocconcini balls, wrap them with serano ham and olives for a delicious tapas version!
If you’re feeling especially ambitious, prepare all three of these fantastic toppings and lay out a chili bar for your guests to crown their chili bowls.
All of these toppings will work with any version of chili you choose to create. Enjoy!
Spanish Chili with Three Tre Stelle Toppings
3 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
4 fresh chorizo sausages, from the butcher, casings removed
1 tbsp chilli powder
1 tbsp dried rosemary
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp espelette pepper
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sweet paprika
2 large carrots, cut into 1/2 inch quarters
2 large sweet red pepper, seeded and diced into 1/2 pieces
2 large celery sticks, sliced into 1/2 pieces
2 28 oz (796 ml) cans of diced or crushed tomatoes
1 14-19 oz (400-540 ml) white beans or romano, drained and rinsed
2 medium zucchini, sliced into 1/2 inch slices
fresh parsley to garnish
8 slices of ciabatta loaf
2 tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup Tre Stelle Smooth Ricotta Cheese
3 tbsp chopped roasted red pepper
2 tbsp fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
2 tbsp fresh basil leaves, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
16 Tre Stelle Bocconcini balls, drained well
8-16 slices of Serrano Ham, (if large, can slice 8 slices in half lengthwise)
16 Spanish style or Greek pitted olives
kosher salt and cracked pepper
olive oil for drizzling
16 cocktail skewers
1/4 cup pistachios
1/4 cup almonds
3/4 cup Tre Stelle Feta cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1/4- 1/2 tsp harissa powder
kosher salt and cracked pepper
Sauté the onions and garlic in a large dutch oven or pot over medium heat, until just turning translucent, about 3 minutes.
Remove the meat from the sausage casings and add to the pot. Raise the heat to medium high. Using a cooking spoon, break up the meat until small and crumbly, no longer pink but rather turning crispy, about 7-8 minutes.
Add the spices and stir to coat well.
Add the carrots, peppers and celery, and cook till just starting to soften, about 5-7 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and all juice and bring to a low boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover slightly with the lid. Let it simmer for about 30 minutes, till veggies are almost tender.
Add the can of beans. Continue to simmer another 10 minutes.
Add the zucchini pieces and simmer another 5-10 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper, and re-season with any of the spices or herbs you’d like to taste more of!
Garnish with the fresh parsley.
Serve with a medley of toppings, including one of the toppings I’ve created below
Preheat the oven to 375F, set rack in the middle.
Lay out the ciabatta slices on a baking sheet and lightly brush with olive oil
Toast in the oven, till golden brown.
Combine the rest of the ingredients together and spread evenly on each slice of bread.
Return to the oven and set it to broil. Broil for about 5 minutes, till spread is warmed through.
Drizzle with a touch more olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Spread the pistachios and almonds in a cast iron skillet or other sturdy skillet. Toast over medium heat till just warming and turning golden. Watch them, they shouldn’t take too long. Allow to cool and then chop. Aim for a smaller size rather than too rough.
Crumble the Feta cheese into a medium sized bowl. Make sure the crumble is is pretty uniform in size.
Add the chopped nuts, as well as the mint. Stir to combine well.
Season with harissa and salt and pepper to taste.
Take one slice of Serrano Ham (it should be around 5 inches long and 1inch wide) and guide one end onto a cocktail skewer.
Add one bocconcini ball.
Wrap the ham around the ball and skewer it again, to capture the cheese inside the ham.
Add an olive onto the skewer. Wrap the ham around the olive, thus trapping it on the skewer as well.
Repeat with the remaining 15 skewers.
Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with peppers and salt as desired