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Bean-free chili

(post, Marisa McClellan)

It’s January, and that means that all across the country, people are grappling with their new food resolutions. It’s been years now since I included food among my own set of hopes for the new calendar (I’ve learned that for me, it’s just asking for trouble), but the fervor to change has not passed by my household. My husband, egged on by his trainer, has committed to adhere to a "real-food" diet for the next 30 days. 

This real-food diet has Scott avoiding all manner of dairy, grains, and any source of refined sugar. Even legumes are on the forbidden list. This leaves me, as the primary cook in our household, with a far narrower swath of ingredients to work with than I normally have in my toolbox. 

I realize I could cook for myself and let Scott sup on a pile of sandwich meat, but I’ve found that one of the joys of household partnership is sharing a meal at the end of the day. I just don’t like how it feels when our dinners are fractured and piecemeal (although that's not to say that we don’t have our share of disorganized evenings). 

And so, I am cooking protein and vegetables that we can eat communally. 

One of our regular dinnertime staples is chili. Over my years of cooking, I’ve developed a version that is flavored with grass-fed beef, chunky with lots of vegetables, and full of beans that I've cooked from dried. It’s one of those single-pot meals that lasts several nights and improves just by hanging around in the refrigerator. 

[%image feature-image float=right width=400 caption="In Marisa's kitchen, it wouldn't be chili without chard."]

In light of the new no-legumes dictate, I set out to make a soupy, beanless chili that would be delicious and expansive. There is such comfort on a busy day in knowing that dinner is already made and simply needs to be gently reheated. It stars many of the same players as my chili, including a large, roughly chopped onion, several bright bell peppers cut into big squares, and a mountain of ribboned chard. 

As I chopped and cooked, I started to feel the rosy glow of kitchen confidence. It’s that gut sensation that tells you that the thing you’re building on the stove is going to be balanced and merry on the tongue. The vegetables cooked, the meat browned. Two quarts of the tomatoes I canned back in September were gently puréed and became the soupy element. 

[%image reference-image float=right width=400 caption="Chili without beans."]

In order not to paint too beatific a picture of my life, you should know that this soup was eaten at the coffee table while we watched '"Jeopardy!"' But when we settled down to  eat, Scott smiled and said, “This is good.” And he was right, it was. 

Happy new year, real-food challenge. I think we’ll get along just fine.


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