Balsamic & Lime Chili

As the California winter begins, I am noticing that it does get rather cold in my new city. This morning, as I drove to the dog park with Bailey and Pinot, the temperature reader in my car said it was 37 degrees outside. Brrr! Upon returning home from the park, I warmed up my frozen toes and fingers with slippers and a warm cup of coffee, respectively, and then got to work on a pot of chili. Cold fall days scream for chili, and now that it was actually cold enough here, I was excited to make some.

In the past, I have always relied on my Ford's Chicken Chili recipe, but felt I wanted to mix things up a bit. This past summer I edited the 2nd edition of the Real Good Food Cookbook that Natural Alternative Co-op published, and this recipe caught my eye. I heard rave reviews about it, and when it is a recipe from the owner of Cafe Wren (they have some of the best soups I have ever had), I knew I couldn't go wrong.

There are several unique elements that make this chili delicious and unique. For one, it uses pumpkin puree as one of the thickeners, which I find gives it a earthy, slightly sweet flavor without being overpowering. Second, there is no chili powder in this recipe. While this may seem unacceptable to the chili connoisseur, trust me on this and restrain yourself from adding any. The clove and cinnamon add a warm spice note, while the basil and oregano give it a nice freshness. And of course, who can forget the title ingredients: balsamic vinegar and lime. The balsamic vinegar is a wonderfully unexpected addition and the lime gives the dish a great brightness.

I always serve my chili sprinkled with a locally-made sharp cheddar, chopped fresh cilantro, and fresh cornbread on the side.

Enjoy and stay warm!

Balsamic & Lime Chili

Olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
28-oz can diced tomatoes (I like the fire roasted)
2 tbsp tomato paste
6 tbsp pureed pumpkin
15-oz can kidney beans
2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp paprika
2 tsp basil
2 tsp oregano
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tsp salt

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy saucepan. Add onion, peppers, and half the garlic; saute until tender. Add the tomatoes (with the juice), tomato paste, pumpkin, beans, and remaining seasonings (except the remaining garlic) to the vegetables. Simmer over lowest possible heat, stirring occasionally, for 20-30 minutes or longer. After first 15 minutes, add remaining garlic. Taste to adjust seasonings.

Note: This recipe, like all chili, is very versatile. I added 1 cup of chopped carrots to mine, but you could also add mushrooms, browned meat like beef or chicken, or even a small handful of chocolate chips!

Adapted from Balsamic Vinegar & Lime Chili by Stephanie Lundeen