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Well it is 4:30 PM on Wednesday and we have just finished a couple of days of a coastal heat wave. Now I am certainly not complaining, however I have not felt like doing much cooking, even though today was cool enough to get back into it. I guess you wouldnít expect chili on a day like today, but maybe you should.

I have always been fascinated by the use of spices and herbs in cultures where temperatures exceed 100†F daily. Weíve all experienced the layer of perspiration we get after eating something spicy ìhot.î This in a warmer climate helps to actually cool the body. Although, spicy does not have to mean, ìhotî. It should mean bold flavors that make your senses wake up and take notice. You can achieve this in a variety of ways. For instance, I have noticed by leaving salt, acid (lime, lemon or vinegar) or alcohol out of a hot spicy recipe, or lesser amounts of them, will keep these foods from destroying your taste buds with heat, while retaining the spice.

Salt, acid and alcohol are all conduits to heat and the lack of them keeps the heat from lingering in our mouth. Harissa, a Moroccan condiment made of cumin, cayenne and EVOO is a great example. Drizzled on lamb, your mouth explodes in the spice but a moment later (well maybe a few) the heat dissipates. Assuming you donít drink a beer or glass of wine along with it, your mouth feels cleansed and cool again. But then who ever heard of chili without beer–choice and consequences.

In our chili today, we have used enough salt for flavor, but we cooled the burn down with starch, in this case the beans. As with all our food, we try to mix up the flavors and layer them to make the food enjoyable from beginning to end. I recommend finishing for service with EVOO, ground coriander, sharp white cheddar, onions and a few sprigs of cilantro. Enjoy ñ Ciao Bob!

Chili with Meat
3 cups dried red beans, soaked overnight
5# chuck eye roll, diced
2 carrots, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
2 onion, diced
1 bulb garlic, sliced
3 jalapeÃ’os, cleaned, left halved
1 TBS cayenne
1 TBS chili powder
1 ‡ TBS garlic powder
1 ‡ TBS onion powder
2 tsp dry mustard
1 TBS cumin
1 TBS paprika
2 tsp thyme
1 TBS oregano
3 TBS cornmeal (if needed for thickening)

Method: Cook beans until tender; remove and chill. (Chilling happens quickly by placing foods in metal container like a stainless steel bowl or casserole, spreading into a shallow layer and chill while uncovered until the temperature drops to 41Æ’F. Then of course, consolidate and cover until needed.)
Sear chuck in a small amount of vegetable oil; sear in batches and remove; place vegetables in pan and sautÈ until aromatic and fond* is removed; add seasoning and cook 3 minutes; add tomatoes and bring to a boil; add seared meat and bring back to a simmer; cover and cook approximately 90 minutes or until tender; add beans and cornmeal to thicken if needed; cook an additional 30 minutes to blend flavors; adjust seasonings.

* Fond is the caramelized pieces from the searing meat on the bottom of the pan.