Monday, July 07, 2008
Tomatoes on my mind -- aka tomato-free chili
Oh my, has it been a month since I last posted? Life keeps you pretty busy, doesn't it? Hope everyone had a happy Fourth. Lately I've had tomatoes on my mind. It's summer, and they used to be one of my favorite things...naturally sweet and ripe, juicy and bursting with flavor...especially the heirloom varieties with just a hint of salt for flavor...mmmm. NOT ANYMORE for the FAQ. *sigh* Tomatoes now, unfortunately are one of the more problem foods to avoid. They're in fricken everything. Soup, salad, sauces, stock, pizza, ketchup. And let me tell you, turning down ketchup in America makes people look at you funny....like you're an alien or French or something. :)
Anyhow, I've been able to get around them in some ways, for example I use roasted peppers when I need some color in foods that usually require them. But for other things that are traditionally made with tomatoes, like chili, what to do? Up until now I've whipped up a tasty white bean turkey chili, which holds me off for a little while, but I've really had a jones going for some hearty, meaty old-fashioned chili. And who would have thought that I would have found it in Washington DC of all places?
While on a business trip a few weeks ago, I left the hotel and took a walk, looking for a diner. Nothing more depressing than expensive and dull hotel food when you're on a miserable trip already. I stumbled onto this tiny little place that specialized in traditional chili in Old Town Alexandria (the Hard Times Cafe on King Street). Lo and behold they had a "Traditional Texas chili" based on a genuine cowboy recipe that was 100 years old. It was slow-cooked and only made with spices...not a tomato in sight. Hallelujah! I had the option to add beans (blasphemy in some parts) and onions on top. It was rich, smokey and hearty.
I'm now on the search for a traditional Texas chili recipe. Anyone have one to share? I'll report back with pictures, hoping to recapture that tomato-less goodness. And get back in the chili saddle, so to speak. Yeeha. (Recipe link in comments!)