I never make chili in the summer. It's just not a summer food. At least not for me. In the deep recesses of my somewhat age addled mind, I recall reading that in some parts of the country (and the world, for that matter), highly spicy food is summer fare. That may be, but not for me.
The good news is that it's getting to be chili weather. Summer is over, and although it's still not frigid outside, a nice pot of chili isn't out of the question.
As luck would have it, today the cooking segment on The Today Show featured Padma Lakshmi making three different chili recipes. Aside from looking far too gorgeous at 8:15 in the morning, that chick knows her food. (Just as an aside, apparently she and Richard Gere recently split. I'm sure it was his fault, because she is far too good a cook and far too perfect and beautiful to have done anything wrong enough to warrant a breakup.)
Before you get all high and mighty (as in I only cook from cookbooks), let me just tell you that I have been getting excited about cooking segments on The Today Show for years. Where else would I ever be able to withstand Mark Bittman's holier than thou dissertations on eating local and having a well stocked pantry? Certainly not in print, that's for sure.
One of Padma's recipes featured turkey, which oddly enough is my favorite protein when making chili. It's a little lighter than beef, and really takes on the flavors of all the delicious seasonings.
This recipe was quick and easy. Once all the chopping and dicing is done, it goes relatively quickly and really makes the kitchen smell good. On top of that, it tastes far more decadent than the ingredients would suggest, making it the perfect treat as the days grow shorter and the evenings get cooler.
Recipe: Turkey Chili
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 cups finely chopped yellow onions
5 medium garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 3/4-inch chunks
1/2 cup packed shredded carrots (about 2.25 oz)
1 cup finely chopped celery
1 serrano or jalapeño chile, finely chopped (including seeds)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 pound ground turkey breast
1 14 1/2-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon double-concentrated tomato paste dissolved in 1 1/2 cups hot water
2 tablespoons chipotles in adobo, chopped
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1 cup chopped cilantro
1 cup non-fat plain yogurt
Heat the oil in a medium pot over medium heat.
Add the cumin seeds, stir for a minute or so. Now add the onions, garlic, chiles and oregano. Cook until the onions are glassy and just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Now add carrots and celery and bell peppers.
Increasing the heat to medium high, add the turkey, stirring well and breaking it up with a wooden spoon as you go; cook until it's lightly brown, about 5-7 minutes. Add the tomatoes, tomato water, chipotles, vinegar and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir and cover, cooking for 5 minutes.
Lower heat to a simmer, then cook, uncovered, maintaining a steady simmer and stirring occasionally until the chili looks moist but no longer soupy, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Season to taste with more salt if needed, stir in most of the cilantro, and divide among four big bowls. Top each bowl with a generous dollop of the yogurt (about 1/4 cup) and sprinkle on the remaining cilantro.