How To Work Your Pantry

a bowl of not bad

a bowl of not bad

Off-the-Shelf Chili

Cooking can be like putting together a puzzle, only one without a predetermined picture. When I open the cabinets during  post-Christmas cleaning sprees, something may catch my eye and niggle at me until I do something with it.

This time is was about a cup and a half of dried red kidney beans, which my son left behind when he moved out. I’m a white bean person, I love me some flageolets, I find chick peas adorable. But red kidney beans-meh.

Time to kill these beans off in a chili, assembled as follows:



  • the rest of the dried red kidney beans, soaked and simmered the day before until soft
  • some of that huge onion my husband picked at the CSA (damn, now I have most of a huge onion left–onion soup?)
  • a few scraggly leaves of oregano from the winter-dead plant in the backyard
  • a bay leaf from my pride and joy bay tree (yes, tree–it’s massive!)
  • some whatever’s cheap beef from the supermarket–not too much
  • the half can of diced tomatoes leftover from minestrone
  • the last of the chicken broth from the same
  • a dried chili from the generous goody bag at the D.C. Mexican Cultural Institute’s culinary program
  • a tempered spoonful of the chili-spiked cocoa powder my sister-in-law gave me for Christmas two years ago
  • cumin (you just always have to have cumin around)

To serve: frozen corn tortillas crisped into chips in the oven (why don’t they sell them in smaller packages?)


Saute the meat, set aside, then throw in the diced onion and saute some more. Then dump in the meat and everything else, with some salt and simmer on low until you want to eat it.

This is version is authentic to my own kitchen.


About Appetite for Books

read, cook, eat, repeat
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