Alan C. Elms
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California Cole Slaw
Shepherd's Pie
Chicken/Bean/Barley Stew
Chili Mac
Sopa Seca
California Chili
Spaghetti Meatballs
Aunt Annie's PepperRelish
Letona's Chess Pie
Kentucky Bourbon Cake

California Chili

(Serves six)

  • 1½ lbs medium-lean ground beef
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 26-oz can crushed or ground tomatoes (low-salt)
  • 1 medium green pepper, chopped
  • 1½ cups water
  • 2 TBS Grandma's Hot ("Zesty") Chili Powder
  • 3 TBS Gebhardt's Chili Powder
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • ¼ cup masa flour mixed w ¾ cup water
  • 1 lg can kidney beans, drained
  • 1 can pitted olives, quartered

  1. Brown ground beef with onion.
  2. Add all other ingredients except beans & olives. Simmer for 30 minutes.
  3. Add beans & olives. Simmer for 10 minutes more.

My Chunky Chili recipe (elsewhere on this website) is mainly for company. This recipe is mainly for casual eating. It's easy, it's quick, and it does what chili is supposed to do: fill you up with a fairly spicy dish that combines interesting tastes and textures. I've tried lots of ground-beef chili recipes -- some with odd additional ingredients, some requiring much longer cooking times, some a lot spicier. This combination of ingredients, with a fairly short cooking time, is what I've settled on as the chili I like to cook and eat on a frequent basis.

In terms of its peculiarities, the recipe's quartered canned olives give it a bit of a California feel (entirely appropriate, since that's where I've done most of my chili experimentation) and add to the texture. The masa flour (instead of corn starch or some other thickener) gives it something of a Southwestern or Mexican taste. (Masa, sometimes labeled "masa harina," is available in most supermarkets in California and at Hispanic grocery stores elsewhere.) True Texans usually leave out the beans (see my father's chili recipe), but I like beans in my chili, and I like kidney beans more than pinto beans. I've stipulated brands of chili powder -- actually, a combination of two widely available brands -- because commercial chili powders vary considerably in taste as well as in hotness. One of my department colleagues, a psychologist named Ed Turner, used to bring me back a bag of chili powder every time he went home to Kansas City. I sometimes wondered what was in that chili powder (Ed also distributed bags of certain other ingredients that I didn't try), but it did add an interesting taste to the chili. Ed is no longer with us, so I don't get Kansas City chili powder any more. The combination of Grandma's and Gebhardt's is my attempt to approximate the same flavor.

This recipe doubles, triples, or quadruples easily, and it freezes very well. I usually eat some of it right after I cook it, but it's best after it ages in the refrigerator for a couple of days or more. Serve with crackers (preferably broken up and mixed into your bowl of chili), and of course with cole slaw on the side.

Alan Elms

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