Cover pot partially with a lid and cook over low heat for about 20 minutes until the pepper and tomatoes are softened and the flavors have combined. Add spoonfuls of water as needed to create desired consistency; a good chili should be the consistency of a thick stew. Taste to adjust seasonings, then serve hot with toppings (see below).
Cincinnati Five-Way Chili: add a hefty dash of cinnamon, a sprinkling of allspice, a spoonful or two of red wine vinegar and a generous spoonful of brown sugar to season, and serve over spaghetti.
Vegetarian Black Bean Chili: add chopped garlic with the onion, use vegetarian meat crumbles instead of the beef, swap black beans for the kidney beans and add half a bottle of beer; Omit the chopped pepper and add several dashes of cumin. California Chili: add chopped yellow and red bell pepper, use double the amount of fresh plum tomatoes, season with dried oregano, and garnish with ripe avocados and olives.
Middle Eastern Chili: add chopped garlic with the onion, then add raisins with the beans and omit the peppers and tomatoes. Use apple juice and tomato sauce for the liquid, and add cinnamon, brown sugar and a sprinkling of turmeric to the seasonings. Garnish with toasted, slivered almonds.
Some-Like-It-Hot Chili: add chopped garlic with the onion, add more than a cup of hot salsa with the kidney beans, triple the amount of chili powder (use hot chili powder if you can find it) and add several dashes of cumin.
Swaps and Add-ins:
Kidney bean alternatives: black beans, chickpeas, pinto beans, great northern beans or other white beans To add heat: green chili peppers, small ancho or jalapeno chili peppers, seeded and minced (add with the onion); hot pepper sauce (like Tabasco), cumin, red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper Seasonings: cinnamon, smoked paprika, basil, oregano, Worchester sauce, tomato paste, and cumin Meat swaps: instead of ground beef, use shredded beef, turkey or chicken, or vegetarian meat crumbles Veggies: fresh or frozen corn, chopped red or green bell pepper, cubed pumpkin or butternut squash Liquids: red wine, water, apple juice, and beer
Toppings: tortilla chips, finely chopped red or green onion, cilantro, parsley, salsa, sour cream (non-dairy unless using veggie meat), or hot dogs – make chili dogs by spooning chili over boiled or grilled hot dogs in buns!
For more master non-recipes and tips and tricks to eliminate measuring in the kitchen, check out Rachel’s new book on Amazon: Cooking Without Measuring: Taste and Approximate Yourself to a Great Dish.
Rachel Wizenfeld is an avid cook, writer, wife and mom. A frequent contributor to The Jewish Press and other publications, she now brings her diverse experience to the kitchen, designing easy tricks to streamline cooking and make life more manageable, every day.