Sunday was bleak here in Chicago. With sleet raining down on my once bountiful balcony garden and serving as a barometer of the snow to follow, it’s no surprise I sought a little comfort from the cold.
In other words: A glowing fire in the hearth, a flavorful pot of chili on the stove top, and a diversionary DVD at the ready.
One collection that offers the perfect degree of light entertainment for the off-season gardener is the aptly named “Rosemary & Thyme.” In the 2003-2007 British series, two women of a certain age wind up partners in a gardening business after one is dumped by her husband and the other by her employer.
The title derives from the given name of the latter and the surname of the former. Rosemary Boxer (Felicity Kendal) and Laura Thyme (Pam Ferris) are hired to restore gardens all over Europe and in the process end up unearthing mysteries and weeding out miscreants. And yes, it does open to the dulcet strains of “Scarborough Fair.”
Their traveling adventures are engaging and the beautiful scenery provides the perfect backdrop for getting lost in your own garden reverie.
So, with disc queued, it’s time to get the chili cooking. I’ve made the following veggie recipe for crowds and even those who’ve only eaten beef chili love it. Honest.
(Resourceful gardeners with room to grow will doubtless prepare this recipe with dried beans and herbs from last summer’s harvest as well as jalapenos and tomatoes they preserved themselves.)
1 15 oz can black beans
1 15 oz can light kidney beans
1 15 oz can dark kidney beans
1 can condensed tomato soup
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes (or fresh tomatoes, blanched, seeded and peeled)
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 12 oz package veggie crumbles
1 – 2 tbsp olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 large cloves garlic, diced
1 jalapeno (or equivalent pickled jalapeno), diced
2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp cumin
1 cup veggie broth
1/4 cup red wine
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
2 1/2 tsp dried pepper flakes
kosher salt to taste
Coat bottom of stockpot with olive oil and heat on medium. Add onion and jalapeno and cook for several minutes till onion is translucent. Reduce heat to low and add garlic, keeping it moving around pan so it doesn’t burn — about 1 min. Stir in soy crumble (breaking apart with spoon) and add dry seasonings, except salt. Add beans, tomatoes, soup and wine. Bring to bubble. Reduce heat to low, add salt to taste, cover and cook for 1- 2 hours, stirring periodically.
The only thing left to do is pair the dish with a grilled cheese sandwich, stoke the fire, and press play.
Not such a dreary day after all.
[This chili is ready in an hour, but cooking it longer intensifies the flavor. So does a night in the fridge. It also freezes well for quick week-day meals later. "Rosemary & Thyme" is available through Netflix.]