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Quirky, summer squash chili

This chili always keeps me warm with its spices, yet it is surprisingly light. It is a crowd-pleaser and perfect dish to balance out heavy holiday meals.

What makes this chili unique is its star ingredient - squash. I use both zucchinis and yellow squashes for their bright colors. When combined with tomatoes, these squashes give this chili a vibrant and appetizing look. A beef broth builds a base umami flavor while squashes add their sweet and nutty flavors to this chili. Tomatoes are a maestro who harmonizes all ingredients together magically to make this refreshing stew a real chili - a hearty food that brightens short days during winter.

Chili made with zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, and beef

Are you worried that you don't have chili powders in hand? I used to think that my chili cannot be completed without them. They are "chili" powders after all, aren't they? But I find them too bitter to my taste, which motivated me to look for a better combination of chili spices. Have I worked out a recipe for chili spices? You bet.

The key to making a delicious chili is striking a balance between bitterness (cumin), spiciness (red pepper), and sweetness (tomatoes, onions, and squashes). I will give you a starting point toward your own golden ratio of chili spices in my recipe below. You can try this recipe first and adjust it to your liking if necessary.

Ingredients for 4 servings

Small cubes of oven roast beef (100 g)

A clove of garlic (thinly sliced)

Ginger powder (1/2 tsp)

Six root tips of green onions

One zucchini (sliced in a half moon shape)

One yellow squash (sliced in a half moon shape)

Tomato paste (2 tsp)

Salt (2 tsp)

Cumin powder (1tsp)

Coarsely ground red pepper powder (2 tsp)

Two plum tomatoes (chopped)

A quarter of an onion (sliced)

Green onions (chopped)


Fill a small 2.5 QT saucepan with water until it reaches a half way to its top. Bring water to the boil over high heat.

Add the roast beef cubes to the boiling water. The surface of beef cubes will become cooked immediately, which locks their juice inside. This is how I "sear" meat in a boiling water, which keeps the slow-cooked meat tender in a stew. Once all the beef cubes are in the soup, reduce the heat to low so that amino acids (a main source of the umami flavor) will be slowly released to the stew.

Toss in garlic, ginger, and tips of green onions to the soup, cover, and simmer it for an hour. These ingredients will make this chili irresistibly fragrant.

An hour later, add yellow squashes and zucchinis to the chili. Now it is time to season the soup with tomato paste, salt, cumin, and red pepper. It is important to salt the stew after the beet cubes beome tender. Otherwise, you will end up with a tough meat as the added salt draws the juice out of the meat due to osmosis.

Toss in tomatoes and onions. Then, simmer the soup for five minutes.

Check the final taste of the chili. It should be sweet and spicy with a slight bitter undertone. Add green onions and remove the pot from the heat. This awesome chili is now ready to be served.

Multigrain rice made of brown rice, purple wild sweet rice, spelt or kamut berries, buckwheat, barley, millet, chickpeas, pinto beans, and adzuki beans

I like to serve this chili over multi-grain rice (see the picture above). The nuttiness and chewiness of Kamut (or spelt) berries complements this chili with their flavor and texture. Let me know how you like this chili and what you would add to it.

* Notes for the pot shown above:

I have been using one for the last seven years. It is my go-to-pot that I use to cook soup for a crowd. It is durable, easy to clean, beautiful, and extremely affordable. Perfect for someone looking for a heavy-duty pot on a low budget.

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