Hard to believe, but it took me 30 years to make my first pot of chili. Crazy, huh? In my house growing up we feasted on all manner of soups, stews, braises, and long-simmered sauces, but we never, to my memory at least, made chili. It wasn’t until I met a certain gentleman from New Mexico (who later became my husband) that I finally began the journey towards making a decent pot of meaty-beany-spicy-tomato-y goodness.
If you haven’t made chili before, it can sound like a lot of work — the ingredient lists for many recipes are a mile long. But in reality, after a bit of chopping and browning, time does most of the work. And when you’re ready to eat you take the lid off the pot and that spicy, savory steam hits your olfactory glands and it’s just pretty much heaven from there.
The hubs makes a mean pot of Southwestern-style chili, and I’m not going to try to compete with that (okay not quite true – I’ve tried, but he always wins). This time I decided to go back to my roots and create a Mediterranean-style chili, with rosemary and thyme in place of chile powder and cumin, ground dark-meat turkey and cannellini beans supplying heft and heartiness, and a bright parsley-garlic gremolata to finish (along with a generous sprinkling of freshly grated Parmigiano, of course).
This chili is terrific on its own — just add spoon and maybe a crusty chunk of sourdough — and also makes a delicious and even heartier meal spooned over split baked potatoes or tossed with pasta and a little of the pasta cooking water to make a sauce.
The flavor of the chili gets even better on the second and third days after it’s made, making this a great recipe for weekend batch cooking. And who wouldn’t want to come home after a long workday to a warm bowl of homemade chili topped with herbs and salty Parm and a drizzle of olive oil?
And one last note – if you prefer an entirely plant-based chili, simply double the amount of cannellini beans or add an equal volume of cooked chickpeas (leaving out the ground turkey, of course).
Happy comfort feasting!
Mediterranean turkey and cannellini bean chili with gremolata
Serves 4 to 6
for the chili:
extra-virgin olive oil
2 carrots, diced
2 leeks (white and pale green parts), sliced into 1/2-inch half-moons
3 garlic cloves, sliced
2 celery stalks, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, cored and diced
1 pound ground turkey (dark meat if possible)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
28-ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 dried bay leaf
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chile
1-1/2 cups cooked cannellini beans (or 1 can, drained and rinsed)
freshly ground black pepper
For the gremolata:
1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 small organic lemon
to finish: freshly grated hard salty cheese such as Parmigiano-Reggiano, Grana Padano, or Pecorino; drizzle of good olive oil
Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot. Add carrot, leek, garlic, celery, bell pepper, and a pinch of salt. Saute over medium heat until vegetables are softened and beginning to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Add turkey, season with a pinch of salt, and cook on medium-high heat until turkey is browned. Clear a space in the middle of the pan and stir in the tomato paste.
Add canned tomatoes and their liquid, herbs de Provence, rosemary, thyme, bay leaf, 1/2 cup water, crushed red chile and beans. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for about 1 hour. Check occasionally and add a splash of water if the chili looks dry. Remove herb stems and bay leaf, and season to taste with salt and black pepper. Serve sprinkled with gremolata (see below), a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkling of cheese.
To make the gremolata, mince parsley and add to a bowl. Grate garlic clove on a fine grater (such as a microplane) into bowl with parsley. Then grate lemon zest and add to bowl. Stir to combine. Use immediately or store in a covered container in the fridge for up to 1 day.