Wednesday, October 7, 2009

weekend festivals

This past weekend celebrated two of my favorite things in New York City, in festival form: chile peppers and pickles.

On Saturday, rainy and dreary as it was, the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens hosted their annual Chile Pepper Fiesta. We spent most of our time in the chile + chocolate tents, tasting from artisanal chocolatiers like Taza (incredible, authentically stone-ground chocolates) and Fine & Raw (raw, unprocessed, totally vegan, totally delicious). There were many other craft chocolatiers, but these were really the stand-outs in my mind. We left with the two-piece bon bons from Fine & Raw, a pint of horseradish pickles from Horman's Best Pickles and a
bag of yellow split pea fritters, kind of like Indian-spiced hush puppies. I cannot, for the life of me, remember the name of the vendor!

chili/chocolate bon-bons from Fine & Raw

Sunday brought the International Pickle Festival to a Lower East Side parking lot. The rain had the benefit of scaring off a lot of visitors from the Botanical Gardens. Sunday was beautiful. And completely packed. People were waiting in lines twenty deep for samples. My patience was tested, and ultimately, we didn't last long. I did manage to get my hands on some of Rick's Picks Smokra. SO GOOD. I also managed a peanut butter + pickle sandwich (better than expected) and some really amazing, barely pickled beets. Unfortunately, the afternoon was such a blur, I haven't retained any of the names of the different picklers. Such is life.

These festivals were sandwiched in between openings and performances, Free Fridays at MoMA, and a trip to the farmer's market; come Sunday night, I felt so literally dizzy and reasonably exhausted, that I just wanted to curl up on the couch with a cup of something warm and cozy. So I started a batch of chili.

Every time I make this, it's a little different, but the core ingredients are the same. Feel free to add any other vegetables and bean varieties. Black and kidney beans are traditional, but you could use any type you like. This also freezes really well, and tastes great the next day.

Two Bean Chili with Corn
1 clove garlic
1 medium onion, diced
3 medium carrots, diced
3-4 stalks celery, diced
4 - 10 chile peppers, diced (I always use a variety, whatever I've happened to pick up. Choose what you like and adjust for your heat tolerance accordingly.)
1 green bell pepper, diced
kernels from 3 ears corn
1 16 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 16 oz can kidney beans
1 8 oz can black beans
1 can/bottle beer (preferably lager)
3 tbs chili powder
1 - 2 tsp cayenne
1 tbs cumin
1 tbs black pepper
1 tsp hungarian paprika (sweet or smoked)
salt to taste
scallions to garnish

Saute onion, carrot, celery and garlic in olive oil in the bottom of a very large pot. Cook until onions are translucent and fragrant. Add chile and green peppers, saute for another few minutes. Add the can of crushed tomatoes and stir well. Bring to a boil. Stir in both beans and the corn. Bring to a boil again. Add the chili powder, cayenne, cumin, pepper, and paprika and stir well. Reduce to simmer and cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Stir again, and add the beer.* Allow the whole thing to cook for at least a half hour, preferably an hour. The longer the chili cooks, the more the flavors will develop and the heat of the chilies will change. Adjust the seasonings as needed. Salt to taste. Top with chopped scallions and serve in a large mug.

*I've never used beer in chili prior to this week. I'd seen it used in a number of recipes, and had some in the fridge so figured I'd give it a shot. This batch of chili was really, really good, but I can't say for sure what role the beer played. That in mind, feel free to leave it out, and add water to reach your desired consistency.

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