I spent the weekend before Christmas in Seattle.
This was my fourth visit to Seattle. I first traveled to Seattle my senior year of college when I co-led a college service trip. We spent the week volunteering for Multifaith Works, a nonprofit dedicated to serving those with HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening illnesses. The nonprofit has since become Rosehedge/Multifaith Works and expanded their mission to also supporting those who struggle with isolation and loneliness.
I think it’s safe to say our whole group of students fell in love with Seattle upon arrival. Such a stark contrast to Iowa. From the steep hills to smooth public transportation systems to the diversity of food.
We experienced many examples of hospitality during this week. One man gave up his weeknight to take us to the grocery store when we arrived, and a church allowed us to crash in their basement and use their kitchen. We painted a house one afternoon. Later that evening, the landlord treated our whole group to a seven course feast at a Chinese restaurant in the International District.
Each course was an adventure. Fish maw soup that we were instructed to spike with a red vinegar and white pepper. Peking duck. Knots of salt and pepper fried crab that I clumsily poked with my chopsticks. Sweet and sour pork chops, and shrimp with walnuts coated in that sweet, mayonnaise sauce. Afterwards, his daughter led us to her favorite bubble tea shop.
For the first time, I came away with the understanding of travel mercies. I was humbled.
Before leaving for the rehearsal dinner, we accidentally spilled at least half on the floor. The next day, we learned we left a large bag of it on the counter overnight. We quickly scrambled and fortified what was left. Hours before the wedding, I noticed a placard stating the chili was free from a multitude of allergens including soy. My eyes widened in panic because I remembered seasoning it with soy sauce I had found in the fridge.
Jeni’s Spicy Chili
1 pound of ground beef
1/2-1 can of beans
1 onion, diced
1-2 carrots, diced
1 sweet bell pepper, roughly chopped
1-2 red or green jalapenos, roughly chopped (I use seeds and all but you can remove for less heat)
Tomato paste (I use at least a few tablespoons)
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
Cinnamon (a couple pinches)
1-2 cans crushed tomatoes (if you don’t have enough, add water)
Brown sugar, enough to balance the acidity
Soy sauce or tamari
Sriracha, to taste
Butter, a small knob
- In a large pot, cook ground beef in a little olive oil until slightly pink. If there’s too much fat, pour some off, but keep enough for flavor.
- Add onions and carrots and cook until carrots are more tender.
- Add as many beans as you’d like.
- Add the sweet and hot peppers. Stir occasionally until slightly softened.
- Add the garlic and briefly cook until fragrant.
- Add the spices. I use a lot of chili powder, plenty of cumin, and a little bit of oregano and cinnamon. You can always add more later.
- Add tomato paste. Stir and cook until the tomato paste loses its rawness.
- Stir in the crushed tomatoes.
- Season with salt, black pepper, and enough brown sugar to balance the acidity from the tomatoes. Add more spices as desired.
- Optional seasonings: I like to add a little soy sauce for umami, sriracha for additional heat, and I melt in a small knob of butter for richness.
- Simmer until the peppers and carrots are tender and the flavors meld. Continue to taste for seasoning.
- I like to serve with a scoop of rice and garnish with shredded cheese, sour cream, cilantro, and a lot of chopped, raw onion.