Stone(d) Chili??

Stone ChiliNo, no, no not that . . . wait . . . maybe . . . no, no, no!!  This is not a chili where I infused any happiness . . . wait . . . Stop!!

Let me start again. Stone Chili was made ala Stone Soup, in the style of Stone Soup that is.  Never heard of Stone Soup?  Just two weeks ago I would have found that surprising but lately I have been telling this tale of community dining and contribution to many new listeners.  It goes like this.

Three soldiers of fortune found themselves in a new town without any money or food so they agreed it was the perfect opportunity to make Stone Soup.  With all of the villagers superstitiously watching, the three set about walking the town square kicking stones until one curious villager asked what they were doing. “We’re making stone soup but it takes just the right stone to give it flavor.” Another of the three piped up, ” I’ve found it.” The other two with the villager in tow agreed it looked like the perfect stone.  “If only we had a pot.” one said.  ” I have a pot.” the intrigued villager said and dashed off and returned with a fine deep kettle.

The, now, group of 4 collected firewood, started a fire, washed the stone thoroughly, filled the kettle with water and gently added the stone. By this time other villagers began to gather. “If only I had a spoon?” one soldier said.  “I have a spoon,” another villager said, and a spoon was produced.  The first soldier set to stirring the pot and as the steam rose he dipped the spoon and tasted the broth.  “How is it?” the others asked.  “A little thin still, I think it needs an onion.”  “I have an onion!” yet another interested villager piped up.  And so it went as onions and carrots and vegetables and chickens and meats and spices were brought forth.  With the entire village standing around the soldier with the spoon finally announced, “It’s ready!”  At which point the entire village shared in a pot of Stone Soup.

This is one of my favorite community meal stories.  One where equal contribution brings forth a great tasting meal.  Recently my brother was organizing a family camping trip and he and I were brainstorming ideas for a meal.  Stone chili, I said. And while we bandied about the potential pitfalls of having truly random contributions we settled in on a split approach.  Some of our siblings would bring – whatever – to add to the pot, while one of my sisters was tasked with bringing corn bread.  Personally I have never had a stone soup or potluck party fail because every guest brought a stone or a salad.  It always works out.

It worked out this time as  well.  I brought meat and spices.  A can of corn was offered as was a tin of beans and even some garden grown tomatoes.  My brother roasted fresh chilis and the pot of stone chili grew.  Honestly it turned out to be one of my more successful melanges. I had leftovers at home for a week and could never seem to limit myself to just one bowl.  So Stuff-Your-Face-Stone-Chili was born.

For those of you who read this far I give you the secret sword thrust!

Orange Juice

I first saute’d the meat with onions and a fistful of chili powders that I have collected over the years.  The initial tastings proved a bitter batch. Orange juice was added and reduced. My oh my, what a difference it made.  Fresh roasted chilis, tomatoes, corn, beans and whatever was laying around filled the pot.  It stewed for a good hour before we ladled it over my sister’s cornbread and topped it with a dollop of sour cream.  Yum in a cup I promise you.  So remember, as you are balancing out the bitter flavors in whatever dish you are cooking consider the many sources of sweetness that are available to you: maple syrup, honey, plain old sugar and of course, orange juice. It was so good I forgot to take a picture until this very last bowl.  I was out of sour cream so I added a little feta I had laying around. What?! Every good cook has a little feta laying around.  The flavors blended perfectly.  I call it my Greek version of Stone Chili.

Good luck and be sure to write to me about your Stone Soup experiences.  Until then,

Eat Well and Smile Often



p.s. This stuff would definitely feed your munchies . . . just sayin!



Pop Goes The Basil!!

Tommy Tom's Tomato SauceBasil, (pronounced like Nasal) or Basil pronounced like . . . Fawlty Towers? I’m a Fawlty Towers anglophile Basil pronouncer myself. I had a dear friend once roll her eyes back in her head when instead of emphasizing the “O” in Innovative I emphasized a long flat “A” ala the English way. Drove her mad, it was so cute to watch.

The sauce to my left here is chock full of Basil as you see but not Innovation.  Not that it’s bad in any way, early reports mark it as . . . well . . . remarkable! To my kind taste testers out there a big Tommy Tom’s Tomato Sauce thank you!

Not every thing I, or you, cook needs to be innovative.  Sometimes, most times in my opinion, the traditional recipe given the right set of ingredients can provide a remarkable dish.  In point this very large pot of tomato sauce you see above is simple to make, no fancy this or that just tomatoes and the basic building blocks of a good sauce. I made this batch about a month or so ago and can’t give you an exact recipe but I will lay out the process for you and ask you to innovate for yourself. (I’ll stop now.)

Better Boy TomatoesThe first thing you need is a big bunch of fresh tomatoes, enough to fill your favorite pot.  These little jewel toned heckling aids came from my garden this year. Last year the yield and size were pitifully small. Not so this season. This crop wasn’t just bumper, it was bumper to bumper. Time for a small aside.


tj burnI have neglected you my readers and I apologize. I was unexpectedly offered a ticket to Burning Man this year and jumped on it.  It took me away from cooking and writing  for too long.

My trip: Driving and dust, music and mayhem.  It was all those things and more.  And yes, not wanting to stand out or seem the prude, I went topless and blended right in. The Utilikilt is mighty comfortable and I have a much better understanding as to why skirts are so popular.

Coming Home Surprise

Back to my tomatoes! The bus pan above I picked the week before I left for Black Rock City. This 5 gallon pot is what I picked when I got home.  Holy Romas Batman, that’s a lot of tomatoes for a home garden.  As I said, bumper to bumper.  So what to do with all of these fantastic vine ripened lovelies?  Can ’em! So can ’em I did. The first batch went like this.

Dice 2 large onions course and half a head of garlic fine and saute’ in a very large pot.  Reserve half an onion uncooked to add later.  Wash, core and half the tomatoes and toss into hot pot. Cook tomatoes down and reduce liquid by 1/4th. Some cooks don’t but I prefer to spoon off the scum before the next step.

Tomato ScumHere’s where I have some fun.  Take off the heat and ladle tomatoes into a blender and . . . well . . . blend.  Return the tomatoes to the pot and repeat the process.  This does not give you a perfectly smooth sauce but rather one with some lumps and character, like me.  The last 2 blender cans full add the reserved raw onions  and blend with the sauce.  The raw onions add a sweet little bite that cooked onions don’t.  Return to the heat and slowly bring to a boil.  Adjust salt and pepper to taste.  Now here’s the secret sword thrust:  Add some sugar.  Tomatoes are acidic as you know and adding just a small amount of sweet balances out the flavors.

CanningTo finish I tossed in a few handfuls of freshly chopped basil and set to put my sauce up. In another pot I placed jars and lids in tap water then brought them to a boil together. With a large set of tongs I reached into each jar and gently tipped the hot water back into the pot. The jars steaming hot and my sauce taste tested and bubbling I sanitized my ladle in the boiling water and canned my latest pride and joy. As I said, early reports have come back favorable. Don’t forget to place the hot lids on top of the hot jars with the hot sauce. Make sure the top of the jar is wiped clean and no tomato bits are outside of the seal.  This will cause your tomatoes to spoil and your guests to get sick.  I let my jars cool on the counter and check to make sure that the dimple on the jar lid has sucked down indicating a good seal.

So if you don’t have tomatoes in your garden run down to the Farmer’s Market and get them before there gone.  In only takes a little bit of time in the kitchen and you can enjoy the sweet, vine ripened taste well into the winter.


Eat Well and Smile Often!!




p.s. Tommy Tom’s Tomato Sauce  ( I like it!)