Today, a friend of mine from my martial arts school came over for a cooking lesson, and the below recipe is what we made. We had a great time cooking together! By the time we'd finished cooking, we'd both built up a ferocious appetite, and couldn't wait to dig in. He was so hungry, he had two helpings! My friend loved the chili and took some leftovers home with him for his mom to try, who, he told me, also enjoyed the chili as well. He also seemed to like cooking and was a quick learner as well. In fact, tried his hand at making the chili the very next day. Even more impressive was the fact that he tried to make it from memory, because I'd created the recipe while we were cooking and at the time, hadn't yet had the chance to type up the recipe. :)
The nice thing about cooking with friends is that, when you're done in the kitchen, you're rewarded for your efforts with a meal. :) Plus, it's fun and relaxing to sit down with friends to enjoy a meal you just cooked together. For me, a huge part of the enjoyment of cooking with friends or teaching them how to cook isn't just the act of cooking itself or the pats on the back we give each when a meal turns out well. It's so much more than that. It's about the enjoyment we derive from eating and sharing a meal together, the creation or solidification of bonds we form with each other via the experience of cooking, and the satisfaction that goes along with giving, and sharing something with, friends and family that's both tangible, i.e., the food, and intangible (the experiences, etc.): When it comes to teaching, I love seeing them enjoy the process -- the discovery, the fun, and the satisfaction that they derive learning something new and the confidence-building sense of accomplishment they get from the hands-on experience of cooking. And, if I did my "job" correctly [by showing them how much fun (and useful!) cooking can be], then hopefully my own enthusiasm and love of cooking will catch fire and take hold in them as well.
Simply put, it makes me happy to make my friends and family happy too. :)
Cooking and eating together are often, without a doubt, some of the most basic (and dare I say, even profound) joys of life. Children are born knowing how to enjoy the simple pleasures of life, and as adults, witnessing and recognizing the truth in this realization is a great reminder that sometimes getting back to basics is one of the healthiest and refreshing things we can do to restore balance in our lives. In that way, cooking is not just a return to that sense of enjoyment, but also a way to reconnect with that very basic, visceral energy. I'm not saying that cooking itself is simple, because heaven knows, it can also be highly complex too, but rather that it can be restorative -- a stress relief valve, an escape or moment of respite to unplug from the world and leave everything else behind for a moment, a window into new and helpful insights, a chance to connect (or reconnect) with ourselves and others as well as with our own senses and creative energies, etc., etc.
Sharing knowledge of food and cooking, cooking and eating together, feeding others -- it's something so fundamental, so primeval, so rewarding, and so nourishing in all senses of the word.
1 lb. ground buffalo meat
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 large bay leaf
1 Tbsp. garlic, peeled and finely minced (about 2 large cloves)
1 1/2 c. yellow onion, peeled and diced (about 1 small onion)
1 1/2 c. red bell pepper, diced (about 1 large red bell pepper)
1 1/2 c. green bell pepper, diced (about 1 large green bell pepper)
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
14 oz. water (fill empty crushed tomatoes can 1/2 way with water)
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 15.5 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 15.5 oz. can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 Tbsp. ground cumin
2 Tbsp. paprika
1 Tbsp. fresh oregano leaves, finely minced and densely packed (or 1 tsp. dried oregano)
1 Tbsp. ground coriander
1/2 Tbsp. Mexican-style chili powder (mild)
1/8 tsp. ground cayenne pepper, or to taste
1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
1 15.5 oz. can California olives, pitted and sliced crosswise into 1/4" rounds (optional)
1/4 c. cilantro (or more), finely minced (for garnish)
Directions: Thirty minutes before serving, remove meat from refrigerator and let rest, to reach room temperature. (This allows for even heat distribution during cooking.) Next, thoroughly combine all dry spices (cumin, paprika, coriander, chili powder, cayenne pepper, and salt) and fresh, finely minced oregano in a small bowl and set aside. In a large wide stock pot, sear meat on high heat for about 10 minutes or until completely browned (all the way through), stirring frequently and breaking up the meat into small pieces using a heat-proof spatula. Remove from heat. Drain liquid fat from pot, transfer meat to a bowl, and set aside. Thoroughly scrub/clean and wash out pot and place back onto stove top range. Heat olive oil on high heat until glistening. Then reduce heat to low, and saute bay leaf, garlic, and onions for 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Next, add the meat back in, then the green and red bell peppers, followed by the crushed tomatoes, water, tomato paste, vinegar, black beans, kidney beans, and spice mix (from the bowl you set aside earlier), and stir. Simmer (i.e., cook below the boil) for about 15 minutes, or until peppers are just cooked enough so that they still retain their color and a bit of crunch. Let cool for about 10 minutes, then stir in olives, if using. Discard bay leaf and serve.
Yield: 8-10 servings if made with the olives, and about 6-8 servings if made without them.