Few foods boast recipes as varied as chili. Depending on where you live or grew up, chili can take on many different forms and functions. To some, a thick chili is the perfect entree, particularly when the weather outside is frightful. To others, however, a thin chili can be the ideal appetizer.

As varied as the recipes for chili can be, the chefs often mirror that variety. For instance, the following recipe for "Spicy Chili" from "The Niman Ranch Cookbook" (Ten Speed Press) comes courtesy of Wired magazine's Phil Ferrato, who cooked the chili for his staff, many of whom found it among their favorite foods.

"Spicy Chili"

Serves four to six

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large white onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

2 pounds lean beef (flat bottom round, eye of round, heel meat, sirloin tip, or top round), coarsely minced

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon ancho chile powder

1 tablespoon dried oregano

2 teaspoons dried thyme

2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted in dry pan or on stove top

1 teaspoon ground coriander

3 cups strained tomatoes

2 cups drained cooked kidney or pinto beans (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed stockpot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes, until soft. Add the meat and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes, until browned. Stir in the salt, chile powder, oregano, thyme, cumin seeds, and coriander. Add the tomatoes and


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beans and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to low and cook uncovered for 20 minutes, or until the beef has absorbed the flavors of the spices. Serve.