Salad Nicoise, gazpacho, iced cucumber soup--we have been taking the coward's approach to summer.
Braver souls fight fire with fire.
Think of African hot sauces, of India and curry, of our own American southwest. Do Texans cower under a shady tree dreaming of ices?
They do not. They eat chili.
On Friday and Saturday, the Kitchen Bazaar will try to induce Washingtonians to test the theory that a hot dish like chili, by making you sweat, actually cools you down. They are sponsoring a cooking demonstration by Jane Butel, author of Chili Madness (Workman Publishing, $3.95), a compendium of chili lore and recipes that could serve as the base for your own weekend chili cook-off.
(The demonstrations will be held Friday at the Kitchen Bazaar in Seven Corners Shopping Center in Virginia between 7:30 and 9:30 p.m.; and Saturday between 1:30 and 4 p.m. at their Washington store at 4455 Connecticut Ave. NW.)
What should or should not go into chili divides the states as thoroughly as any political issue. New Mexican chili is an austere creation, the meat cooked in spices, served with pinto beans on the side. Texans add onions and tomatoes and, occasionally, beans. In Kansas City, people put together chili and macaroni and call it chili-mac. In Cincinnati, chili is served over a bed of spaghetti. And at hot dog stands all over the country you will find the chili dog.
But aside from the recipes, what the book does is provide a guide to the different kind of peppers, how to prepare them and which to use. Butel has the same opinion of chili powder that most Indian cooks have of curry powder, and her suggestions will help the reader develop a more discriminating use of the ingredients that have been lumped together under that name.
Her chili lore includes information on how to choose chilis--the darker the color, the more pointed the tip and narrower the shoulders, the hotter they will be--and the warning that in preparing chilis, it is a good idea to wear rubber gloves. Your tongue is not the only thing they can burn.
She also makes a few suggestions on what drinks to serve on the night of your chili cook-off. Margaritas, for instance, those limey and lethal tequila drinks which have knocked out more people than Muhammad Ali. Safer, though perhaps not as much fun, is to serve Mexican beer, preparing it in similar fashion--rimming the can or glass with salt and serving the beer with a slice of lime.
Jane Butel's Chili Recipe
Melt 2 tablespoons of lard, butter or bacon drippings in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add one large onion, coarsely chopped, and cook until translucent. Combine 3 pounds coarsely ground lean beef with 3 medium cloves of garlic, finely chopped, 4 tablespoons ground hot red chili, 4 tablespoons ground mild red chili and 2 teaspoons ground cumin. Add to the pot and cook until meat is evenly browned. Stir in 3 cups of water and 11/2 teaspoon salt, bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 21/2 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally. Add more water if necessary.