With our time off, we did as the Koreans do…and went to the beach with approximately 2,000,000 other people and climbed the peaks with hoards of other hikers and took in serene temples with scores of other worshipers and onlookers.
We also ate an incredible amount of good food that year. Do you have a Korean restaurant near you? Yes? Good. Go now. And eat galbi. Oh how I miss galbi. (Bear in mind that true Korean galbi is marinated meat cooked over a grill in the center of your table, then cut apart and dipped in sauces like doenjang or soy sauce and wrapped in a lettuce leaf and consumed happily with a bottle of average beer. Here, the American government, in all its wisdom, has determined that mid-table grills are not restaurant safe. Why…why are they opposed to galbi? We spent our evenings in our 7th floor apartment eagerly awaiting the next episode of Lost. And occasionally babysitting a fiesty one-eyed cat named Dewey. And listening to neighborhood cheers echo off concrete apartments in celebration of another Korean Olympic gold.
Cooking was…interesting that year. We had two gas burners, no microwave, and no oven. We also shopped for our produce at a little outdoor market near our school rather than the grocery stores, which had a lot of pricey imported goods like peanut butter, which also could be used as valid currency among foreigners.
With no oven, we did a ton of curries, stir-fries, fajitas, and pasta that year, but probably my favorite homemade dish came from our good friend and coworker Paige, who, like a true Canadian, knows how to make a mean chili. At one of her many parties, she had made this chili, which I immediately needed the recipe for.
Eric and I LOVE this chili. We love it because it is not overly kidney-bean happy. We love it because it’s full of vegetables that you can use from your freezer. We love it because it’s got a nice kick of spices that make it savory and hot, but not nose-sweat spicy. And we love it because it’s the perfect excuse to douse cheese and sour cream on something.
And one of the best parts about this chili? It’s totally yours. We like it with ground beef, but feel free to leave it out. We go heavy on the tomatoes and light on the kidney beans, but if beans are your thing, go to town. We put veggies like corn, carrots, bell peppers, and zucchini in, but use whatever you have. There’s tons of space for flexibility in this recipe. But there’s one thing I insist on…well two: please do not eat this without some freshly grated sharp cheddar, and be sure to have some crusty bread on the side (I’ve got a homemade peasant bread recipe coming your way in a few days).
(recipe adapted from my friend Paige)
(yields 8-10 servings)
This recipe is highly adaptable. Don't like meat? Keep it out and up your bean ratio. Like it extra hot? Throw some more jalapenos in there. Want to use up all those frozen green beans from your garden? Go for it. This recipe makes a lot but freezes extremely well. We like to freeze it in ziploc bags in individual portions to take for lunches.
1 lb. ground beef (optional)
3 cans diced tomatoes
1 can whole, peeled tomatoes
1 jar spaghetti sauce
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Vegetables of your choice (all except onion can come from your freezer, if desired)
2-3 green or red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
2 small-medium zucchinis, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 large onion
3-4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
app. 1 1/2 c. corn
1-2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped (throw some seeds in for extra heat)
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tbsp. chili powder
2 tbsp. cumin
1 tbsp. dried oregano
1 tbsp. (heaping) curry powder
dash of coriander (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
If using, brown and drain ground beef in a large soup pot.
Add all of the canned tomatoes and kidney beans, plus spaghetti sauce, to the pot.
Add all of your veggies, RAW, except the corn.
Add your spices and stir to combine thoroughly.
Let simmer, uncovered, on LOW heat for 2-3 hours or until thickened to your liking. If it's not thick enough after a few hours, add a little tomato paste. About 45 minutes before serving, add the corn.
Serve topped with any of the following: shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, green onion slices. Goes great with a nice, crusty bread.