The winter season brings with it a little less selection than the summer and fall can provide.
Some plants, such as tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers, simply can’t survive the evening chill. Stone fruit trees are now bare and dropping their leaves; same goes with the grape vines and fig trees. With the absence of those crops, however, others begin to take their place.
Sweet tangerines, kiwifruit, cherimoya and apples are top picks when it comes to winter fruits. Additionally, many of our annual staples are starting to reach their peak flavor, including broccoli, kale, cauliflower, beets and carrots.
Root vegetables love the loose, cold, wintery soil, with sugar levels intensifying over the coming months. The carrots I purchased this past week were by far the sweetest and most flavorful of the year thus far, and am expecting them to get even better as we round into January.
Carrots are one item we eat in our house on most days of a week in one form or another — whether shredded and tossed in a salad, used in a slaw, added to spring rolls or in cooked preparations such as soups, stews, stir-fry’s, grilled or roasted.
This week I incorporated these super sweet carrots into my first chili of the year.
While I usually use ground beef or bison, I decided to go with a chicken chili instead. You can also easily omit the meat if a vegetarian chili is your preference. I happened to still have some really nice Anaheim chili peppers in my refrigerator that went into the dish, although poblanos would be a nice substitute or even some bell pepper if you don’t want any added heat.
2 cups dried beans (I used dried dragon tongue beans from Two Peas in a Pod Farm at the Saturday Santa Barbara farmers market, but you can use and you prefer such as pinto, black, northern or Peruano.)
2 14-ounce cans tomato sauce (or use diced or stewed tomatoes, or use your own fresh tomatoes)
3 medium carrots, peeled and diced small
1 large onion, diced small
6 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 Anaheim or Poblano peppers (or bell peppers for less heat), diced small
4 cups chicken stock/broth or water
2 6-ounce chicken breasts
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon seasoned salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried or fresh thyme or oregano leaves (or use 1-2 bay leaves)
Presoak your beans for 4-6 hours or overnight. Strain and rinse, then add to a slow cooker (can also be done at low heat on the stovetop). Add remaining ingredients and mix.
Then, set to slow cooker to high setting and cook for about 3 hours. Remove chicken and dice or shred and set aside. Continue cooking for another 1-2 hours or until desired consistency is reached. Add chicken back and mix in. Taste, and add more seasoning as needed to taste. Serve warm with desired toppings such as cabbage, cilantro, shredded cheese, avocado and/or sour cream.
Yield: Serves 6.