Cold weather calls for soup if you ask me. This weekend I made a small pot of chili but even a small amount goes a long way for just one person. That makes it important to have a game plan for when you’re sick of the chili.
Luckily, I don’t mind leftovers and enjoy the art of reinventing food so that I don’t grow too tired of it.
People who make chili seem to obsess over their recipe and claim to make the best. I make no such claim. Since I don’t eat meat, I use kidney, black and great northern beans along with corn, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers and spices. But not too many spices because I like to keep it mild enough to be reinvented.
I’ll eat some as a simple bowl of chili but then it will get repurposed. Drain off the juice and suddenly it is perfect for taco salad. It also makes a terrific meal on a baked potato with a little steamed broccoli and shredded cheese.
I could use some as a sauce on a veggie hot dog or I could add some elbow macaroni to make an entirely different soup. It will more likely be used for Cincinnati chili before the week is over. If you’re not familiar, Cincinnati chili is not really chili but is a Mediterranean spiced meat sauce served over spaghetti. The Smithsonian named it one of America’s most iconic foods several years ago.
Cincinnati has a rich immigrant culture and this dish is one of the gifts these immigrants have given us.
There are a couple of Cincinnati based chili parlor chain restaurants that specialize in this dish and other local spots that sell it too. The most common way to order it is as a three way which is the meat sauce over spaghetti and topped with a ridiculously large pile of shredded cheddar cheese.
I feel my arteries hardening just thinking about all that cheese.
You can get it topped with beans and onions and everyone seems to eat it with oyster crackers.
My version isn’t remotely authentic but I like it and that’s all that matters. I’ll top mine with some fresh diced onion and a modest bit of shredded Colby Jack cheese. It will be good, even if I am breaking quite literally all the rules. But you know, my house, my rules.
I appreciate foods that can be reinvented so that I’m cooking once and just reworking it a bit later. It’s not always the easiest thing to do but it certainly is possible.
For example, I often roast extra potatoes to turn into a breakfast hash later. Have excess eggs? Boil them for snacks and turn the leftovers into egg salad. Leftover spaghetti can be baked in a shallow pan with mozzarella cheese and your favorite pizza toppings for a type of pizza casserole. Even the humble stale bread takes on new life as French toast casserole. When I still ate meat I would roast chicken and repurpose it into a sandwich, salad topping and eventually soup.
The possibilities are endless and the effort saves time, saves food from spoiling and allows you to flex your creative culinary muscle.