Friday, April 7, was a blustery day in my high desert.  Rain in the morning to add to all the flooding that’s been going on all winter.  There are impromptu lakes and streams everywhere in our foothills.  The rabbits, birds and squirrels don’t need the glass pie plate of water I keep out for them in the back yard.  Wind rocked the house most of the day and by evening rain started.  Hard.  Lots of rain.  Because that’s what everyone wants when we’re already flooded.  The world smelled good, though, and around 6 or 7 p.m. when I went outside, the even felt like a brisk October.  Pretty – just out of place.

Good night for chili.  If there’s someone in your household who reacts to beans of any sort the way my husband does (Toxic sludge! Run!) this is a filling, hearty chili that would lend itself easily to all sorts of variations.  I’ve fallen in love with it for the simplicity of having a one-piece meal – anything added for a side dish could be equally easy but this doesn’t even require garlic bread: it’s all part and parcel.

On really lazy nights I just make the chili and toast garlic bread with it rather than making the yeast bread to wrap around the chili and bake.  When that’s the case I top my bowl with grated sharp cheddar and chunks of tomato.  Rick adds just grated parmesan.  There’s a slight sweetness to it when it’s made in the braid so possibly a green salad (we kind of don’t do green salads here) or sharp apple slices or green grapes would be nice on the side.

Overnight the rain became that white fluffy kind of “rain” that sticks to the ground and powders the foothills.  I foresee having the leftover chili loaf for lunch.  It’s that kind of brisk day in April.

The Chili

1 pound lean ground beef (we choose 93 percent lean or leaner)

Olive oil

½ yellow onion, chopped

1 cup tomato sauce

1 ½ teaspoons chili powder

½ teaspoon dried basil

½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated

 

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil (about a tablespoon’s worth) while you chop half a yellow onion.  Sauté until soft.  Break up the ground beef while browning in the pan.  While the meat is browning, add the seasonings to the tomato sauce.  This is a tasty chili with moments of hot as in spice – for a hotter chili, add more chili powder in judicious increments.  Once the meat is browned and broken up, mix in the tomato sauce and remove the pan from heat.  Set aside.

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The Bread

½ cup warm water

1 package active dry yeast (not rapid rise)

1 teaspoon sugar

½ cup warm milk

1 tablespoon oil (canola or vegetable or olive – I’ve never tried it with olive)

1 teaspoon garlic salt

2 to 2 ½ cups unbleached flour

To make the bread, dissolve the yeast in the warm water in a large bowl.  Once the yeast is dissolved, add the milk, sugar, oil and garlic salt.  Stir well.  Depending on the humidity, the bread can take up to 2 ½ cups of flour but despite the wet and wild day outside mine only used two cups and a scant handful last night.  Stir until the dough is slightly sticky, then turn out onto a floured board and kneed for 2 or 3 minutes.  This is a soft dough.

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Oil a flat cookie sheet and sprinkle corn meal over the surface.  Roll out the dough on the cookie sheet (a towel underneath will mostly keep the whole thing from shifting around as you roll it out).  Roll into a roughly 12×14-inch oval.  Scoop the meat onto the bread dough, and sprinkle the cheddar over.

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At an angle, using a serrated knife, make cuts in the dough about once every 1 ½ inches on each side, leaving a chunk at either end uncut.  Fold the “wings” up to meet each other over the filling, bringing the ends up to create heels.

Cover and let rise for 30 minutes.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 35 minutes or until golden.

IMG_4346Didn’t manage to get a photo of it once baked – we kind of ate it.  Next time!

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