About 9 years ago I cooked my first meal.

That’s not entirely true. I grew up cooking at home here and there but as far as I remember that involved cooking pasta and opening up a can of marinara sauce. In 2003, all that changed. Inspired by a friend, I made chili. Eating that meal I had made from scratch was so satisfying and delicious and I was eager to learn more. Over the course of the next several years I began adding more foods to my repertoire. I saw my first ginger root, made my first curry, created my first recipes. All because of that chili.

My chili recipes have morphed over the years so that this particular one resembles nothing of that first chili I made. And yet no matter the taste, the texture, the ingredients, each chili fills my kitchen with the smell of nostalgia.


Smoky Red and Black Chili
makes about 2 quarts

1 tbsp oil
1 large red onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 cups cooked black beans (or (1) 15 ounce can)
2 cups cooked kidney beans (or (1) 15 ounce can)
2 (14.5) ounce cans diced tomatoes
2 cups water
2 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
pinch of cayenne pepper
3 tbsp liquid smoke
1 bunch of kale, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and saute for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Add bell pepper and saute for another 5 minutes. Combine chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper and liquid smoke in the pot and stir to coat.

Once vegetables are coated, stir in beans, tomatoes and water. Bring chili to boil then reduce to a simmer. Allow to simmer for 20 minutes. Add kale and continue to cook for another 10 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve warm with you favorite chili topping.


Do you remember the first meal you made? Is it a food you still enjoy to make?