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Carla’s Chili


By Barbara Beltrami

The campfire has gone super suburban and morphed into a new phenomenon, the fire pit. Here in the burbs, most likely prompted by COVID and the need and desire for outdoor dining, it’s become a popular entertaining and dinner venue.

Fire pits range from built-in masonic works of art to portable little round metal versions available at hardware and home improvement stores. Plain or fancy, the great thing about them is that aside from providing warmth for autumn chilled bodies, they also offer a wonderful excuse for gathering round them and sipping and slurping tummy warming comfort foods.

If you don’t already have some, invest in some soup mugs or bowls with handles. Simmer a pot of stew or chili or soup, toast your family and friends with a hearty wine, serve up a fire pit meal and get into the mellow mode.

Chicken Stew

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings


1/4 cup olive oil

2 celery ribs, sliced into 1” pieces

1 carrot, peeled and sliced diagonally into 1” pieces

1 medium onion, chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

One 14 1/2 ounce can diced tomatoes with their juice

2 cups chicken broth or stock

Chopped basil leaves from one medium sprig

1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken breasts

2 large potatoes, peeled and diced

One 14-ounce can navy or great northern beans, rinsed and drained


In a heavy 6 quart saucepan heat the oil over medium heat, add celery, carrot and onion and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes; season with salt and pepper, add tomatoes, broth, basil, thyme, tomato paste, chicken and potatoes; press chicken down into pot to completely submerge. Over low heat, bring liquid to a simmer and cook uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and turning the chicken once; add beans, stir and continue to cook until liquid is reduced and thickened, about 15 minutes. Remove chicken, shred or cut into bite size pieces, return them to pot, adjust seasoning and bring back to a simmer.  Ladle into bowls and serve with crusty bread and a hearty ripe cheese.

Carla’s Chili

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large Italian frying pepper, chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, minced

1 large onion, chopped

1 pound ground beef

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon crushed hot red pepper 

1 tablespoon tomato paste

One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes with their juice 

One 14-ounce can large red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

Salt to taste

1/2 teaspoon cayenne

1 cup beef broth


In a large skillet heat oil on medium-high heat; add pepper, jalapeno and onion; stirring often, cook until they start to soften. Add beef and breaking it up into little pieces with a wooden spoon, cook until it’s brown, about 3 to 5 minutes; add chili powder, cumin, hot pepper, and tomato paste; cook and stir about one minute. Add tomatoes, beans, salt, cayenne  and broth, bring to a boil, then simmer 20 to 30 minutes. Serve piping hot with chopped scallions, sour cream, shredded manchego cheese and tortilla chips.

Bean and Escarole Soup

YIELD: Makes 6 servings.


1/4 cup olive oil

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 head escarole, trimmed, washed and chopped

4 to 5 cups chicken broth

One 14-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Extra virgin olive oil


In large heavy pot, heat 1/4 cup olive oil over medium heat; add garlic and continue to cook until it releases its fragrance, 15 to 30 seconds. Immediately add escarole and cook until it wilts, about 2 minutes; add broth, beans and salt and pepper, cover and simmer until mixture is heated through, 5 to 10 minutes. Serve with grated cheese, extra virgin olive oil and crusty Italian bread.