By Isa Covo
No question, winter is upon us here in New York. The little huts which are the extension of restaurants, even when equipped with heaters, do not seem that appealing for a night out with friends.
It is best to stay home and watch a movie, read a book, and brush up on history.
I have been reading about Thomas Jefferson and the Founding Fathers. It took a lot of courage and imagination to invent an independent new nation that would be different from any other, “created by the people for the people.” No king, no authoritarian ruler. Unfortunately, slavery was not abolished in the Southern States where the Plantation owners refused to change the status quo. I assume they could not imagine not having all these people at their beck and call, and at very little expense.
Thomas Jefferson, despite his mixed feelings on the subject, had owned somewhere around 600 slaves during his lifetime, many of them skilled workmen, beyond agriculture. They also worked long hours, and several were housed in sub-par lodgings.
It would be wrong, however, to only concentrate on this part of his life, which alas, was also shared by all the plantation owners.
Thomas Jefferson was a man of many talents, interests, and an exceptional intellect. Beyond writing the “Declaration of Independence”, as President, he stabilized the country’s economy, and with the Louisiana Purchase, he increased considerably the size of the territory. He also founded the University of Virginia, a public university whose aim it was to “advance human knowledge.”
He died on the 4th of July 1826.
He also designed his tomb, and here is what he wrote:
Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, Author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom & Father of the University of Virginia.
Isn’t something missing?
Pink Bean Chili with Chorizo and Beef
This is not quite the usual chili recipe with its Spanish undertones, but it will quickly become a favorite. Serve it with cold beer or a spicy Spanish red wine.
- 1 lb small pink beans or pinto beans
- 1 lb chorizo, preferably Spanish
- 2 lbs lean boneless beef stew, cubed
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cups chopped sweet onions
- 2 sweet red peppers
- 2 tbs minced jalapeños, or more to taste
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon Spanish paprika
- 3 tbs chili powder
- 1 tbs ground cumin
- 1 tbs dried oregano
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 small dried hot chili
- 2 cups stock or water
- 4 cups peeled, seeded, chopped tomatoes
- 2 tbs corn meal
- 1 tsp coarse sea salt
- ½ cup chopped cilantro
- Pick over the beans, if necessary, rinse them and soak them in cold water overnight, or at least six hours.
- Cut the chorizo into ½-inch slices. Seed and cut away the white membranes from the peppers and cut them into thin strips, about ¼ inch.
- Cut the beef with a knife into tiny cubes, no bigger than ¼ inch in size. Do not grind the beef.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large and deep ovenproof saucepan or Dutch oven, over medium heat and add the chorizo slices and sauté for about ten minutes, or until browned, stirring the pieces once in a while to cook them evenly. With a slotted spoon transfer the chorizo to a plate and discard the fat left in the saucepan.
- Pat the beef pieces dry, add the rest of the oil and heat over medium heat. Sauté the meat in the hot oil without crowding it, a few pieces at a time, until browned on all sides, and transfer it to the plate with the chorizo Do not discard the fat.
- Reduce the heat under the saucepan to medium low and add the onions, stirring about 5 minutes until the onions become translucent and slightly brown. Add the peppers, jalapeños, garlic and the spices and cook stirring for 1 or 2 minutes until fragrant.
- Return the chorizo and the meat to the saucepan and stir to mix all the ingredients. Add the beans, drained, to the meat mixture and add the stock or water. Stir the mixture again. Cover the saucepan and cook over medium low heat for half an hour.
- Heat the oven to 325 degrees F.
- Uncover the chili and add the chopped tomatoes with their juice and the corn meal. Make sure that the bean mixture is completely covered with liquid. Add more water or stock if necessary. Cover the saucepan tightly with its lid and place in the middle of the oven for 2 to 2 ½ hours, until the beans and the meats are very soft. The chili should be thick but not dry. Check periodically while it bakes to see if more liquid is necessary. When the chili is ready, taste and add more salt if necessary. Stir in the chopped coriander leaves.
Serve with plain boiled rice and cornbread.
Yield: 10 servings or more