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Microwave . . .

A Down-Home Chili That's Naturally Colorful

June 26, 1986|DIANA WILLIAMS HANSEN | Hansen is a Louisville-based cooking consultant specializing in microwaving. and

Chili is a down-home stew that is great for the microwave oven. It's saucy, so you can stir it easily to distribute the heat. It's naturally colorful. And it benefits from the fresh flavors that the microwave oven preserves.

Microwave chili can run the gamut from very hearty, with a lot of spices competing for attention, to the freshest-flavored chili, only delicately seasoned so the spices don't distract from the fresh garden flavor of the vegetables. The two examples here show each flavor extreme.

Ohio Valley Chili is hearty and richly seasoned. It's inspired by tales of Cincinnati chili, which is said to contain cinnamon. Although the recipe below doesn't include cinnamon, you can add up to one teaspoon of cinnamon as a flavor accent. In my opinion, this chili goes best with plain rice, cooked just to the dry but chewy stage. I like it over baked potatoes, too. However, Ohio "Buckeyes" like their chili to be versatile--many chili eateries offer up to five different toppings, including beans, onions, cheese, oyster crackers and cooked macaroni.

Garden Fresh Chili starts with five kinds of vegetables, cooked just slightly before the meat and seasonings are added. Because the natural juices of the vegetables and meat do not evaporate--as they would if you boiled this on a stove top--there is a delicious broth with this chili, making it the consistency of a thick soup rather than a stew. This chili is wonderful over freshly cooked pasta.

Each of these recipes uses a different technique for cooking the ground beef. The Ohio Valley Chili uses meat that is precooked, then drained of juices and fat before the other ingredients are added. With this technique you do not have to be careful of the fat content of the ground beef since the fat will be drained away.

A unique microwave accessory is a colanderlike inset that fits a larger casserole. The inset is designed to hold raw ground meat, which can be drained of fatty juices as it microwaves. After the juices are discarded, you can use the larger casserole to finish the chili. You also can use this accessory for steaming foods--especially vegetables. Just put the food in the upper chamber, water in the lower chamber, cover and steam.

The Garden Fresh Chili, on the other hand, adds raw ground beef to the hot vegetable sauce, then simmers it until done. Because moisture surrounds the meat as it cooks, it cooks more slowly. This produces soft, tender particles of meat and ensures that the meat juices flavor the chili. But you must use very lean ground beef (20% fat or less) so that the chili is not greasy.


2 pounds lean ground beef

4 medium onions, finely chopped (about 3 1/2 cups)

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 (12-ounce) can tomato paste

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 tablespoons vinegar

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon dry mustard

1 tablespoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

3 cups water

Cooked rice or baked potatoes, optional

Place ground beef in 3-quart microwave casserole or colanderlike microwave accessory. Microwave on HIGH 9 to 11 minutes, stirring every 4 minutes, until beef is evenly cooked. Discard fat and juices and, if necessary, transfer beef from colander accessory to casserole.

Add onions, garlic, tomato paste, chili powder, vinegar, Worcestershire, mustard, allspice, cumin and red pepper flakes to beef. Stir to mix well. Stir in water. Cover. Microwave on HIGH 10 minutes until chili starts to boil.

Stir well, then continue to microwave on MEDIUM 40 to 45 minutes until thickened and blended. Serve over rice. Makes 6 to 8 servings.


1 3/4 to 2 pounds tomatoes, chopped (4 cups)

2 large green peppers, chopped (4 cups)

1 medium onion, chopped (1 cup)

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped parsley

2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 tablespoon minced basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 pounds lean ground beef

Cooked pasta, optional

Place tomatoes, green peppers, onion, celery and parsley in 3-quart microwave casserole. Microwave on HIGH 10 to 14 minutes, stirring after 5 minutes, until hot and well blended.

Stir in sugar, garlic, salt, chili power, basil and pepper. Slowly crumble in beef, stirring after adding about half of meat. Stir again to mix raw beef well into vegetables.

Microwave on HIGH 14 to 18 minutes until mixture is very hot. Stir well, then microwave on MEDIUM 30 to 35 minutes until beef is tender but cooked throughout and mixture is well blended. Serve over pasta. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

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