I am sometimes doubtful, but I am starting to think that happiness might be contagious. Granted, there are many, many times when I have found myself in the uncomfortable situation of feeling great next to someone who is miserable. It can feel like rubbing salt in a wound when you continue on, free from the heavy pull of sadness plaguing whomever you are with.
But then there are the times when you see someone you really care for feeling happier than ever. And it doesn’t matter if you’ve just had surgery on your foot, or if you took on way too much responsibility at school or at work or at school and at work; it doesn’t matter if you probably won’t have enough time to sleep next weekend because you have way too much to do; it doesn’t matter if your root canal performed nine years ago wasn’t done right, and your dentist just figured it out now, and you’re at the beginning of what will turn out to be a year’s worth of antibiotics and oral surgeries*. The point is, you have this really delicious meal and this really delicious moment with a great friend, right at your fingertips.
This is for that time, two autumns ago, when I finally got to see one of my good friends really, truly happy. We ate this exact chili and cornbread and I hopped on my one good foot over to the computer while she showed me inappropriate youtube videos and loaded me up with chocolate ice cream. I know we all have rough times, and I know that sometimes it seems that your own laughter isn’t nearly infectious enough to cheer someone else up. I also know, though, that that was one time when someone else’s happiness brightened up my day.
I know, I know. I see what you’re thinking. I blabbed on and on about joy and friendship, and you didn’t miss the key point: I’ve had this recipe for over two years, and I am just sharing it with you now. I apologize. One bite of this spicy, soul-warming, cheer-bringing, colorful, vibrant chili, and I don’t think you’ll be quite so mad anymore.
Black Bean Chili
Adapted from The Bon Appetit Cookbook: Fast Easy Fresh
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups chopped white onion
2 medium red bell peppers, coarsely chopped
6 garlic cloves, chopped
2-2 1/2 tbsp chili powder (depending on how much heat you like)
2 tsp dried, ground oregano
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne
2 15 oz cans black beans, drained
1 15 oz can black beans, liquid reserved
1 15 oz can yellow corn
1 15 oz can tomato sauce puree
salt and pepper, to taste
Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, bell peppers, and garlic, saute until onions soften, about 10 minutes. Mix in chili powder, oregano, cumin, and cayenne, stir 2 minutes. Mix in black beans, reserved bean liquid, corn, and sauce. Bring chili to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until flavors blend and chili thickens, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with grated cheese of choice and Mozzarella, Scallion, and Olive Cornbread. Chili tastes best when flavors have had the chance to meld overnight; I suggest making this 1 day ahead and refrigerating.
*In case you were wondering, this was just the start of a really, really bad year for me. It lasting a year was just a case of bad luck, so if you currently have a tooth abscess, or a problem with a root canal, please do not fret. I’d say I’ve had worse years, but of all the bad ones, I am most glad that that one, in particular, is over. And since I’ve been told I am basically a real, live Liz Lemon, here’s what I think whenever I reflect on it: