I’ve been loving this unseasonably warm weather, but the temperatures are finally starting to dip…meaning thick snow boots, over-active radiators, and slushy snow puddles are just around the corner for those of us in the North. It also means that my slow cooker, having gathered dust all summer, is finally being put to use for making a variety of soups and stews! I quite like winter, mostly because I am given the opportunity to create inventive meals that are both hearty and filling. In an effort to give the colder season its due, Tom and I made an amazing Chipotle Pumpkin and Turkey Chili.
Spice and heat is what makes a great chili – you can use any number of ingredients, so long as the flavorful depth and fiery kick are the defining characteristics. In our case, Tom whipped up a “chili paste” using onions, chilies in adobo, and garlic. The result was a thick base from which we built our chili. Ground turkey, black beans, kidney beans, tomato paste and diced tomatoes were the standards. The secret ingredient was puréed pumpkin, which was more of a “let’s see what happens” add-in. The pumpkin ended up being a game-changer, tying together the chili’s various flavors and overall texture.
We let the chili cook for a total of 5 hours in a slow cooker, and only had to add a few splashes of stock throughout the process. The consistency was thick, which can be credited to the pumpkin and chili paste, and the level of spice was absolutely perfect. We topped each of our bowls with chopped avocado and a dollop of Greek yogurt. You can sub out any number of ingredients (beef for the turkey, or puréed sweet potatoes for the pumpkin), so feel free to experiment! It is honestly the best (healthy) chili I’ve ever had – click HERE to see the recipe for this cold-weather staple.
Chili is one of those dishes that is redolent of the warmth and comfort to which we are drawn on a cold night. It’s the “goal”, the end of the journey as you tug your gloves and hat tight against the wintery winds. This recipe can certainly be likened to such a journey, and yet the objective is far from being your “standard fare”. I was thus inspired to choose a unique and ambitious work for my musical pairing, and came across Barber’s Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 22. Though quite challenging for the soloist, the piece is remarkably evocative and has become an admired standard of cello repertoire. Cellist Alisa Weilerstein says of the piece”
“[Barber] really stretches the technical limits of the cello, which is a great challenge for the performer, but it’s only to serve the most musical ends. It’s a really fantastic piece…not a dull moment.”
The concerto seamlessly combines elements of the Romantic era with those of the 20th century, and its overall narrative paints a colorful journey: from a militant introduction (the “Allegro moderato”) into an impassioned “Andante sostenuto”, closing with a frantic yet ultimately triumphant “Molto allegro e appassionato.” The piece was commissioned by Serge Koussevitsky, former music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, for cellist Raya Garbousova. The below recording features Garbousova and the Music Aeterna Orchestra, conducted by Frederic Waldman. Enjoy!
Schiavo, Paul. “Program Notes – SAMUEL BARBER, Cello Concerto, Op. 22”. Seattle Symphony, 2007.