This one took a while to get right but I am as pleased with this chili as a kid with a bulging bag of Halloween candy. When I say “pumpkin chili,” the expression on people’s faces is priceless because it sounds like an oddity—and yet it’s easy, healthful, and so delicious. A couple of years ago, my family and some friends went to a pumpkin festival in Pennsylvania Amish country. While we tried pumpkin bowling and football, we also ate all manner of foods made with pumpkin. Cold and hungry, we dug into some pumpkin chili and my taste memory is that it was about the best thing I had ever put in my mouth. I made many tries to get the recipe right and finally success is mine! Hope your family likes it as much as mine does.
4 tablespoons canola oil
1 pound ground beef
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1 zucchini, diced
1 cup peeled and diced butternut squash
1 (15-ounce) can plain, unseasoned pumpkin purée
2 cups canned crushed plum tomatoes and juices
2 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon cumin
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat in a large sauté pan until shimmering. Cook the beef, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until browned and cooked through and it is in small pieces. Add about 11/2 teaspoons of salt and season to taste with pepper. Drain the meat and set aside.
In the same pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat (if you use the same pan, wipe it clean). When hot, cook the onion, green pepper, and garlic for 5 to 6 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
Return the meat to the pan along with the zucchini, squash, pumpkin purée, tomatoes, stock, pumpkin pie spice, cumin, chili powder, and about 11/2 teaspoons of salt. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and cook at a gentle simmer for about 30 minutes or until the butternut squash is tender. Adjust the heat to maintain the simmer.
Add the kidney beans, stir the chili well, heat through, and serve.