From the store to the kitchen to the table: We outline the steps that get you from raw ingredients to your dinner tonight, free of measurements and complicated techniques. It’s a method you’ll remember and whip out whenever you like. It is the most basic way to make the thing you’re making.

  • – a medium Dutch oven or pot with a tightfitting lid
  • – a colander or strainer
  • – one onion
  • – one carrot
  • – one bell pepper
  • – one zucchini
  • – two cloves of garlic
  • – vegetable oil
  • – salt and pepper
  • – two 15-ounce cans of beans (any kind)
  • – ground cumin
  • – chili powder
  • – one 28-ounce can of chopped tomatoes
  • – optional garnishes: chopped cilantro, quartered pieces of lime, shredded cheese, sour cream



  • 1. Cut all the veggies except the garlic into little pieces. Finely chop the garlic.

    Cut vegetables

  • 2. Coat the bottom of the pot with oil. Heat the pot over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers, then add the onions, carrots, and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the onions are soft.

    Add onions

  • 3. Drain the beans in the colander or strainer and rinse. Set aside.

    Drain beans

  • 4. When the onions are soft, add the remaining vegetables to the pot and season again with salt and pepper. Add one heaping spoonful of cumin and a couple of spoonfuls of chili powder. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are just starting to get tender (about 10 minutes).

    Add remaining veggies

  • 5. Add the tomatoes and their juices to the pot, along with the rinsed beans.

    Add tomatoes

  • 6. Fill one bean can with water and add it to the chili. Bring everything to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and cover the pot. Gently simmer until the veggies are soft and the flavors have melded (about 10 minutes). Taste the chili and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

    Add water and boil

  • 7. Serve and garnish as desired.

    Add cheese

Illustrations by Bill Russell

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