Fresh Summer Chili

The fresh summer flavors of tomatoes and corn are delightfully highlighted in this simple chili recipe, which forgoes the heavy flavors of traditional chili seasonings. This recipe is so quick and easy to prepare, you can enjoy it any night of the week. We are using steak with a three-bean blend, but this recipe is also fantastic if you substitute black beans combined with chicken or even mahimahi. The key to great flavor is great tomatoes. Splurge on very sweet heirloom tomatoes with complex flavors. Pink Brandywine or Cherokee Purple are fantastic choices.

By Russ Faulk, Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet
Serves 6
Image of Fresh Summer Chili

  • 5 pounds Brandywine or Cherokee Purple tomatoes, cut to a medium dice
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 lime
  • About 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Fine sea salt
  • 1 1/4 pounds inside skirt steak
  • 1 or 2 poblano chiles, depending on whether you would like mild or medium chili
  • 2 ears corn
  • Fine white pepper
  • 15-ounce can chili bean blend (kidney, pinto and red beans), rinsed and drained

Prepare the grill for direct grilling over a medium-high fire (about 500°F). A wood fire is preferred.Preheat a 12″ cast iron skillet, directly on the grill or over high heat on a side burner. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to the skillet, then add the tomatoes, garlic, juice of 1/2 lime and 1 teaspoon of fine sea salt. Reduce the tomatoes to a soup consistency while stirring occasionally. This should require between 20 and 30 minutes. Other ingredients will be added to the skillet during that time.Rinse the skirt steak under cold water and then pat dry with paper towels. Squeeze the remaining 1/2 lime over the steak. Lightly brush with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.

Quickly roast the poblano(s) over the hottest part of the grill, turning occasionally, until the skins are blackened and blistered on all sides. Transfer to a paper bag and close to let the roasted poblano(s) steam for 5 minutes.

Quickly grill the corn over the hottest part of the grill, turning occasionally, until nicely marked on all sides, but not fully cooked. Remove from the grill. Once you can handle the corn easily enough, cut the corn from the cob.

Scrape the blackened skin from the poblano(s), remove the stem(s) and then cut the flesh into a fine dice. Add the flesh and the seeds to the tomato mixture. Add the corn at this time as well.

About 10 minutes before the tomato mixture will reach its desired texture, it is time to grill the steak. If the tomato mixture is thickening too quickly, move the skillet to a cooler part of the grill or lower the flame on the side burner.

Grill the skirt steak directly over a medium-hot fire to medium-rare doneness, turning once, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. If in doubt, cut into one of the steaks to check doneness (the steak will quickly cook to medium doneness when it is added to the chili). Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for a couple of minutes. Cut the steak cross-wise into 2-inch sections, cutting with the grain of the meat. Next, thinly slice each of the 2-inch sections, cutting across the grain.

Add the sliced steak, the juice from the cutting board and the beans to the skillet, stirring constantly until the beans are hot. Adjust the flavor as needed with white pepper and sea salt. Serve immediately.

Variations: For low-fat chicken chili, substitute chicken breasts for the steak and use a 15-ounce can of black beans. Thinly slice the chicken or pound it thin so it grills very quickly and evenly with the same combination of lime, olive oil and salt. Remove the chicken when it is just barely cooked through, as it will continue cooking when you add it to the hot chili.

For an even more creative chili, try using grilled mahimahi, again grilled with the same combination of lime, olive oil and salt, and again substituting black beans for the chili bean blend.

See tips for grilling skirt steak from Chef Rick Bayless.