When I lived in Loves Park, Ill., I used to joke that I was a recovering Texan. This didn't make me a Yankee or a sell out, nor did my triumphant return (em-bell-ishhhhh...) make me some sort of carpetbagger. What it makes me is someone who readily admits he was more than a scosche homesick, and, using the addict terminology, made it to the sixth step of 12 and happily relapsed to his Texaholic ways for good.
That said, don't cha go thinking that it's a major love fest down South. No, sir. There are some things I could do without. For instance, I love Tex-Mex cheese enchiladas, Shiner Bock and Dallas (but not all Dallasites). On the flipside, I can't stand Southern fried okra, Lone Star and Houston (but I do like most Houstonians). These acknowledgments don't make me any more or less of a Texan. However, one simple disagreement divides more than the others: chili.
It's pretty simple — to bean or not to bean. True natives say, "Hell no. More meat." I think that's just narrowminded and not keeping with the cowboy tradition ("Blazing Saddles," anyone?) Beans are essential. You don't have to go overboard, but some kidney, navy or black beans (or even chickpeas) make a world of difference.
So, what's in my perfect bowl of chili? Well, I don't have any aspirations of going to the Terlingua chili cook-off (I'm told they shoot vegetarians first, ask question later), so I go nuts with beans. This 'un appeared recently in DMN, and I knew I'd love it, mainly 'cause chickpeas — or the infinitely more fun to say Garbanzo beans — have become a staple for me. The addition of red peppers is pricy genius, but worth it.
The suggested cous cous makes a great platform for this dish, but it's not essential. You can crumble crackers and top with mont-jack for repeat servings (as I did for a couple of reheats). Or, as the pic shows, you can just ladle the good stuff into a bowl and go back from whence you came, eating and smilin' all content with your fancy-pants liberal bean-eatin' self.