A few years ago, I bought an iron chiminea.
Chimineas, by design, are made of a hard, baked clay to keep the heat in but without being scorching to the touch.
I, however, got a black, cast-iron chiminea, and once I finally wrangled it from the car to the backyard (a feat that left me sore for days, thank you very much), it earned a place of honor on the patio (where it hasn’t moved in two years.) It gets fiercely hot, and the fire that blazes from the belly of the black beast is intense.
My very favorite thing to do on Friday nights all fall and winter (and a large portion of the spring) is to sit on the back patio with the fire blazing. I’ve finally mastered the art of the chiminea fire (and cursed myself for never having been a Girl Scout); the secret is the pyramid shape of the logs. The other secret is having VERY dry logs, which my dog makes difficult because he likes to drag the wood from the wood pile out into the backyard. The other secret, which I read somewhere online and finally tried this year, is the humble dryer lint fire starter. Don’t laugh; it works. Collect dryer lint and stuff inside an empty toilet paper roll. Once you have enough lint to fill the roll (about two days worth in my house), the fire starter is ready to use. It will ignite almost immediately.
But back to the back porch. I love sitting outside with a good fire and good friends while enjoying a good meal. On chillier nights, soup tastes wonderful while watching the fire. This is a new favorite!
Stuffed Pepper Soup
1 lb lean ground beef
2 Tbs olive oil, divided
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small yellow onion, chopped (1 cup)
3/4 cup red bell pepper, chopped (a little over 1/2 of a medium pepper)
3/4 cup green bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 (14.5 oz) cans petite diced tomatoes
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
1 (14.5) can beef broth
2 1/2 Tbs fresh parsley, chopped (plus more for garnish)
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1 cup uncooked long grain white or brown rice
cheddar or mozzarella cheese, for serving (optional)
In a large pot, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, add beef to pot, and season with salt and pepper. Cook until browned, stirring occasionally while breaking up beef. Drain beef and pour onto a plate lined with paper towels; set aside.
Heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in pot then add onions, red bell pepper and green bell pepper. Sauté 3 minutes. Then, add garlic and sauté 30 seconds longer. Pour in diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and beef broth. Add parsley, basil, oregano and cooked beef, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring just to a light boil, and then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
While soup simmers, prepare rice according to directions listed on package. Once soup is done simmering, stir in desired amount of cooked rice into soup. Serve warm topped with optional cheese and garnish with fresh parsley.
Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 437, Calories from Fat: 123, Fat: 14 g (4 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 51 mg, Sodium: 3742 mg, Potassium: 1675 mg, Carbohydrates: 32 g, Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 10 g, Protein: 43 g.