I am a sucker for the comfort classics, made the way I expect and hanker for. But there’s something exciting about playing with flavors and textures to create something completely original.

That’s exactly what Emily G’s did. She took Berbere, an essential Ethiopian spice blend that typically includes ginger, paprika, cinnamon, turmeric and a variety of other spices and made an iconic pantry item that packs a smoky and savory punch in concentrated flavor. She added Berbere to tomato paste and threw in some brown sugar, cumin, cloves, cardamom, allspice and more for a sauce that has been dubbed “African mole” or “international A-1 sauce.”

I think of it as an intensely spiced and flavor-packing tomato paste that opens up a world of possibilities. Rubbed onto chicken or tossed with vegetables before roasting, the Berbere sauce imparts a warmth that can only be achieved with familiar notes of cinnamon and clove, while creating depth and a subtle sweetness with anything it touches. Can you tell I’m hooked?

Emily Garrison (a different Emily G), owner of Athens, Georgia's Shiraz Fine Wine and Gourmet praised the sauce for its abilities to transform ordinary dishes into something deeper and surprising. She actually shared a delicious chili recipe with us. Berbere, beer and lots of beans— yes, it was delicious. And it yielded around three quarts, (hello lunchtime leftovers!).

White Bean-Berbere Chili

1 tsp olive oil1 pound ground turkey or venison4 cloves garlic, diced1 onion, diced2 Tbsp flour5 Tbsp Emily G’s Berbere1 tsp black pepper1 tsp salt1 bottle beer28 oz. can diced tomatoes2 c low sodium vegetable or chicken stock3 cans, various white beans, drained (I used garbanzo, cannellini and navy beans)

1. Heat a large pot on medium heat. Add the olive oil and meat, then brown for about 10 minutes. Halfway through browning, add the garlic and onions. When the meat is done, add flour to the drippings and whisk thoroughly. Add the Berbere sauce, pepper, salt and beer to loosen up the meat and roux. Cook for 15 minutes.

2. Then add the tomatoes (with juice) and stock. Add the beans, and cook for an hour.

S3. erve, topped with crumbled goat cheese, cheddar, or a sprinkling of fresh herbs.

*vegetarian option: instead of browning meat, heat 2 Tablespoons olive oil or butter and follow the rest of the recipe.

Serves 8.