Tuesday, June 29, 2010

School's Out Masala

My sister and brother-in-law retired last week, she after 38 years as a high school librarian, he after 35 years as a high school biology teacher and department head. Jack and I and almost everyone we know have always worked freelance, so experiencing a formal retirement was a new thing for us. Our ilk just eventually stop working when we decide the return is no longer worth the effort. My sister and BIL both loved their jobs, as I think most good teachers do, but they're happy to call it a day and move on to the next phase of their lives.
We were glad to be there to celebrate with them, but we came home to a nearly bare larder, with Monday Beans looming. We hadn't had chick peas for a while, so I've decided to make one of my favorite Indian dishes. This isn't really a summer dish, since it doesn't rely on fresh farm ingredients, and in fact can be made with cans from your cupboard in the dead of winter when you're snowed in.

As much as I love Indian food, I can't seem to make it with ease so I usually rely on this or that cookbook. This version of Chana Masala is based largely on "Very Spicy, Delicious Chick Peas" from Madhur Jaffrey's World of the East Vegetarian Cooking, a well-thumbed and thoroughly post-it noted volume on my cookbook shelf. I've changed it up a bit mostly because I like my chana masala more tomatoey and gingery, and also because my garam masala is a bit old and needs to be replaced. I think Indian food, like chili beans, is a personal thing and you can adjust the seasonings to your taste. Maybe I'm wrong about that and the amounts are actually prescribed and rigid. But I like to think not.

Chana Masala

2 cups dried chick peas

Cook the chick peas in water to cover until just tender. Drain, reserving liquid. 

2 Tbsp. oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
6-8 cloves garlic, minced

Saute the onion and garlic over medium heat until caramelized. 
Stir together:
1 Tbsp. ground coriander
2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. turmeric

Add the mixture to the onions and garlic; cook for a few minutes until fragrant. Add a box of chopped tomatoes, or an equal amount of fresh tomatoes, diced. Cook until heated through.
Add the drained chick peas and a cup of their cooking liquid, more if the tomatoes aren't juicy.

Stir together:
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. amchoor powder
2 tsp. paprika
2-3 tsp. garam masala
1/2 tsp. salt or to taste

Add to chick peas. Stir and cook for 10-30 minutes. Add more liquid if you want it soupier. Add the juice of half a lemon, some minced fresh chili pepper and a 2-inch piece of ginger, grated. Correct seasoning.

Serve with rice or naan or both.
 The leftovers are going to make a delicious omelet!

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