June 9, 2009

Chana Masala

I've had this can of whole peeled tomatoes sitting in my pantry for months. This kind of thing (un-eaten/un-used food) usually doesn't happen to me, but I had bought the can in preparation for making these Giant Lima Beans with Stewed Tomatoes and Oregano Pesto featured in Food & Wine. Soon though, I realized that without a Cuisinart or the possibility of getting one in the near future, this recipe was going to have to wait. So instead, I decided to do the only other natural thing one would do with a can of whole tomatoes: make Chana Masala.

And I'm quite glad I did. Although I didn't use the exact spice blend this recipe called for (I couldn't bring myself to buy the $10 cardamom at the grocery store), I didn't feel like the flavor or complexity were lacking in the least.

The heavily caramelized and charred onions make the dish wonderfully aromatic right from the beginning, and the cumin, which I sometimes find to be overwhelming, is actually somewhat subtle here against the garam masala and tomatoes. As the recipe says, the addition of yogurt is optional so I added some to the side of my plate and mixed it in when my mouth was hot and my nose was runny from the from the cayenne (I added more than the recipe calls for because I like it spicy despite these unpleasant side-effects).

I finished off the meal with some coconut milk yogurt (just plain greek yogurt mixed with coconut milk- yummy) and frozen mango- the perfect end to a delicious and homemade Indian dinner.

Chana Masala

Adapted from Orangette

Good-quality olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin seeds [I used ground cumin]
½ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp ground ginger
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp turmeric
3 cardamom pods, lightly crushed [left this out b/c I didn't have it]
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
1 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
1 Tbs cilantro leaves, roughly torn, plus more for garnish [I left this out b/c I abhor cilantro]
A pinch cayenne, or to taste
2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
6-8 Tbs plain whole milk yogurt, optional
A few lemon wedges, optional

Film the bottom of a large saucepan or Dutch oven—preferably not nonstick—with olive oil, and place the pan over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook, stirring frequently, until it is deeply caramelized and even charred in some spots. Be patient. The more color, the more full-flavored the final dish will be.

Reduce the heat to low. Add the garlic, stirring, and add a bit more oil if the pan seems dry. Add the cumin seeds, coriander, ginger, garam masala, turmeric and cardamom pods, and fry them, stirring constantly, until fragrant and toasty, about 30 seconds. Add ¼ cup water, and stir to scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook until the water has evaporated away completely. Pour in the juice from can of tomatoes, followed by the tomatoes themselves, using your hands to break them apart as you add them; alternatively, add them whole and crush them in the pot with a potato masher. Add the salt.

Raise the heat to medium, and bring the pot to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, add the cilantro and cayenne, and simmer the sauce gently, stirring occasionally, until it reduces a bit and begins to thicken. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Add the chickpeas, stirring well, and cook over low heat for about five minutes. Add 2 Tbs water, and cook for another five minutes. Add another 2 Tbs water, and cook until the water is absorbed, a few minutes more. This process of adding and cooking off water helps to concentrate the sauce’s flavor and makes the chickpeas more tender and toothsome. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as necessary.

Stir in the yogurt, if you like, or garnish with lemon wedges and cilantro. Serve.

No comments: