Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Chana (chickpea) masala

I'd call 2014 my year of playing with spices when it comes to cooking.  I've enjoyed learning to incorporate some spice - such as turmeric, chili and curry powders, garam masala, paprika, cumin, and coriander - into my food.  I have much to learn and try, but the small steps of expanding my spice pantry have widened my palate and made eating vegetables and legumes more interesting.
A spicy bowl of chickpeas - cooked with onions, tomatoes, peppers, and plenty of spices, finished with lemon juice
Recently, I took some of my spices and made chana masala, a dish of chickpeas cooked with onions, tomatoes, peppers, and plenty of spices to give it a good kick.  I learned about a new spice, amchoor powder, or a dried unripe mango powder, that's typically used in this dish to give it a citrus or sour note.  I substituted with lemon juice but it's good to learn something new and I've tucked it into my memory bank for now.  I actually walked around Penzeys recently but didn't find it; next time, I'll have to look harder to satisfy my curiosity.
I think playing with spices naturally leads me to Indian cuisine, which I am a big fan of.  I love meat dishes and curries but I was inspired to make this particular vegetarian dish after attending an Indian wedding recently.  The wedding was a blast - great music and a joyful vibe in the air that I just want to soak myself in.  The food at the wedding was vegetarian and reminded me, once again, how flavorful and satisfying vegetarian food can be when complimented and heightened with spices. Some fragrant rice and naan on the side doesn't hurt either.

This chana masala is somewhat similar to the Moroccan chickpea stew I made recently but it packs more heat.  I never thought I'd be a fan of chickpeas but its mild flavor and hearty texture makes it so great for pairing with spice.  When I first tasted my finished dish, my lips were on fire!  But it's amazing how quickly our taste-buds adjust.  Once it cooled a bit, it was a lot less spicy.  I also served it with brown rice to offset some of the heat and turn it into a meal.
A dollop of cool, thick yogurt would be nice here.  Given how great avocados are right now, I also enjoyed leftovers with cubes of soft, ripe avocado.


Much like Chinese cooking, which often calls for quick stir-frying, I've learned the importance of prepping, or mise en place, with Indian cooking.  This time, I chopped up my ingredients and made sure my spice blend was ready to go before I turned on the fire and got cooking!
Forgive my adaptations and shortcuts.  While I think we all want home-cooked food to be as authentic as possible, to me, convenience is also really important because I want these dishes to be ones I'd want to make over and over again.  To that end, I use canned chickpeas and canned diced tomatoes.  I also use ground cumin and did not roast and grind additional cumin seeds for this dish, as the original recipe calls for. 

And while I'm sure this chana masala would be made more authentic with the amchoor powder, I think the lemon juice does a good job of adding the much-needed splash of citrus in this very spicy dish.  I used the juice of one whole lemon and felt I wouldn't have minded even more so I can see how the amchoor powder came to be. 
Once the prep work is in place, the dish comes together very fast.  You end up with an exciting pot of chana masala - plenty for today and leftovers to enjoy later.  These flavorful dishes hold up so well in the fridge, or frozen for a quick healthy meal on another day.


Recipe:

Chana Masala
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from a Madhur Jaffrey recipe

- Serves 6 to 8 - 

1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
2 medium onions, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 fresh, hot green chili, minced (I used a jalapeno)
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 (14.5 ounce) can of diced tomatoes, including the juice
3/4 cup water
2 (15 ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon salt
Juice of one lemon

Optional: Serve with brown rice, naan, yogurt, and/or avocado cubes.  Garnish with chopped parsley or cilantro.

Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan or skillet.  Add onions, garlic, ginger, and green pepper.  Cook over medium-heat until browned, about 5 minutes.  Turn heat down to medium-low and add coriander, cumin, cayenne, turmeric, paprika, and garam masala.  Stir well together and cook for 1-2 minutes.  Add tomatoes, with its juices, and stir, scraping up any brown bits at the bottom of the pan.  Add water and chickpeas.  Let simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes.  Stir in salt and lemon juice.

Serve alongside rice, or as desired.












50 comments:

  1. This looks very comforting! I am always a bit scared of making Indian food at home. There seems to be a long list of spices to get and buy. But I do really like Indian food (the ones that ain't too spicy). After seeing your masala, I would love to explore that world of cuisine!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! Honestly, I hope I don't offend anyone with my adaptions/shortcuts in these attempts at Indian food. I have so much to learn! I love making the simple dishes I can manage and spices really jazz up vegetarian food. I can handle spice more now than I used to. This is pretty darn spicy so if you don't like things to spicy, go lightly first. And I find that like having a Chinese pantry, etc., you see many of the basic array of spices being called for often so it's worth the investment. : )

      Delete
  2. Monica, I love playing with spices - and this looks completely awesome! Such great flavors and it has some of my favorite spices!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I used to have just a few basic spices, now I have a lot more ("a lot" by my standards, anyway) and can't believe I ever did without it because I grab for it all the time now.

      Delete
  3. Channa masala is a great veggie dish, and your version looks awesome! Amchoor powder adds great flavor if you can get your hands on it, and if you like playing with spices, you should also try kasuri methi. It adds such a unique and wonderful flavor!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you...and I love hearing about kasuri methi. It's all so interesting how different spices blend to make such complex flavors. I don't think I'll ever do more than scratch the surface but it's fun to learn and taste new things.

      Delete
  4. Playing with spices...sounds great to me. Your chickpea masala looks comforting and moreish.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm still making my way to Indian cuisine but I know I like chicken masala (and anything with chickpeas) so this sounds like something I will dig. Especially because it's spicy and served with rice! Comfort food for me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree - once you add a bowl of rice, it's comfort food and so good! : )

      Delete
  6. I love my spices, but I've never heard of amchoor powder. I'm curious now too. This chickpea masala looks wonderful! I wish I could smell it! Garam masala is one of my very favorite smells :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Never heard of it til now and I would love to find it and check it out. I wonder if it can be used often where you'd want a little lemon flavor...

      Delete
  7. I need to play around more with spices ... I'm much better than I used to be but I get stuck on certain ones and forget to branch out! And I had never heard of amchoor powder before ... filing that away in my brain : ) This looks delicious ... I love solid vegetarian meals like this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Believe me, my spice pantry is probably so limited compared to most but for me, it's a long way. I have come to love vegetarian meals too!

      Delete
  8. it looks incredibly smokey and rich and just simply delicious. A lot of great flavors going on in this dish. I love it

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! Definitely a lot of flavor and jazz in a big pot here!

      Delete
  9. Well said, if you want to play with spices you go for Indian cooking. Your chana masala looks wonderfully delicious, Monica. Good job!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So glad you approve, Balvinder! I am taking baby steps... : )

      Delete
  10. This post totally reminded me I haven't made Channa Masala in forever! And yay for suggesting canned chickpeas! I never remember to soak the dried ones and always think I can't make a dish because of it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe one day I'd start my beans from scratch but right now, I can't get myself to give up the convenience of canned ones! I bet your chana masala is so good!

      Delete
  11. My children are not into chickpea for some reason, and I'm still working on it (and my husband too, I almost forgot). I'd be so happy to have a bowl of this just for myself. Such a flavorful dish with all kinds of spices. Your home must have smelled so good!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unfortunately, my son is not a big fan either. More for me (and my husband) though! : ) This dish packs a great kick!

      Delete
  12. I like your "playing with spices". I need to do more of that. I can definitely imagine that chana masala on my plate!
    :) ela@GrayApron

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's really fun to have spices in the cupboard and look at it and think about what you can use whenever you're making something.

      Delete
  13. This looks so delicious, Monica! I've never cooked with gram masala before, now I'm inspired!! =)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I only recently bought it to make butter chicken (but without any butter!) and I really like it. It's a great spice to have on hand, I think.

      Delete
  14. Yummm. This sounds so comforting and delicious! Such a perfect dinner!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It does make a hearty meal, I can attest!

      Delete
  15. Playing with spices and discovering new ones along the way is always so much fun! Love this version of chana masala. I've shockingly never actually made it at home!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope a homemade version is in your kitchen one day soon, Joanne. I know you'd make a great one!

      Delete
  16. Hi Monica! We will be trying this soon. We have both fallen in love with Indian food over the last five years. Recently, we've been trying to make more dishes at home. Thank you for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I never thought I could make any Indian food at home. I've only made very basic dishes but it's great anyway! Thanks, Monet!

      Delete
  17. I love how much you are playing with spices and this masala has all the spices I love in it! Can't wait to try!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Definitely loving the spice, thanks Pamela. :)

      Delete
  18. I love playing around the spices too. There's really no better way to make bring tons of interesting flavour nuances to a dish!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Very true...I love learning what goes into some of my favorite dishes.

      Delete
  19. This looks so delicious! I love chickpeas and Indian spices--it makes for a very healthy and tasty meal. I don't ever make Indian food on my own, but this looks like a good start!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think so too. The spice also helps metabolism and slows you down a little! : )

      Delete
  20. So glad to see this recipe. We eat Chana Masala like nobody's business. Mine is all about short cuts though Mum cooks the authentic stuff. It's all about the balance of ingredients and that is the amazing thing about spice. This looks delicious and I love the way you have laid out the spices. For me, it's more about adding as I go and tasting along the way. Great work with the dish!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The authentic stuff has got to be tons better but I have to settle for the short cuts myself too. Luckily, I don't have mum's to compare mine to. : ) I love that you can freestyle and add as you go...I bet your chana masala rocks. :)

      Delete
  21. Love this chickpea masala - it looks wonderful Monica! I have been on such a chickpea kick lately too and really love that you are playing with all the spices in here :) It is reminding me that I need to make more use of some lonely spices that I have too hehe - I've never heard of amchoor powder either but will have to keep a lookout for that - I'm a fan of anything that adds a citrus flavor :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Kelly - I was at the farmer's market yesterday and the stand selling roasted chickpea (with pesto, parmesan, etc.) was doing such good business! I never thought I liked chickpeas but now I realize how versatile it is. I have yet to find that amchoor powder; I'm still very curious, too!

      Delete
  22. I love Indian cuisine, and this looks just like some of the times I have seen this dish at local restaurants. Mmm! I can almost smell it! I understand the substitutions. I end up doing that with lots of dishes that either use ingredients we don't enjoy as much, or have trouble finding. And then there are those that seem way too expensive for a single dish.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Alyssa! I'm totally with you on the substitutions for all the reasons you mentioned! I definitely want to invest in ingredients that I would use again. Love Indian food all-around too!

      Delete
  23. Chana Masala is a favorite when we order Indian food or even frozen at Trader Joe's but I never tried making it at home. Seeing your delicious bowl full has me excited to try! I don't think that Penzey's carries amchoor powder (at least it doesn't come up when you do a search on their website) but The Spice House (owned by a Penzey's brother) does carry it. You can order online. I make a point of visiting The Spice House in Evanston (Chicago) whenever I am visiting my son. We have a Penzey's here in St. Louis but the two companies carry different stuff and I love to experiment with different spices too!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the tip on The Spice House, Wendy! I was just doing a stir-fry with pork and asparagus last night and I added 5-spice powder to the pork. I never would've done that a couple of years ago. Playing with spices has been eye-opening and there's so much to learn. I love walking around Penzey's...I got lucky when one opened right in our town.

      Delete
  24. This chickpea masala is looking very nice, it looks like Indian style, I would like to make with dried and soaked chickpeas because I like their taste, it is better than the tin ones. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sure that using dried chickpeas to start would make for even better results. Sounds great.

      Delete
  25. Mmm, I love a good spicy stew like this and I'm a huge fan of Indian food. I'll have to try making this and not tell my husband what's in it (he's not a fan of curry type things). Serving it with couscous looks like the perfect meal!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Might be too spicy for you right now, Amy! : ) I don't know if you could sneak these types of flavors past your husband but maybe make half a batch so you don't have too much if he's not a fan. Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete