Friday, October 16, 2009

Cooking at home: Chana Masala

I really like to cook.  (I have an AAS in Restaurant Management, that started as a Culinary Arts degree.)  Cooking at home can save you money.  On the other hand it can get really expensive.  You have to find a balance.  Some spices are necessary, but if there is a recipe I want to make and I don't have one of the more exotic spices, I just leave it out.  If after making it once I decide I like it, I might start looking for the exotic spice I cut out and try the recipe the proper way (once I know I like it enough to eat it again).  This works out pretty well.  Most things will hold up without the one signature spice, and I don't end up with a whole bunch of used only once spices cluttering my cupboard.

So I keep an eye out for recipes that look good.  (I also try to cook meat-free often. Meat's expensive, and fraught with green issues so I only eat it when I am craving it.)  Here is a recipe that I found on Apartment Therapy's site.  I wanted to keep track of it to try to make it some day so here it is:

I will probably skip the garam masala, (because I don't have any on hand) and the cilantro, because I don't like the taste of it.   I'll add the yogurt only if I have some plain soy yogurt otherwise I'll leave it out (or maybe sub in some coconut milk).  Everything else here are pretty much staples that are always in my cupboard.  

BTW Cardamom pods, which I get cheap at Little India on 28th, are great.  I often crush one, and toss it in the bottom of my mug when I am making a cup of black tea, it adds a nice flavour and aroma.  Also, I placed one in my jar of white sugar, which has added a lovely scent to the sugar, and earned me a puzzled look from my sig. other.  (Big ups to Hope for sharing the wonderfulness of cardamom with me!) 

I copied this recipe from Orangette, she has a lovely write up before the recipe which I would highly recommend reading. 

Chana Masala

This chana masala can be served in two different styles: with a half-cup of whole-milk yogurt to smooth and soften the flavors, or sans yogurt, served with a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of fresh cilantro. I prefer the former, but Brandon leans toward the latter. Either way, this dish is even better the second—or third—day.

Good-quality olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp ground ginger
1 tsp garam masala
3 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
1 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
1 Tbs cilantro leaves, roughly torn, plus more for garnish
A pinch of 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, 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.

Yield: About four servings

I read a review of this that said it was okay the first day, but awesome the second day, so consider making a double batch and trying it the next day too. :-)  Brown bag lunch!

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