Chana Masala

So over vacation I fell in love with Molly Wizenburg, with Orangette, and with A Homemade Life:  Stories and Recipes from my Kitchen Table.  I may be late to this party, but so be it.  She is my new girl crush and this book is, as we speak, being shipped to me to keep for my very own because this library copy for 3 weeks just isn't going to cut it.  This is the world's most perfect book.  This book was written for me.  And I'm afraid I'm going to be a bit of a pain in the ass about it, but so be it. Let's dive right in, shallllllll we?

While not a vegetarian herself, Molly confesses to consistently falling in love with them ("My love is for herbivores only"), and now she is married to one.  So her book includes lots and lots of delicious-sounding recipes for salads and meatless meals.  Including her husband Brandon's recipe for chana masala.

For the uninitiated, chana masala is an Indian dish of chick peas and tomatoes, heavily and beautifully seasoned.   It's fantastic by itself with hunks of pita or naan, or served over rice, which is how I did it tonight.

You can read the full post and story here (and please do go to her blog and if you can, get a copy A Homemade Life because she's just a wonderful, wonderful writer).  But if you want to cut to the chase, let's just cook.

Chana Masala, from A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenburg

  • Good-quality olive oil or coconut oil (coconut oil in this dish is KILLER)
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds (I did not have seeds, I used 1/2 tsp of ground cumin)
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp garam masala (you can buy this pre-made in the spice aisle, or make your own)
  • 3 cardamom pods, lightly crushed (I did have these because cardamom is my favoritest spice ever, but you could skip the pods as there is cardamom in the garam masala)
  • 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 had no cilantro and used parsley)
  • 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

1.  Heat oil in saucepan or Dutch oven 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.

2.  Reduce the heat to low. Add the garlic, 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.

3.  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.

You can stir the yogurt into the chana masala before serving, or leave it out and serve with a squeeze of lemon.  However you serve it, do so with a sprinkle of cilantro/parsley and a pinch or two of the garam masala.

Served over coconut rice, this was pass-out delicious and so easy to make.  Plus your house smells amazing while it's cooking.  Jeeps ate two huge bowls and has called dibs on the leftovers for tomorrow (Molly says it's even better the second or third day).