Chana Masala

When summer stepped into the picture, time had already started to slip away from me. While I have definitely been cooking and eating*, there's been way too much happening to stop, take pictures and blog. The truth is we all need to take a break from the routine of life's realities (including blogging) and focus on what's really important in life--treasured family, trusting friendships and the power of love. The recent 4th of July holiday provided us with a fabulous reason for a real celebration. And celebrate we did.

We invited our closest, most treasured friends and family to join us for a backyard pool party. With about a dozen amazing humans and two fabulous four-legged monsters, David and I whipped up a quintessential Independence Day menu that would be relished by all.

David grilled grass-fed burgers and bison hot dogs for the crew--and grilled portobello burgers for the vegans, which we served with the Lent family recipe for potato salad (shredded carrots, thinly sliced red onions, parsley and mayo) and an exquisitely refreshing and colorful raw summer salad of cucumbers, tomatoes, corn, red onion and arugula dressed with a light red wine vinaigrette. The summer salad was inspired from a salad we had on a recent visit to Dough Pizzeria.

To get the party started on the right note, I made two kinds of hummus using Yotam Ottolenghi's recipe for cooking chickpeas. While I find it so easy to open a can of chickpeas for hummus, I realized it was time for me to dive in head first and cook the beans from scratch for the first time ever. 
It's not that this is a daunting cooking experience by any means, it's just too easy to open a can of organic chickpeas when the hummus craving strikes. But, as I mentioned before, this party was more than just a one-day celebration, it was a celebration of life, family, friendship and love and canned food was not on the menu.

The two kinds of hummus were a hit--roasted pepper and sweet potato--and who can resist guacamole? Even the large and colorful vegetable tray I put together (carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes and bell pepper) was almost empty and that, my friends, is another reason to celebrate.

After the festivities, there remained an abundance of cooked chickpeas begging for something new and exciting. I wanted to step out of my culinary comfort zone and make something I had never made before that would be easy to incorporate into my repertoire. Chana masala won out. This hearty, vegan chickpea dish sounded equally enticing to a younger vegan friend, so I invited her over to continue the extended holiday celebration with us.

Chana masala is an intensely spicy and tangy dish that hails from India and Pakistan. It is considered one of the most popular dishes in the world and you'll know why when you take the first bite. Savory chickpeas are the focus of this stupendous dish as they lovingly mingle with onions, garlic, ginger, chiles and copious amounts of spices in a rich tomato-based broth. In addition to the benefits of your house smelling like an Indian spice market, the result is an absolutely satisfying dish that will speak to a diverse spectrum of palates.

Serve over basmati rice along with a side of roasted sweet potatoes and broccoli to up your vegetable game. Plus, the sweet potatoes will serve to quell the spice factor in a comforting way. As with any one-pot dish, the flavors will meld beautifully over time, making the leftovers even more attractive in subsequent days.

For only $2.99, this one-pound of dried organic chickpeas provided us with a culinary adventure that took us from Israel to India and back. That's a cheap and utterly delectable trip I am willing to take over and over again. Maybe you would like to join me next time?

Buen provecho!

*Some of the very cool, quick and satisfying dishes I have cooked in the last month that were blog worthy, but life got in the way of sharing.
Chana Masala
The Cowgirl Gourmet


There is a big difference between opening a can of chickpeas and cooking them from scratch. Though it's not a lot of work to cook your own chickpeas, the results are astoundingly improved when you do. And now that I have done it, it is unlikely I will ever buy a can of chickpeas again. I made hummus for the 4th of July and decided the remaining chickpeas needed to become something equally vibrant. This chana masala hits all of the right notes and within 30 minutes, a hearty, healthy (and vegan) meal will be on the table and ready to tantalize everyone's taste buds.

Serves 4-6

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 bell pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 serrano chile, minced (with seeds)
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 (28-ounce) can diced organic tomatoes, with the juice
2 (15-ounce) cans or 4 cups homemade chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup cilantro, for garnish
Lemon wedges, for serving

In a Dutch oven or large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the cumin seeds, allowing them to toast for 1-2 minutes. Stir frequently, to prevent burning, and allow the seeds to get golden and very fragrant.

Raise the heat back to medium-high and stir in the onion, bell pepper, garlic, ginger and chile. Stir well to coat and cook for five minutes, stirring often. Then add in the remaining spices, including the coriander, turmeric, paprika, cayenne, garam masala and salt and cook for two more minutes.
Add the entire can of diced tomatoes and their juices to the pot and stir well to combine, scraping up any bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Pour the water and chickpeas, stirring well and simmer uncovered for 10-15 minutes.
Serve over basmati rice and a side of roasted sweet potatoes and broccoli. Refrigerate any leftovers and trust this dish will be even better in the days that follow.

When reheating leftovers, you may need to add some water to thin it out a bit.
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