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The Problem with Chickpea Masala

You know what the biggest problem with my Chickpea Masala is? I can't get it to look good. It smells great. It tastes wonderful. It looks... homely.

Oh, sure. I can toss some chopped cilantro or some parsley over the top of it. But come on... that's just putting lipstick on a pig. (Or is that a dog? Who knows these days?) Curry is just a homely dish.

Chickpea Masala

This is really the problem with all the bowl-foods. Delicious, yes. Tasty, yes. Recession-proof? Of course. Easy to make on Sunday and then take to work as leftovers? Without a doubt.

Just not good-lookin' enough for shmantzy guests, that's all. This is peasant cuisine.

Still, that's not going to stop me from sharing the recipe. It's so quick, easy and good for work-a-day lunches, I can't resist its humble charms.

Fast Chickpea Masala (Serves 2 (with leftovers) or 4)

1 Tbsp vegetable oil or ghee
1 medium-sized onion, halved and cut in 1/4" slices
2 cloves garlic, minced or mashed to a pulp
1 2" piece ginger, peeled and minced
1 jalapeño, seeded and sliced thin (optional)
2-3 Tbsp Masala Spices (see below) or a mix of your own
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
1 15-oz can chickpeas (drained and washed)
1 to 1 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
3 cups cooked rice (for serving)

Optional Garnishes
Chopped cilantro
Plain yogurt or cucumber raita

1. Heat the oil/ghee over medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed pan and add the onion slices.

2. Cook until the onion goes from white to translucent (about 10 minutes) and add in the garlic, ginger and jalapeño slices. Cook 5 minutes more.

3. Add in the spice mixture. Cook an additional 3 minutes. The spices should begin sticking to the pan.

4. Add the tomatoes and chickpeas. Lower heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 30 minutes.

5. Season to taste with the salt. (At this point, you may wish to add either a pinch of sugar, or a squeeze of lime juice, as needed, to please your palate.) Serve immediately with rice and garnishes, or pack up for work-week lunches.

Masala Spice Mix

1 Tbsp cumin seeds
1 Tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 cardamom pods
1 tsp fennel
2 whole cloves
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp turmeric

It's best to use whole spices, toasting them in a pan and then grinding them up for this mix, but you can get away with ready-ground spices if that's all you can find. The turmeric, for example, is almost always found pre-ground, so if you're grinding, just add that at the end.

If you're going to skip anything, don't skip the cumin and coriander. They're essential. The others are all negotiable. If you like more heat in your mix, add in some cayenne. I enjoy using fresh chilies when possible, so I like to leave it out.

Store the surplus in an empty spice jar and use within a week or so.

A pilaf of white basmati rice would obviously be the traditional choice to serve with this curry, but I've been liking the brown basmati lately. It has extra fiber and extra nuttiness.

Happy Eating!
Miss Ginsu

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9.11.2008

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