Craving Chana Masala

Chana Masala, chickpeas with masala spices, is a food I crave often. We are blessed with some excellent Indian restaurants in Providence, but it’s not necessary to spend money on a restaurant meal for this indulgence. This deliciously complex-tasting dish is easy to make, requiring only a few not-too-difficult-to-find exotic ingredients. It also falls into the virtuous category, requiring a small amount of oil and no meat. If you can find whole cumin seeds and garam masala and grind them yourself (I use a coffee mill), you won’t regret the trouble. Serve it with basmati rice and confettied with cilantro–another craving. I would serve this with my favorite, very austere salad made with just lettuce and a light dressing of lemon juice and good-quality walnut oil.

I wish I could remember where I got this recipe, but it was handwritten on a sheet of notebook paper, so I can’t properly cite the creator. My apologies.

Chana Masala
1 teaspoon olive or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 large onion, chopped
1 large tomato, chopped, or 1/2 cup tomato puree
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
Juice of 1/2 lemon or lime
Chopped cilantro, for garnish

Heat the oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds. When they pop, add the cumin, garlic, and onion. Saute over high heat, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the tomato and mix well. Add the garam masala and salt and mix well.

Stir in the chickpeas and cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup water. Lower the heat and cook, covered, until the sauce becomes thick. Squeeze on the lemon juice and garnish with cilantro.

Lettuce salad
1 small head butter lettuce, baby lettuces, or arugula
Salt and pepper to taste
The other half of the lemon you used above
Walnut oil

Wash and dry the lettuce and tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces. Place in a salad bowl large enough to toss the leaves. Sprinkle the lettuce with kosher salt and grind on some pepper. Squeeze some lemon and toss well. Add a splash of the walnut oil and toss again. Taste and adjust for seasonings or add more lemon or oil.

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