so, this story would have made a lot more sense to include in tuesday’s post about rosemary chocolate tart, since i was framing it as a christmas dessert, unlike chana masala, which has not traditionally been part of my christmas celebrations. oh well.
this past weekend my husband and i got our christmas tree and it offered two interesting reminders on perspective. the first is the obvious one that people have been been (re)learning since the beginning of christmas-tree-time and that is that things out in the middle of a giant field look a lot smaller than things in a box of finite and non-gigantic size (aka a living room).
just to give ourselves some credit, though, we did get a tree that is the perfect height for our living room. since my husband is tall and our ceilings are not, all we had to do was not buy a tree very much taller than he is. check. done.
as far as the width though… when we arrived at the farm, my husband pointed out a tree a short distance away and i said, “oh no! he’s much too skinny!” and pointed to a much fuller tree nearby. we (my husband) cut the full one down and tied it to the roof of the car. when we (my husband) brought the tree into our living room, it became clear that it was a very full tree. it’s lovely and we have space for it, it’s just also very wide. the “too skinny” one would probably have been just fine after all. noted.
the second lesson on perspective came when my husband remarked afterwards, “that was so much easier than going to (the store we used to go to where the trees are precut and a worker puts them on top of the car for you)”. huh. it was a good reminder that people make different determinations about whether it’s easier to deal with crowds and wait in line or saw down a tree and hoist it to the roof of the SUV and secure it. it was one of those, “i already know this and also am learning something new” moments.
and speaking of learning, creating this chana masala recipe took a bit of learning, experimenting, and perseverance over time. i’ve always loved chana masala – it’s my go-to order at indian restaurants – and i’ve been making it at home for years but was never thrilled by any of the versions i created. they were fine, but always missing that essential something.
through a process of trial-and-error and combining several different recipes of varying degrees of “authenticity” (something i make no claims to here), i’ve finally arrived at my favorite version of chana masala, which, i dare say, i like even better than the restaurant versions, because mine isn’t quite so heavy.
and it’s ready in 50 minutes. i realize that’s longer than the amount of time it takes to pour a bowl of cereal but it’s not nearly the ordeal and commitment that i sometimes think chana masala is going to be.
and most importantly of all, it’s delicious. the warm, cozy spices are perfect for this time of year and the chick peas make for a very hearty, filling dinner (but not one that leaves us feeling full of heavy cream and butter, since this version doesn’t have either of those). this chana masala plus these green beans with mustard seeds (updated with an easier cooking method!) is one of my very favorite dinner combinations. chana masala also makes great leftovers and freezes really well, in case you want to make a batch now for your later-in-december busy self. enjoy, friends.
we were traveling for thanksgiving and i was delighted to have ruth reichl’s adorable book delicious!: a novel (affiliate) tucked into my carry-on. reichl is such a great storyteller and the food was as vivid and alive as the characters. if you’re buying a gift for a foodie who loves to read, i highly recommend this book.
i added it to my recommended gear page down at the bottom of the page in the books section. if you’re looking for a curated list of my cooking/baking favorites, i still love and use each of the products on last year’s holiday gift guide (including the then new-to-me bread knife (affiliate)). here’s hoping your holiday shopping goes smoothly!
- 1 large yellow onion, finely diced, divided
- 1 fresh green chili or jalapeño, seeds and ribs removed, minced
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger, see notes
- 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 teaspoons black mustard seeds, see notes
- 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
- 2 teaspoons garam masala, see notes
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 14.5 oz. (411 g.) canned diced tomatoes
- (2) 15.5 oz. (439 g.) cans low sodium chick peas, rinsed and drained
- ½ cup (4 fl. oz. / 118 ml) water
- ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 cup (180 g. / 6 3/8 oz.) brown basmati rice, for serving
- cook the rice according to package directions.
- add 2 tablespoons of the onion to a small bowl. add the green chili, ginger, and lemon juice. stir and set aside (the lemon juice will mellow the onion and chili as it sits while you prepare everything else).
- heat the oil uncovered in a medium size dutch oven or heavy bottom soup pot that has a lid (for later) over medium heat. once hot, carefully add the mustard and cumin seeds, and stir, watching out for hot seeds that pop out of the pot. sauté the spices for about 15 seconds, until fragrant.
- add the remaining diced onion (not the mixture in the little bowl). sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onion develops brown bits, about 5 minutes.
- add the garam masala, coriander, and turmeric, stir and toast the spices for about 30 seconds, until fragrant.
- add the canned tomatoes (with their juices), drained chick peas, and water. stir, cover the pot, and turn the heat down to maintain a simmer. cook for 20 – 30 minutes (30 is best but 20 will do; 10 is not long enough for the flavors to blend).
- uncover and stir in the onion/chili mixture in the little bowl.
- serve over rice and garnish with cilantro.
- leftovers keep well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for several days and freeze excellently. i will usually put a serving of rice then a serving of chana masala into a freezer safe container so that future kate has a lunch or dinner ready to pull from the freezer and microwave.
peel and store ginger in the freezer to make grating easier. a microplane (affiliate) works much better than a generic cheese grater.
the spice company morton & bassett has black mustard seeds in their lineup of spices so if your store carries m&b, you might be able to find black mustard seeds there (the website also sells them). whole foods also tends to carry them in their bulk bins, so that’s another option. indian grocery stores also have them, of course, and likely for a much cheaper price.
there are a few premade garam masala blends that i have seen in the grocery store, primarily from mccormick and simply organic (available for sale on their website). again, indian grocery stores will have this (though they may encourage you to make your own).
adapted from a combination of sour chick peas from madhur jaffrey’s indian cooking (affiliate), the food lab’s channa masala, and smitten kitchen’s chana masala. teamwork!
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