Thursday, March 22, 2012

Chana Masala with Quinoa

I’m taking a vacation from rice. When my mom is here, there is usually rice at.every.meal. It's so plain. To jazz it up, sometimes I drizzle gochujang (Korean red chili sauce) because I love how the spice burns my tongue. Or, if I prefer less heat, I spoon thick, inky juices from the eggplant cooked in black bean sauce over my rice. 

Since I got back from Hong Kong, I don’t have to dread eating rice. My mom abandoned me and now I have the whole apartment to myself for two months, which translates to two things: walking around naked (I’m not kidding), and eating whatever I want, whenever I want. But then sometimes laziness takes over and I’m tempted to declare peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

But I won’t have it. I brainstormed a delicious list of dishes that I’ve been meaning to make for months and also taste good the next day (none of them include rice, though risotto to me, doesn’t count, because it’s one of my favourite things ever). This weekend I crossed three things off my list and then added six more dishes as I was browsing cookbooks, so now I'm faced with a serious dilemma of finding a way to grow a second stomach to stick more food in my belly.

Last week, this chana masala lasted me for half the week. Seven spices are layered with sweet tomatoes and caramelized onions, the silky chickpeas help soak up the bright and hot flavours to give you a robust and luscious sauce. Pour it over quinoa (or if you dare: rice!), add a dollop of yogurt and you have yourself a very fine dinner. I couldn’t help but eat it in big, greedy bites, I encourage you to do the same.

**The lovely Lauren over at A Dash of Cinema interviewed me about food, blogging, and photos. You read about it here.

Chana Masala
Adapted from Debbie at Smitten Kitchen and Molly at Orangette

I liked Molly’s recipe instructions and how the sauce was slowly thickened, but I also liked how Debbie used more spices. I wanted a full-flavoured dish with a mild amount of heat and would make decent leftovers, this definitely made the cut.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted and ground
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon garam masala
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups tomatoes, chopped small or 1 15-ounce can of whole tomatoes with their juices, chopped small
4 cups cooked chickpeas or 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1. Over medium heat, pour the oil into a large pot and add onions. Cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. It’s ok if the onions brown a bit, it will give the dish even more flavor.

2. Reduce the heat to low. Add the garlic, ginger, coriander, cumin, cayenne pepper, turmeric, cumin seeds, paprika, garam masala, salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and toasty, about 30 seconds. Add ¼ cup of water and stir to scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook until the water has evaporated completely. Pour in the juice from the can of tomatoes, followed by the tomatoes themselves, using your hands to bring them apart as you add them (or use a pair of scissors to snip them into pieces)

3. Raise the heat to medium and bring the pot to a gentle boil. Adjust the heat to a simmer, add the cilantro and continue to cook gently, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reduces a bit and begins to thicken, about 5 minutes. Add the chickpeas, stirring well, and cook over low heat for 5 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of water and cook for another 5 minutes. Add another 2 tablespoons of water and cook until absorbed, a few minutes more. This process of adding and cooking off water helps to concentrate the sauce’s flavour and makes the chickpeas more tender and toothsome. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as necessary.

4. Serve with quinoa or rice, add a spoonful of yogurt on top or a squeeze of lemon, whatever suits your fancy.

Steamed Quinoa
From Epicurious

There are quite a few steps to prepare quinoa but it’s worth every effort to yield fluffy, perfectly cooked grains.


1 cup quinoa

Vegetable stock
1. Wash quinoa in 3 changes of cold water in a bowl, draining in a fine-mesh sieve.

2. Cook quinoa in a medium pot of well-salted boiling water, uncovered, until almost tender, about 10 minutes. Drain in sieve, then set sieve over same pot above 1 inch of simmering water (water should not touch bottom of sieve).

3. Cover quinoa with a folded kitchen towel (not terry cloth), then cover with a lid (don’t worry if lid doesn’t fit tightly) and steam until tender, fluffy, and dry, about 15 minutes. Let stand off heat, without lid but still covered with towel, 5 minutes. 

Recipe here!

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