Recipe: Chana Masala

I always use this recipe, from Orangette, to make my chana masala. As Molly Wizenberg, who writes the blog, explains, neither she nor her husband (the source of the recipe) can make any claims to authenticity. That said, it's consistently delicious, even if you want to call it "chickpeas with tomatoes and spices." I always eat it with basmati rice and yogurt.

Serves 4

• good-quality olive oil
    • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
    • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
    • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
    • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
    • 1 teaspoon garam masala
    • 3 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
    • 1 twenty-eight-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
    • 1 tablespoon cilantro leaves, roughly torn, plus more for garnish
    • a pinch of cayenne, or to taste
    • 2 fifteen-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
    • 6 to 8 tablespoons plain whole-milk yogurt, optional
    • a few lemon wedges, optional

Film the bottom of a large saucepan or Dutch oven—preferably not nonstick—with olive oil, and place the pan over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook, stirring frequently, until it is deeply caramelized and even charred in some spots. Be patient. The more color, the more full-flavored the final dish will be.

Reduce the heat to low. Add the garlic, stirring, and add a bit more oil if the pan seems dry. Add the cumin seeds, coriander, ginger, garam masala, and cardamom pods, and fry them, stirring constantly, until fragrant and toasty, about 30 seconds. Add a quarter-cup water, and stir to scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook until the water has evaporated away completely.

Pour in the juice from can of tomatoes, followed by the tomatoes themselves, using your hands to break them apart as you add them; alternatively, add them whole and crush them in the pot with a potato masher. Add the salt.

Raise the heat to medium, and bring the pot to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, add the cilantro and cayenne, and simmer the sauce gently, stirring occasionally, until it reduces a bit and begins to thicken. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as necessary.

Add the chickpeas, stirring well, and cook over low heat for about five minutes. Add two tablespoons of water, and cook for another five minutes. Add another two tablespoons water, and cook until the water is absorbed, a few minutes more. This process of adding and cooking off water helps to concentrate the sauce's flavor and makes the chickpeas more tender and toothsome. Taste, and continue to adjust the seasoning as needed.

Stir in the yogurt, if you like, or garnish with lemon wedges and cilantro. Serve.

To read about how Anastatia Curley used garam masala in two CSA-inspired dishes, including this one, click here.