My head immediately went to India. Francesco has traveled extensively there, and Indian food, while not really part of my culinary repertoire, has long been among my favorite cuisines (thanks to the Samtani family!). Moreover, Indian cuisine includes many exciting, healthy, and flavorful vegan dishes, making it an especially appealing VB6 option. Plus I was in luck because my "peachy" friend Sheila had recently given me her top secret Indian curry recipe as a birthday gift, and along with it, an amazing array of Indian spices. And while Sheila's curry recipe -- which is phenomenal, by the way! -- definitely goes with me to the grave, I decided the spices were fair game, as they included just what I needed to make a fabulously spicy and delicious Chana Masala.
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To make Chana Masala, first I measure out and prepare the spices, as there are many! They include 1 teaspoon of ground coriander, 1 teaspoon of ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon of ground turmeric, and 1/4 teaspoon of Indian chilli powder (you can substitute cayenne pepper). These four ingredients can be combined as they are added into the dish at the same time. To the extent I have the whole spices on hand (in this case whole coriander and cumin), I like to grind them fresh, for a deeper flavor, but of course pre-ground spices are certainly fine.
Separately I measure out 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds, which I toast in a hot dry frying pan for several minutes, shaking constantly so that they don't burn.
Finally, I measure out and combine 1 teaspoon of paprika, 1/2 teaspoon of garam masala, and 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt, as these three ingredients will also be added to the dish at the same time. I also gather the remaining ingredients -- a 15 ounce can of garbanzo beans, 1 white onion, 1 Roma tomato, 1 Serrano pepper, a chunk of fresh ginger, 1 clove of fresh garlic, and half a lemon.
I start by chopping the onion and sautéing it in 2 teaspoons of light olive oil over medium heat for a few minutes until it is tender, and then I add in the first round of spices (the ground coriander, ground cumin, ground turmeric, and chilli powder), and I cook everything together for a minute or so.
Next I chop up the Roma tomato, sprinkle it with just a bit of sea salt (to enhance the flavor of the tomato), and stir it in with the onions and spices.
Then I rinse, drain, and add in the garbanzo beans, along with 1/2 cup of water.
I let that cook on a low simmer for a few minutes, and then I stir in about 1 tablespoon of lemon juice along with the toasted cumin seeds and the remaining spices (the paprika, garam masala, and sea salt), cover the pot, and let everything simmer together for about 5 minutes.
While that's cooking, I remove the seeds and chop up the Serrano pepper into tiny pieces, and I grate about 1/2 teaspoon of fresh ginger, toss both into the pot, and let everything simmer on a very low heat while the flavors marry -- about another 30 minutes or so.
I serve the Chana Masala with a side of basmati rice, and for Francesco I include a spicy Serrano pepper to chomp on -- just divine!