Just add this to the list of things I feel like I can make myself, sans recipe, simply because I maybe ate it once somewhere and vaguely remember what it tasted like. You already know about my overconfidence when it comes to recreating something I’ve eaten before off the top of my pretty little head. I won’t lie to you – there’s really no reason for it. But I get an idea, and I fixate on how I think something should taste, and how I already know how to create that taste/texture/je ne sais quoi and then…and then it just snowballs from there. And suddenly I blink and I’m standing at my stove tasting this whatever-it-is that I’ve made and lo and behold, it is what I was going for, even if I’m the only one who will appreciate it as such. And does it really matter if it’s completely and totally inauthentic? Or if I’m missing a key ingredient or two? Not really; or at least, not to me.

When I discovered how much I desperately love Indian food a few years ago, the entire cuisine was pretty much a mystery to me. I couldn’t identify any of the flavors beyond, um, curry powder, and I had no idea what half of the words on the menu meant, let alone how one might go about pronouncing them. But I perserved, and as I waded through the meaning of words like paneer and fenugreek and came out on the other side, I was a changed woman. And by “changed woman,” I mean one who knows her way around the Friday Buffet at my favorite Indian restaurant, thankyouverymuch.

All Most kidding aside here, folks, I really think that receiving this book changed the way I approach Indian food.  Now that the spices are already in my cabinet, I’m not afraid to use them.  And now that I’ve smelled and tasted each of them independently, they no longer have that mysterious, confusing air to them – I’ve become as comfortable with them as I am with basil and red pepper flakes.  Oh, and cilantro?  Yeah, it now grows in a little flowerpot on my bedroom windowsill.  Curry convert?  I think so.

Chana Masala

I’ve seen this dish approximately everywhere I’ve looked in the last few weeks.  So much so that it was all I could think about at work on Wednesday.  And while I feel completely confident in my version, those who tend towards the sour, more mango powder/lime juice-heavy versions should certainly add some.  Myself?  I’m not really a sour kinda girl.  I’m more of a burn-my-face-off-and-make-me-sweat-from-chili-peppers kinda girl.  And this dish definitely has that going for it.

1 tbsp canola oil

1 tbsp butter

1/4 large, white onion, diced

1 tsp garlic, minced

2 small, fresh chili peppers, minced (if you’re nervous about the spiciness, start with one pepper, or even a half of one)

1 can chickpeas

1/2 – 1 tsp garam masala

1 (15-ounce) can of whole plum tomatoes

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp ground cumin

2-3 tbsp whole milk, half and half, heavy cream, or coconut milk

Rice

Cilantro (optional)

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt butter with the oil.  When butter is melted, add onion and cook until translucent, then add the garlic and cook for one minute.  Add chili peppers and cook for another minute, then add tomatoes and spices.  Crush some of the tomatoes with a wooden spoon (you want it to be chunky, so don’t mash them) and turn the heat down to medium/medium-low.  Add milk/cream and simmer for 5-10 minutes.  Add chickpeas, and bring the mixture up to a boil.  Once you reach a boil, return heat to medium and simmer for another 5-10 minutes.  Spoon over rice and garnish with chopped cilantro.

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