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Posted: 3:04 p.m. Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Real World Eats: Quick Chana Masala with Greens 

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Chana Masala with greens, avocado
Chickpeas (or garbanzo beans) are the basis for chana masala, an easy-to-make Indian curry that's great for a vegetarian weeknight meal. I made a large batch of it on Monday and have been eating the leftovers for lunch all week, sometimes with rice and sliced avocados, other times with tortillas.

By Addie Broyles

On Monday morning, I was getting the evil eye from bag of dried chickpeas in my pantry.

They'd been sitting there for a few months since the nice folks at Pacific Northwest Farmers Cooperative sent me some dried legumes to sample. I'd already cooked the various kinds of lentils, but I wasn't thrilled with the results. (My fault, not theirs.)

Those lentil stews I made over the winter were OK, but not anything worthy of blogging here, so I'd let the poor garbanzos languish. On an impulse before heading out the door for work, I poured the York White garbanzos into a big pot, covered them with water and sat 'em on the counter.

I'll deal with you later, I thought.

When I got home that night, I had chana masala, or chickpea curry, on my mind. It's an Indian dish that I've had at restaurants but never tried to make at home. We fall into a bit of a trap when it comes to Indian curries at home, using sweet potatoes and a can of coconut milk in just about every one of them, so after I rinsed the beans, refilled the pot with water and turned on the heat to cook them, I opened Raghavan Iyer's "Indian Cooking Unfolded" to get a basic recipe for the dish.

Like most of you, I use recipes as a starting point and then tweak them as I go, depending on what we have and what I'm in the mood for. His recipe didn't call for turmeric or hot curry powder, but I'd just purchased fresh batches of both from the store, so I threw them in there. I'm at the tail end of kale, spinach and cilantro season in my backyard garden, so I added greens because I had them on hand.

I was so happy with the results — especially after eating them for lunch the following day with an avocado on top, above — that I couldn't resist sharing my spin on his recipe here. Ideally, you should make a paste out of the onion, garlic and ginger to help thicken your curry, but I was being lazy on Monday and didn't want to pull out my food processor.

And yes, I eat tortillas with Indian food that I make at home. Store-bought naan is expensive by comparison, and I rarely make the time to bake the flatbread from scratch.

Chana Masala

2 Tbsp. vegetable or coconut oil
1 large onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 quarter-size pieces of ginger, minced
1 tsp. ground coriander
2 tsp. ground cumin
2-3 tsp. hot curry powder (adjust according to your taste and curry blend)
1 tsp. ground turmeric
4 cups cooked garbanzo beans (about two cans)
1 can fire-roasted tomatoes, including the juice
1 1/2 cups water
2 packed cups chopped greens
1/2 tsp. salt (or more, to taste)
Juice of 1 lime
Tortillas or naan, for serving (or cooked white rice)
2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro, for garnish
1/2 avocado, sliced, for garnish (optional)

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onion and saute over medium heat until soft, about five minutes. Add garlic and ginger and cook another five minutes. Add spices and stir thoroughly, cooking the spices for about three minutes to bring out their flavors. Add garbanzo beans, tomatoes and water and simmer for 10 minutes. Add greens and simmer for another five to 10 minutes. Add salt and lime juice. Serve with tortillas and/or rice, and garnish with cilantro and/or avocado.

Addie Broyles

About Addie Broyles

Hailing from the Ozarks, Addie Broyles expanded her cooking (and eating) skills on the West Coast and Spain before settling in Austin, where she writes about food for the Austin American-Statesman.

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