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Monday, February 6, 2012

Chana Masala

This weekend was just what I needed - unfortunately it still was still way too short for my liking.  The whole thing went by in a blur of music, wine, food, and Jane Austen movies and before I knew it my alarm was going off and it was Monday.  Boooo...

The product of a fun-filled weekend

On Friday, we sat in front of the TV with some wine and Pizza and it was amazing.  I have to post a photo of the pizza because it came out of the oven with the most ginormous cheese bubble I have ever seen.  Like, literally half the pizza was inflated.  It had already deflated a little bit by the time I whipped my camera out, but you can at least get some idea of the insanity:

There's probably an alien in there

Hello again, Meiomi.  Still delicious.

Our pizza and wine combo paired perfectly with a viewing of Dexter, followed by Pride and Prejudice because I needed something to clear the palatte before bed.  We're on Season 4 which is definitely the creepiest so far... I mean the whole series is about serial killers, but John Lithgow in this role just gives me the serious heebie-jeebies.  Luckily a hot Mr. Darcy traipsing about the countryside was just the thing to make me forget about repeated images of blood-filled bathtubs.  Hooray!

On Saturday, we lounged around for most of the day, I zipped up to my parents for some cat-related duties (they are both out of town for a few days), and in the afternoon I skyped Julianna in Australia!  In the evening, we went to dinner and the opera with our friends Mark and Tessie.  The show was Massenet's Werther, based on Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther - the music was incredible but we all agreed the set was not quite right.  It just seemed like a lot of disjointed pieces that didn't work togetherIn a related story, Werther was definitely the original emo kid.  Everything old becomes new again (in 2002). 

Yesterday I had a little more time to be liesurely, which was really nice.  Ben and I took an early-morning walk down to Patisserie 46 for coffee and pastries. 

I managed to convince myself that chocolate-raspberry brioche is totally a breakfast food
 Before going to yoga and then heading up to my parents for more cat duties, I decided to search the internet for the perfect chana masala recipe.  As Smitten Kitchen has thoroughly documented, chana masala is really damn hard to make.  Not hard as in complicated culinary techniques, it's just really difficult to get the flavor right.  Like Strauss's art song Morgen - easy to do, hard to do well. Smitten Kitchen's recipe is pretty good, but for some reason mine always turns out a little too watery, and other versions just end up tasting like tomatoes.  I was really intrigued by Orangette's recipe, but I do love some elements of the Smitten Kitchen version and the Orangette recipe looked a little underspiced to me.  So, what I ended up with is sort of a combination of the two.  I think I found a winner.  It still isn't perfectly authentic but it's definitely the best version I've made at home. 

Chana Masala, much like pizza, also pairs well with pinot noir and Jane Austen.  Last night we watched Sense and Sensibility with bellies full of chickpeas, while drinking wine and breaking off pieces of dark sea-salt studded chocolate.  Just about perfect.

Speaking of perfect...Alan Rickman can read poetry to me any day
 Hem.  Sorry.  Apparently I'm married or something? 

(Totally joking....I love my husband and he is way more handsome than Colonel Brandon or Severus Snape or any other Alan Rickman character...the end!)


Much of the genius of this recipe comes from Orangette (or rather, Molly's husband Brandon).  Cooking the onions until they are almost charred really adds to the flavor, as does repeatedly adding water and cooking it off towards the end.  Both of these techniques help get to that really rich, concentrated flavor you want in chana masala.  Or at least I assume you want it.  I do. 

OK without further ado, the recipe:

- 1 tablespoon ghee
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced or smashed in a garlic press
- 2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 4 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
- 1.5 teaspoons garam masala
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 1/2 teaspoon tumeric powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon amchoor powder*
- 1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes (CHECK THE INGREDIENTS to make sure they don't have basil... it might not say it directly on the label)
- salt to taste
- 2 15-ounce cans chickpeas
- 4 tablespoons water
- 5 tablespoons plain yogurt

In a medium/large soup pot or dutch oven (I used my 4 qt le cruset and it worked perfectly), heat the ghee until melted, then add the onion and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until deeply caramelized.  Mine were brown and starting to charr in some places, and definitely leaving residue on the bottom of the pan - it takes a while so have patience :)

Reduce heat to low, adding a little extra ghee if the pot seems too dry, and add the garlic, ginger and all spices (except the chili powder).  Stirr for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until the spices are fragrant.  Add 1/3 cup water and stir, using a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape any bits off the bottom of the pan. 

When the water has either absorbed or evaporated, add the can of tomatoes.  You'll want to crush the tomatoes into smallish chunks with your hands before you add them, so that they incorporate into the sauce.  Add salt to taste.

Bring the sauce to a boil and add the chili powder.  Continue cooking, stirring occasionally until the sauce begins to thicken.  Add the chickpeas, stir in and cook for about five minutes.  Add 2 tablespoons of water and cook for another five minutes; repeat with the last two tablespoons of water.  Taste and adjust the seasoning as you like.

Stir in the yogurt, and serve with basmati rice or naan.


  1. hahaha- pride and prejudice is definitely the best antidote to dexter! I like to watch something a little lighter before bed hehe

  2. #TommyWisdom #RoamingLionFebruary 7, 2012 at 2:58 AM

    All that Jane Austen Talk made me think of this.....

    1. My new goal in life is to be as wise as you.
      Maggie says hi and that you have taught her to unleash her inner roaming lion. Also she wants you to know that the floor is an acceptable place to poop #MaggieWisdom

  3. Hello- just found your blog! I also live in the Twin Cities and wondering where you do yoga? I feel like the only option is Corepower, but it's getting so expensive!

    1. Hi! Thanks for stopping by :)

      I go to Corepower occasionally, but there are tons of other great studios and teachers. I love The Om Collective ( Certain's classes are amazing, I study with her a lot. One Yoga is also good, and I've heard good things about Minneapolis Yoga Center but I've never been there.

      In St. Paul there's Big River Yoga - I still haven't been to a class there but I know a few of the teachers and they are awesome. There's also Yoga Center of St. Paul (St. Paul Yoga Center...? Something like that...) just depends on where you live and what style you prefer, really :)

      If you're looking for a cheaper way to practice at home and still get quality instruction, Yogaglo has tons of classes online with amazing teachers, and it's about $18 a month.

      Information overload? Probably...hope it's helpful!

    2. Thanks so much! I'll definitely check out some of these studios- I've been wanting to try something new.

  4. IN YOUR FACE ALAN RICKMAN! (Glad to have your approval honey)


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