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North Indian Chana Masala

This makes for a very quick and simple meatless Monday meal, or any day of the week meal. Plus it is delicious as a left over. This meal is also an inexpensive homemade meal. Studies show that the more we prepare our meals at home the better our health. When we cook the majority of our food we eat more nutritiously because we can control the kinds of oils, sodium, and ingredients. One way to enhance a dish without increasing our caloric intake too much and keeping the sodium levels normal is by using spices. When we cook with spices we awaken our palate first through the sense of smell then when we eat it. It is a beautiful thing. 

This is a North Indian/ Pakistani dish using chickpeas, known as Chana in Hindi, and tomatoes and many wonderful spices. Vegetarianism is a common way of eating in India, many do for religious regions. There are also wonderful health reasons to eat vegetarian. Increasing your meals with vegetables and legumes is a great way to improve your health. 

One of my main questions when learning about cuisines is, "Why are these foods paired together?".  And there is always an answer! Legumes and beans are staple food item in the vegetarian diet. The reason being they provide proteins, which they are not consuming by not eating animal protein. The pairing of rice with beans makes for complete proteins to be formed chemically in the body, making this a very nutritious meal. Also the use of some of the most nourishing spices like turmeric, cumin, and fennel are not only in many dishes of the cuisine for flavor and aroma but for nutritional purposes as well. Eating a lot of beans and legumes can take a toll on the digestive system, create gases and bloating. But many of the spices, like the ones mentioned above are paired with these kinds of dishes to aid in digestion and reduce some of the symptoms associated with beans and legumes. See there is always a reason why foods are paired together. That is why gastronomy is a science and an art! 

Yields 4 servings 

Ingredients:

2 cans/boxes of Chickpeas (I used Whole Foods 365 organic no sodium)- rinsed and drained

1 small yellow onion - small dice 

2 carrots- small dice (optional) 

1 can diced tomatoes 

2 garlic cloves - minced 

1 teaspoon garam masala (Trader Joe's or make your own)

1 teaspoon ground cumin 

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric 

1/4 teaspoon ground fennel seeds 

Olive oil 

Salt and Pepper 

Water 

Cilantro leaves for garnish (optional) 

Basmati Rice (2 cups dry) 

Method:

1. Heat olive oil about 3-4 tablespoons over medium heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt. Let them cook for about 1 minutes. 

2. Add the garam masala, ground fennel and half of the turmeric. Stir and let this become fragrant. 

3. Then add the carrots if using, and let this cook for 1-2 minutes. 

4. Then add the chickpeas and tomato. Season well with salt and pepper, and at this point add the ground cumin and the remaining turmeric. You may want to add more spices but wait until the dish has cooked. Add 3 tablespoons of water, bring this to a simmer, lower the temperature to low and cover the pan. Let this cook for 20 minutes. You may want to check on this occasionally and stir. If it is sticking to the bottom of the pan add more water. 

5. Meanwhile prepare the basmati rice. Add equal parts water to rice and a pinch of salt. Bring it to a boil, reduce heat to low and cover the pan. Let this cook for 18-20 minutes while the chana masala cooks. Once the rice is cooked, fluff with a fork. 

6. Once the chana masala is cooked, adjust the seasoning if necessary and serve hot with the rice. Garnish with fresh cilantro if you'd like. 

Enjoy!c 

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