Sunday, April 3, 2011

Chana Masala for the Birthday Girl

My baby girl turns 21 in a couple of days. How did this happen? When she bounced into our lives all those years ago we were totally selfish and unprepared to care for anyone other than ourselves. Somehow she picked up on this weakness and took control. There was no situation that she couldn’t shut down on a whim. With one simple little scream she could call her roadies into action, packing up her truck load of baby equipment in seconds in fear of incurring her further wrath, earning her the pet name “Boss Lady.”

In the blink of an eye she was growing by leaps and bounds, running through our house overly accessorized, smelling of strawberry lip gloss and dancing to the Spice Girls. Back then there wasn’t a fashion trend in which she didn’t participate. We’ve run through literally thousands of dollars on every tween fashion must have in the last fifteen years. Now days she is anti-fad with a simple elegant style all her own.

I don’t want anyone to think that she always ran the show. Middle school and high school were difficult years for our girl. She weathered the storm of queen bees, mean girls, stupid boys and algebra. She faced her hard times with amazing dignity and courage managing to choke back the tears until she got in my car and I drove away. I only share this with you now to give anyone going through this hope that things will get better, because even though it was hard, these experiences made her the strong young woman that she is today. Take that mean girls . . . you lose.

Now as we get ready to celebrate this milestone, and even though I am so happy, my heart is a bit heavy with the realization that a woman now walks in my little girl's shoes. As the clock ticks away we will soon celebrate her college graduation, and hopefully someday her wedding and the birth of her own children. That’s when I understand the fun really starts, when you can share in all the fun of child rearing without being a full-time participant. I don’t know about that, I can't imagine anything could be better than being her mom. Happy birthday sweetheart and thanks for 21 great years!

Since she’s working on her birthday and can’t come home, I’m driving up to college a little early to take her to lunch and drop off her birthday presents. After racking my brain as to what might be a treat for her to heat up for lunch on her real birthday I believe I came up with the perfect thing. Since she grew up in the home of two curry lovers, she has acquired a taste for all that is Indian. We recently dined in a new restaurant and she ordered the Chana Masala and instantly fell in love. It was medium spicy with a drizzling of sweet/tart tamarind chutney. I had to go to a spice shop and our local Indian market but I managed to get everything I needed to prepare this new favorite for her and pass a great recipe on to you.

Chana Masala with Tamarind Chutney and Pappadums

Chana Masala

1 tablespoon oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoon grated gingerroot
1 medium size hot green chili, chopped
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional (I found my recipe just right without it, but if you like spice, you can use up to 1/2 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon amchoor (green mango powder), if available, if not use additional lemon juice
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 – 15 ounce can chopped tomatoes
2/3 cup water
2 – 15 ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 teaspoons salt
Juice of 1/2 lemon (double this if you don’t have the amchoor)
Chopped fresh cilantro to serve

Place the oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat. When oil is hot, add the onion, garlic, gingerroot and green chili and sauté for approximately 5 minutes or until it is slightly browned and soft. Reduce heat to medium; add the coriander, cumin, cumin seeds, cayenne, turmeric, amchoor, paprika and garam masala. Stir and sauté for a minute or two before adding the tomatoes, water and chickpeas. Bring contents to a simmer, reduce heat and cook uncovered for approximately 10 minutes or until sauce thickens. Add salt and lemon juice. Cover and cook for an additional 5 minutes before serving over rice with cilantro sprinkled over.

Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to reheat and eat. Curries just get better a day or two after preparation.

Makes 4 hearty servings

Tamarind Chutney

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
2 cups water
1 – 2/3 cups lightly packed light brown sugar
3 tablespoons tamarind paste

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds, ginger, onion powder, garlic powder, and garam masala; cook and stir for about 2 minutes to release the flavors.

Stir the water into the pan with the spices along with the sugar and tamarind paste. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer over low heat until the mixture turns a deep chocolaty brown and is thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon (mine took about an hour). The sauce will be thin, but it will thicken upon cooling.

Fabulous drizzled over the spicy Chana Masala or used as a dip for pappadums or naan bread.

Makes about a cup
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