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


Angela FRS said...

Happy Birthday to "Boss Lady!" This is one of my personal favorite Indian Dishes, and your version looks fabulous. I need to see if I can get amchoor at Penzey's.

Foodness Gracious said...

Im for sure going to try this recipe. I grew up eating lot's of Indian food and love it. I also loved the story regarding the delivery of this great meal. I have a 5 year old princess and not looking forward to the day she is old enough to flee the nest...

Marie said...

Happy Birthday to your dear daughter! I am sure she would love that curry. I know I would. It looks fabulous!! xxoo

Midwest to Midlands said...

I'm sure your daughter enjoyed the meal you made and the effort you took to make it for her. Happy birthday to her and well done to all!!

Cranberry Morning said...

What a sweet and fun tribute to your daughter. I think all of us moms of grown daughters felt a pang as we read your post.

She will definitely feel loved when she eats this fantastic dish. It looks beautiful!

Yenta Mary said...

I have some chickpeas and some tomatoes just waiting for this! Because we all need a little comfort when we consider how our little ones grew up so fast. Jeremy turned 20 this past January; he's 6'3". What happened to the baby boy with the fuzzy head that I used to hold in my arms for hours??? I'm with you on the wistfulness. And I send the very best birthday wishes to your little girl because, of course, she'll always be your little girl ....

Barbara | VinoLuciStyle said...

What a sweet mom. I remember my daughter's first birthday away...and also at CSU. She had no need for me, she had made new friends and they would surely make the same effort for her that she had been doing for their birthdays, right?

Girls do grow out of that meanness and I don't suppose that not going to any trouble for her was meant to be mean, but her tears were real when no one had planned anything special. So at least you were prepared! I had to drive up to Fort Collins and take her to dinner to rescue the day and I even spent the night in her dorm.

Hope you both have a great day...I always with Mom's a Happy Birthday too; my thinking is we remember that actual day like no one else can!

Anonymous said...

What a heartwarming story. She sounds like a fantastic person (very deserving of the curry! :) ) who is lucky to have *you* as her mom.

Andrea @ ForkFingersChopsticks said...

I think your post is even more lovely than your recipe . . . and, I'm a curry lover too. She is loved and I'm sure she feels it with every bite of the special lunch you prepared for her, but even more in your words here.

Mary said...

They grow in a flash :-). I know she'll have a wonderful birthday. That curry would please the toughest of critics and the "boss lady" will love it. Have a wonderful visit. Blessings...Mary

Conor @ Hold the Beef said...

A super lovely happy birthday to your big/little girl! What a treat, I never get to see my Mum on my birthday, living 420km away, and the thought of her driving with a pile o' this deliciousness makes me a little envious ;)

Cooking with Michele said...

My baby girl turns 21 soon too and I was quite touched and teary eyed reading your post - it doesn't seem like it when you are in the midst of parenting challenges, but then you wake up one day and wonder how it all went so fast!