As I write this, my heart is somewhere in Vermont, where Andrew and I spent Thanksgiving week with his family and friends in a cozy house replete with bananagrams, a thousand piece puzzle, naps, and snow. It was perfection and neither one of us wanted to return to New York where lately I’ve been feeling a beat or two behind. We ate, rested, laughed. We watched quite a bit of football. There was a mishap with a golf cart that got stuck on the field. And everything about our trip left us grateful for having amazing family and friends. We’d go back in a heartbeat.
This post took me a whole week to write. A whole week, people! A Sisyphean task! I’ve been writing distractedly lately, and it’s been really hard to get my mind focused and honed on this wee space here. There are changes in the air; changes I will write about more clearly soon, but they have been on my mind in a singular, all-consuming way.
Now I should say this: all these changes are good – they are positive, albeit a little scary. Someone once said to me that things that scare you means they are worth doing. Fear keeps you honest, it can tell you how much you want to succeed. It was that way for me with running. When I signed up for my first half-marathon, I couldn’t fathom in my head, what thirteen miles would feel like. I was scared. But I took it one day at a time. I went out on the road and put one foot in front of the other. Gradually, I increased my distances, joined a running team, and before I knew it, that half-marathon was weeks away and I was ready, no longer scared. All good things are worth working for. And I think through that fear, deep inside your gut tells you of what it is you need to do. You know it and quite possibly you’ve known it all along.
But while the changes that are coming are positive ones, the logistics surrounding them were fuzzy. And that uncertainty shifted my focus and overpowered the excitement. But I don’t want to indulge that feeling any more, partly because I think my brain needs to focus on brighter things, and partly because as of last Friday, more clarity emerged. And as I explained to Andrew the other day, my brain is much like hummingbird’s wings. If you look at the bird from a side, it appears that the wings are still, suspended in the air, as the bird hangs over the flower. But what is really happening is that the wings are moving so fast, so very rapidly, oscillating with such speed – that to the naked eye, the bird is still. On the outside, I appear calm and collected, but inside I oscillate between that peaceful state and an anxious one. I know it’s okay to be scared about uncertainty. But I also know that I’ll never get over my fear of something unless I attempt it.
Such is my relationship with chana masala. I’m a little obsessed with it and it’s my go-to choice when we order Indian take-out. I find it comforting to ladle the soupy chickpeas over my basmati rice and make a mess of it in my bowl. I like the gradual build-up of the spices, the chewy bite of the chickpeas, the individual rice granules mixed with the rich, warm sauce.
But until a month ago, I was petrified of making chana masala at home. I had this white-girl-fears-to-cook-Indian-food syndrome. I felt like even if I had all the right ingredients and followed the recipe to a tee, my whiteness was somehow going to screw up my ability to make authentic-tasting chana masala. I was paralyzed with fear, which in retrospect seems very silly. The chana masala I made was every bit as good as some of the best I ever had. It might even have tasted better because I made it myself, no longer afraid to cook Indian at home. Best part: I can make it on any given weeknight and in half an hour I will be eating my dinner. That’s faster than dialing our local Indian delivery and I can make enough to send Andrew to work with a lunch that is far more exciting than a turkey sandwich. Isn’t that grand?
Adapted from Food.com
It seems like a lot of spices to get (if you don’t have them) but I highly recommend investing especially if you want to cook more Indian food at home. The spices on their own are versatile and will add to other dishes as well. I didn’t have amchoor powder on hand the first time I made this, but I looked it up and it’s dried unripe green mango powder used in Indian cooking. It smells faintly of honey and has a sour flavor. I wound up upping my lemon juice for tartness, but if you want to get amchoor powder (and it’s awesome!) you can find it here or here.
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 medium onions (peeled and minced)
1 clove garlic (peeled and minced)
1 tablespoon ground coriander
4 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
4 cups cooked chickpeas or 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon amchoor powder, optional
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon salt
Juice of 1 lemon, plus more to taste
1 fresh, hot green chili peppers, minced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until lightly browned for 3-5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook, until fragrant, 1 minute.
2. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add coriander, 2 teaspoons cumin, cayenne, and turmeric. Give everything a good stir, then add the tomatoes cooking them until they are slightly browned.
3. Add chickpeas and 1 cup water and stir to mix everything well. Next, stir in the rest of the cumin, amchoor powder, paprika, garam masala, salt, and lemon juice. Cook, covered, for about 10 minutes. Remove the cover, add the minced chili and ginger stirring to combine. Cook for 1 minute, taste tand add more lemon juice if you like, or if you don’t have amchoor powder on hand. Serve over steamed basmati rice.