Today: With a properly stocked pantry, you can have an Indian-inspired dinner on a weeknight, on a whim.
Whenever a simple, delicious dish -- like this spicy chickpea curry -- is placed next to me at the table, it doesn't just make me happy; I become protective of it in a selfish, rabid dog sort of way.
This recipe is based on Indian khatte channe, which is grounded on good Indian home cooking -- but to be fair, it could also have easily been born out of a 1970’s hippie cafe in which cheap eats and a flair for the exotic were popular. In fact, Moosewood Restaurant and its cookbooks always come to mind when I cook this stew. But no matter where it came from or how it found its way to my table, I can tell you that there is a lot to like about this pasta, from the first forkful of twisted noodles loaded with tangy sauce to the last spoonfuls of creamy chickpeas.
I could start with the fact it is vegan, but that will scare some of you off, just as if I said it was gluten-free. In this case it is both, but the good news is that after you try this dish, it won't really matter.
What does matter is how easily it comes together and the fact it can easily come from your pantry. When I make this, I head to the pantry with a tray in hand and begin by collecting all my ingredients and equipment.
What stands out during the pantry search-and-seizure is tamarind concentrate. It is a bit of an oddball ingredient, but one I always have on hand. Unlike tamarind paste, which requires soaking and straining, this concentrate dissolves easily in water. It has the consistency of molasses, and it gives this stew its characteristic tang. A popular substitute for tamarind is equal parts lime juice and brown sugar, but this only works when a small amount of tamarind is called for in a recipe, so it probably wouldn't work here. If you like Pad Thai and ever wanted to cook it at home, tamarind really is an essenial ingredient to have on hand.
When it comes to curry powder, I prefer Madras -- I like the fragrance of kari leaves -- but feel free to use your favorite. For more heat, you can add more cayenne; just be sure you know how hot your curry powder is before you get too crazy.
As always, when it comes to caramelizing onions, I don't know how long it will take for them to become a deep, dark brown. It could be 15 minutes or 45, and maybe more depending on your pan, the heat, and the sugar content of your onions. I do know, however, that you shouldn't cheat yourself; color them deeply, as they are essenial to this dish.
Assuming you have done your prep, once the onions are caramelized, this becomes a dump-and-pour procedure followed by a short simmering period just for good measure.
Two 14.5-ounce cans of chickpeas, drained
1 to 2 tablespoons tamarind concentrate mixed with 1/2 cup of water (more tamarind will make the curry more sour)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups yellow onion, julienned
2 cups tomato sauce
1 tablespoon fresh garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 teaspoons Madras curry powder, or your favorite kind
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, coarsely ground
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
Cilantro or green onion or both
1 pound of your favorite thin, long noodles: wheat or rice or gluten-free, use whatever floats you boat
Photos by Tom Hirschfeld