Chole

The Hindu holiday Navratri began on Monday. It’s tied to the changing of the seasons and focused on the female goddesses; D celebrates twice a year (though the poorly-written Wikipedia article suggests that some people may also observe it around the summer and winter solstices). The main day-to-day part of her observance is that she doesn’t eat meat, so we cook a lot of vegetarian food at home.

Chole means “chickpeas” in Hindi; the same dish is often called “chana masala” in Indian restaurants. This dish is a representative example of a number of dishes (e.g., rajma (red kidney beans) and aloo sabzi (potatoes)) that we’ve learned from D’s mother: one first makes a tomato-based masala, a highly flavored sauce, to which the main base of the meal is added.

Ingredients:
3 tomatoes
1 large onion
Ginger (roughly the size of your thumb, from middle joint to tip)
4-5 cloves garlic
1 hot pepper (optional; we usually use jalapeno and later supplement with some red pepper if necessary)
2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 small can tomato sauce
A fistful of cilantro, roughly chopped
Spices: turmeric, red pepper, cumin seed, cloves, amchoor powder, a store-bought chana masala mix, salt
Vegetable oil

Preparation:
Use a food processor to blend the onion, ginger, and garlic. Heat the oil on medium or medium-high heat and add a tablespoon or so of cumin seeds and two or three cloves; toast them until the cumin seeds have darkened somewhat (but not burnt). Add the blended onion mix. (It’s probably a good idea not to inhale through your nose for a minute or two after this step.) Cook this on medium heat until it’s dry and lightly browned all over. Add the remaining spices, tomato, cilantro, hot pepper, and tomato sauce, and cook until the tomatoes break down. Add the chickpeas and enough water to make the whole thing liquidy, then cook at a low boil until it reaches the desired consistency. (D likes hers on the wet side; I prefer it drier.)

Serve over rice, with fresh tomato, onion or scallion, and your favorite chutney.

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