Saturday, October 10, 2009

China Doll

That's what I thought someone said when explaining that's the word for a split chickpea in India. I said something intelligent like, "China doll? Really?" And then, realizing my obvious limitations, they corrected my pronunciation.

Dal is a complicated subject, comprising as it does several types of beans that we Westerners call by the names split peas (green, yellow and pink), mung beans and lentils (green, red and brown), with infinite permutations on the spicing it might have. Suffice it to say I've only scratched the surface of this one. But since it's one of my favorite preparations of the legume, I keep at it.

And don't tell them, but I've had a bag of Anthony and Carol Boutard's Ayers Creek chickpeas floating around my pantry for many months now, and have only just now got around to using it. This is a recipe I adapted from a great book of simplified Indian recipes from the collection of Ismail Merchant (producer of "Room with a View") that's been a great introduction to that complicated cuisine.

And it pairs perfectly with…what else?…my friend Kathryn's Perfect Basmat Rice. Just the two of them makes a great vegetarian meal, and combined with a roast chicken would be dinner for company. Throw in some easy raita for spooning over the top and it'd be swoon-worthy!

Chick-Pea Dal (Kabuli Chana)
Adapted from Ismail Merchant's Indian Cuisine

3 c. dried chickpeas or 6 c. canned
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 med. onions, chopped
4 large cloves garlic, crushed
3 ancho or poblano green chiles, seeded and chopped in 1" squares
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. tamarind paste
1 Tbsp. salt
1 c. chopped, canned Roma tomatoes or 2 large tomatoes, chopped

If using dried chickpeas, soak in water overnight. Drain.

In large Dutch oven heat olive oil until it shimmers, add onion and garlic and sauté till slightly translucent, then add green chiles and sauté till tender. Stir in turmeric, chili powder and tamarind paste. Add salt, tomatoes and chickpeas. Add water till barely covered, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer, adding water if it becomes too dry. Simmer till tender, 2-3 hrs. or more. This would also be a great recipe to use with a crock-pot.

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