Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Quick & Healthy: Chana Masala with Butternut Squash

When I woke up Sunday morning after a meal of steak with pomegranate sauce and a hefty slice of my Flourless Bittersweet Chocolate Cake with whipped cream, I only had one food-related thought on my mind: chickpeas. All I wanted to eat were chickpeas. If only I could skip my morning oatmeal and go straight to a nourishing salad or sautéed vegetable dish full of chickpeas. This common bean that Mike prefers to refer to as “garbanzo” (he finds the word “chickpea” inexplicably creepy) is one of my favorite choices when I want to eat healthy, yet satisfying food. I let go of my urge to eat a bowl of chickpeas for breakfast so that we could enjoy a big, aromatic pot of chana masala that evening.

If you love Indian flavors, but are a bit too daunted by the exotic ingredients and preparation to try them at home, then chana masala is the answer to your cravings. It is a straightforward chickpea curry dish with tomatoes from the Punjab region of India. I add butternut squash to “beef up” the vegetable content, and because I love its sweet flavor and substantial texture. The red bell peppers are not traditional either, but they mesh beautifully with the fire-roasted tomatoes.

If you do not feel like peeling a squash, add another favorite vegetable. Regular or sweet potatoes would be perfect. For something lighter, try cauliflower or zucchini, but add them in the last few minutes of cooking so they don’t fall apart. This dish is warm, comforting and easy to put together. Served over some basmati or brown rice, it is a complete meal. The most fussy part of the prep work is toasting the cumin seeds for a few minutes, but they will perfume your kitchen with such a clean, smoky fragrance, you won’t mind the extra bit of effort.

Chana Masala with Butternut Squash
Serves 4-6

1 tbsp. canola or other neutral oil
1 ½ tsp. cumin seeds
1 yellow or white onion, sliced into half moons
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
salt and pepper
2 tsp. garam masala
2 tsp. ground coriander
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 ½ tsp. turmeric
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 28 oz. can fire-roasted, diced tomatoes (I use Muir Glen)
1 small to medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped into bite-size (1/2 inch) pieces
3 c. water, or as needed
1 28 oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
½ c. cilantro, chopped, divided
½ c. onion, chopped, for serving

Heat the oil in large soup pot over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and stir them around in the oil until they start to pop and become fragrant, about 2 minutes. Turn the heat up to medium-high, add the onion and bell pepper, season with salt and pepper and cook until lightly browned, 4-5 minutes. Add all the spices, garlic and jalapeno and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, then add the squash and stir to combine. Pour in about 3 cups hot water, or as much as it takes to just cover the squash. Bring the curry to a boil, add 1 ½ tsp. salt, or to taste, cover the pot and simmer on medium-low heat for 8 minutes. Add the chickpeas and continue simmering the curry, uncovered, for 7-12 minutes or until the squash is tender when pierced with a fork. Stir in ¼ cup of the cilantro. Serve the chana masala over rice and garnish with the rest of the cilantro and chopped onion.


Jann said...

A recipe to die for! The cilantro gives in that extra kick! Happy Cooking!

Garrett said...

Mmmm, i have most of this in my fridge! Sweeeet.

Maureen said...

Sorry to hijack the topic, but you mentioned a pomegranate sauce over steak. Can you hook me up to that recipe? I have a couple pomegranates in the fridge, as well as a pomegranate syrup. I'm armed and ready for fall!

Julie said...

I am going to blog about the pomegranate steak in my next post on Friday. In the meantime, here is the link to the recipe I adapted it from, in the Sept. Gourmet:
although it doesn't call for fresh pomegranate, I sprinkled seeds all over the steak and the texture and flavor were an essential addition in my opinion.

Julie T. said...

This sounds wonderful. I am always looking for things that are healthy and easy but still taste good. Thanks for the inspiration.

Lisa said...

That sounds just delicious. I do love Indian flavors, and chickpeas. I must try this. Thanks!