Chana Masala and A Review


Every so often I get totally consumed, kind of obsessed, with a cookbook.  There is something about the food that just speaks to me and I want to totally cook everything in the book.  This summer that cookbook was Raghavan Iyer’s, 660 Curries.  I have loved everything I have tried from this book and that doesn’t happen very often. Usually, I try one or two, maybe three recipes from a cookbook then I get bored and moved on to the next one. There is enough variety in 660 Curries to keep me interested for a very long time.

The curries represent all regions of India.  I really like that the first chapter of the book gives you all the spice blends that are used in the book.  Many of the Indian cookbooks I looked through relied on store bought spice blends that I don’t have access to.  I was lucky to be able to find almost all the spices I needed at my favorite natural food store and a local Asian market.  A few things like fresh curry leaves, fresh fenugreek leaves and Nigella seeds weren’t available but there are more than enough recipes that don’t use these things to make the book worthwhile.

My biggest complaint is there is no Index of what spice blends go with what recipes.  So you can have several spice blends made but no idea what recipe to try them in next. I have just been making  a list of spice blends and what recipes use them as I find them when I am looking for a new recipe to try.  On the whole I would recommend this cookbook if you are looking to learn how to make Indian food.

I am a huge fan of chickpeas so I absolutely loved this recipe for Chana Masala.  I cooked my chickpeas in the pressure cooker but if you don’t have one feel free to use your favorite brand of canned chickpea.

Chana Masala

1 TBS canola oil

1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds

1/2 tsp ground cumin seeds

1 TBS ginger paste

1 1/2 tsp garlic paste

1 TBS tomato paste

1 1/2 tsp ground coriander

1 1/2 tsp fresh lime juice

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1/4 tsp ground turmeric

2 cups cooked chickpeas

2 TBS finely chopped fresh cilantro

3/4 tsp kosher salt

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

1 1/2 cups water, divided

Heat the canola oil in a large sauce pan over medium – high heat.  Sprinkle in the whole cumin seeds and cook until they sizzle, turn reddish brown, and smell nutty, 5 to 10 seconds.  Immediately lower the heat to medium and carefully stir in the ginger and garlic pastes and stir -fry them until they turn light brown, about 2 minutes.  Stir in 1/2 cup water and the tomato paste, coriander, lime juice, cayenne pepper, tumeric, and ground cumin.  Simmer, partially covered, until the water evaporates from the reddish brown sauce, 5 to 10 minutes.  Pour in  1 more cup water, the chickpeas, 1 TBS cilantro, and the salt.  Raise the heat to medium-high and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, 15 to 18 minutes.  Sprinkle the remaining cilantro and onion over the curry, and serve. 


Italian Tomato Sauce What to Cook When You Don’t Feel Like Cooking #3

The most common excuse I hear for Not cooking from scratch is I don’t have the time. What if I told you, in the time it takes to boil noodles and heat a store bought spaghetti sauce, you could have a homemade spaghetti sauce? Would you try it?

I prefer this as a meatless sauce as Mollie Katzen wrote it but if you want to, you can brown 8 oz of ground beef with the onion and spices, make sure you drain the fat from the ground beef before you add the tomatoes and other remaining ingredients. Use the sauce on top of pasta or anywhere a tomato sauce is called for.

Italian Tomato Sauce

1 TBS olive oil
1 cup onion, chopped
½ medium green bell pepper, chopped
1 tsp basil
½ tsp oregano
½ tsp thyme
1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 ½ TBS honey, use an equal amount of white or brown sugar to make the sauce vegan
3 TBS Tomato paste
Salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in a small sauce pan or skillet. Add onion, bell pepper, herbs and salt. Sauté over medium heat until the onion is very soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, honey and black pepper. Use a spoon to break up the tomatoes into bite sized pieces. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes.

Adapted from Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook


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Every 6 months or so, I do a pantry cleanse, where I plan all my meals around what is in my pantry for a certain amount of time. Once I run out of an item, I am out until the cleanse is over. I am only allowed to buy milk, eggs and produce.

The idea behind a pantry cleanse is, obviously, to use what you have. Beyond that, a pantry cleanse forces you to become more creative and stretch your culinary boundries as you run out of things.

On June 1st, I started a 2 week pantry cleanse. As I was sorting through my pantry, I came across a partially used bag of bulgur. I have no idea why I bought it or what I used it for. It was there and I had to find a use for it.

I started my search for something to do with bulgur by googling it. The most common result was for Tabouli, a bulgur salad. That was disappointing because I have tried Tabouli before and wasn’t a fan.

I tried the recipe I found on the Whole Grain Gourmet because it was different from the typical tabouli recipe in its addition of cinnamon to the dressing and total lack of cucumbers. The flavors are clean and bright. The salad didn’t get watery and the flavors didn’t get diluted. All in all, a very satisfying summer salad.


1/4 cup bulgur
3/4 cup parsley, minced
2 TBS mint leaves, minced
2 1/2 TBS green onion, minced
1 small tomato, seeded and diced

2 TBS olive oil
2 TBS lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 cup boiling water

In a medium bowl, combine the boiling water and bulgur, cover, and let sit for 30 minutes. Mean while, mince or dice the vegetables. Place in another bowl. In small bowl, combine all the dressing ingredients, mix well. Combine the vegetables and dressing, toss to coat. Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.

Adapted from The Whole Grain Gourmet

Wacky Cake

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This morning when I went to work on a post for my blog, I discovered I had two followers! I was so excited! I have two followers and one of them doesn’t even know me! Okay, this isn’t on par with the Pioneer Woman’s blog or even some of the lesser known food blogs I read. It is exciting to know that someone was interested enough in what I wrote to want to see more. So I thought I would celebrate my second follower with a cake.

Wacky Cake

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 ½ TBS cocoa
½ cup sugar
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
½ cup water
2 ½ TBS canola oil
½ tsp vanilla
½ tsp vinegar

In a 2 cup baking dish, combine the flour, cocoa, sugar, salt and baking soda. Mix it until it is well combined. Make four wells, two large and two small. In the large wells, pour the water and oil. In the small wells, pour the vanilla and vinegar. Stir until well moistened. When the batter is well mixed smooth it out and spread it into place with a spatula. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Let it cool 30 minutes before slicing.
— Sprinkle with powdered sugar or serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.