Clockwise from top left: asafoetida, turmeric and dried Korean peppers, fresh cayenne chile, ground cumin, and black mustard seeds
When I look at my blog posts, it looks like I only eat dessert, and mostly cake. That is somewhat true, but I do eat savoury food at least once a day. Sometimes twice! It's just that it's usually dark before I even start making dinner, so I have a hard time getting photos, and I don't find main courses as photogenic as dessert. At least not when I'm taking the pictures! Now that the days are getting longer, I have no excuse, and never mind for now the fact that I finish work by 3 and am often home before 4. Earlier this week, I made one of my favourite dishes: Easy Karnataka Chana, which is a chickpea dal. This is quick and easy, and means you can have homemade Oreos for dessert. It's from Mangoes and Curry Leaves by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, a couple based in Toronto who are travelers, cooks, writers and photographers. Their books are beautiful, and have won numerous awards.
Easy Karnataka Chana
1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight, or for at least 4 hours in 4 cups water
4¼ cups water, plus up to 3 cups more if serving as a soup
1 teaspoon ground cumin
4 green cayenne chilis, minced (1 used 3 red ones)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds (I am very generous here)
pinch of asafoetida powder
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ to 1 teaspoon cayenne powder (I had some Korean chile powder, so I used that)
about 1½ teaspoons salt
about ½ cup chopped cilantro/coriander leaves (I use closer to a cup, but don't measure)
Drain the chickpeas and place them in a food processor with ¼ cup water, the cumin and the chilis. Process for 20 seconds, scrape the sides and process for 10-20 more seconds. They should be coarse. I usually don't bother to chop the chilis, and end up with more finely chopped chickpeas by the time they are chopped. Be sure to leave some texture--you don't want a smooth paste.
In a deep heavy pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When it is hot, add the mustard seeds and cover until they stop popping. Quickly add the asafoetida, turmeric and cayenne and stir. Pour in the chickpea mixture--it will spatter a bit. Stir-fry for a minute to expose all the chickpeas to the hot oil.
Add the remaining 4 cups water and stir to blend well. Bring the mixture to a boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer for about 45 minutes, or until the chickpeas are cooked through, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. If serving as a soup, add the extra 3 cups water and bring to a boil.
Add the salt and bring to a simmer for a few more minutes. This may seem like a lot of salt, and I thought it was too much the first time I made it, but after a few minutes simmering it's perfect. Start with 1 teaspoon if you're unsure.
Stir in the chopped coriander and serve. I like this with basmati rice, and make a meal out of it. It keeps and reheats really well, but it will get thicker, so you can add water when reheating if you like.
And for dessert:
I've been thinking about making homemade Oreos ever since I saw the recipe on Smitten Kitchen, and then when I loved the homemade graham crackers I made in January, I knew I had to try it. But when? The perfect opportunity appeared the other night: I was having dinner at O's house, and the Ottawa Senators were up 1-0 in their playoff series with Pittsburgh. I took this as a sign that it was time to make the cookies, and it also meant that I wouldn't show up both late and empty-handed. It was also a nice excuse to get silly with cookie cutters again.
I made this recipe, and used the lower amount of sugar. The first time I followed the recipe and made them as a drop cookie, but they were too thick for sandwich cookies, I thought. They were delicious, though, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting rid of them. I formed the leftover dough into a cylinder, chilled it, and then sliced thinly and baked as directed. The only other change I made was to replace the shortening in the filling with butter, because I didn't need to be that authentic, and I knew melting wouldn't be a problem in the chilly, wet weather we've been having. The filling was very rich, but Oreo perfect. Don't be tempted to slather it on too thick (like I did).
I must admit, I almost wanted to keep these at home instead of bringing them to O's place for dinner. Yes, they were that fantastic. I'll be making a few more tomorrow for J, and to bring the Sens luck!