Monday was a hectic day. After a 4:30 wake-up, a tearful goodbye, a delayed plane, a stopped BART train, a work day that lasted into the daylight savings time dusk, and a public transit trip with my suitcase the size of a hippo, I really needed a hug. Instead, I pulled out a skillet.
What is it about food and emotions? Why are the two so confusingly intermingled? Why is oatmeal with homemade granola almost as satisfying as holding hands during a movie, or juicy raspberries an acceptable stand-in for a minty fresh morning kiss in the bathroom?
I’m sure Oprah has something to say about eating your feelings, but Oprah can fly to her faraway someone in her private jet, while I have to make do with a quick Southwest flight every other month. C’est la vie. This month, we’re going to Seattle to explore, ride bikes, see a favorite band, try cool restaurants, and celebrate my sweet boyfriend’s birthday with a day of doing only whatever we feel like doing.
And until we do, there are chickpeas.
The humble chickpea. It’s not glamourous, or new, or even all that much to look at. It’s beige, it’s boring, and if you are particularly lazy or busy (please see first paragraph) it even comes in a can.
But if treated carefully and with a little extra love, the chickpea can surprise you. It can be warm and earthy, mealy almost, but in a great “this has recently come from dirt” sort of way, even if it’s not true. Way to go, chickpeas! If given the support of our friends in the spice rack, the chickpea can burst forth, like Superman from a telephone booth, with flavor and punch. And if given the right time and attention, the plain, boring chickpea can almost stand-in for the comfort of a hug on a bad day.
Spicy Chickpea Curry
I found this recipe in my monthly bible almost a year ago and have made it numerous times since. It’s quick, you likely have all the ingredients already, and it’s the easiest and most satisfying thing I know of to make. Easy. Satisfying. Simultaneously. Feel free to fall in love already.
One clove garlic
One quarter yellow onion
One small ripe tomato
One can of organic chickpeas or 8 oz. dried chickpeas soaked overnight
1/2 tablespoons each yellow curry, cinnamon, red chipotle or cayenne spices
Ketchup (yes, ketchup! Just go with it!)
Whole wheat rice, flatbread, plain yogurt, and a lemon wedge to finish
1. Measure out your spices and mix them together in the dry skillet. Heat on medium-high, toasting the spices for a few minutes, mixing thoroughly. Spices will come alive if toasted a bit at the beginning, so this is a critical and delicious first step. Once the yellow curry and red cayenne turn the color of the cinnamon, scrape them from the pan and put them aside.
2. Glug some EVOO into a skillet and heat on medium low. While the oil warms, dice your garlic clove, your tomato, and french cut your onion into thick strips. Onion strips are smaller, area-wise, than onion rings and they comingle with the chickpeas in a friendly backyard BBQ kind of way, instead of the high school prom queen on top of the heap sort of way that rings sit in a pan. My apologies to the prom queens.
2. Once the oil is warm and loose and will spin nicely, coat your skillet and throw in the onions and garlic. Swirl things around until they start to spark, then add your spices back into the mix. The spices will clump, so stir and prod until they coat the vegetables evenly and become fragrant.
3. Pour in the chickpeas, stirring again to even things out, then add a few swirls of ketchup and mix yet again. Once everything is evenly coated, add a quarter cup of water and turn the burner up high to boil the liquid. Once you reach a solid bubbling, turn down to medium, stir a final time, cover and simmer for 20.
4. While the chickpeas are simmering, do a quick batch of whole wheat rice. The nuttiness of the rice is the perfect complement to the spice of the dish, and it’s the perfect bottom layer to catch the sauce and the tang of the yogurt.
4. Once the liquid has thickened into a sauce and the spices have melded together, the chickpeas should be soft and yielding and the rice should be done. Fluff up your rice, pour the chickpeas on top, and serve with a piece of warm flatbread for scooping. Garnish with a drizzle of plain yogurt (greek yogurt is a bit too thick and dessert-like for this – I go for regular plain) and a squeeze of lemon juice.