Just Chana Masala–No Politics

You might think that I am about to hand you a recipe for a bowl of black beans, but I’m not. I’m here to do a couple of things:

  1. try out some black chickpeas I got for Christmas (long story)
  2. hack the way we all cook beans (unless you are from India, then I’m pretty sure this is just how you cook beans, but anyway…)
  3. show you how we make chana masala at this house

I can’t properly credit this recipe because I have compiled ingredients and techniques from various places over the years and I’m way too lazy to list them all here; just know that it came from somewhere other than me.

1.5 cups dried chickpeas (we used black chickpeas for fun)
1 tsp baking soda
2 black tea bags
oil as needed
1 cup thinly sliced onions
1 tsp fresh ginger
1 tsp garlic
cardamom seeds
cinnamon stick
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup potatoes
1 green chili
1 1/4 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/8 tsp turmeric
1-2 cups vegetable broth

Behold the black (desi) chickpea. These are similar to the lighter chickpeas, known as kabuli chickpeas common in the canned bean and bulk food area of the grocery store, but they are smaller, with a rough and tough outer skin, and obviously, they are black. Note: there seems to be a stray kabuli in the batch, but I let him stay  because I liked his attitude.
Before you can do anything with dried chickpeas of any color, you need to soak them for 8-10 hours. Use a large bowl because they will double in volume as they rehydrate.
When it was time to cook the beans, I put them in a pressure cooker and added just enough water to cover them along with some cardamom and cloves. I also added 1 tsp of baking soda and 2 black tea bags because I read that adjusting the PH levels of the water will better penetrate the skins of the beans and help them hydrate all the way through.
The bean science worked and these beans were firm but not dry. They also had a complex flavor because of the mix of spices and the black tea.
Now, sauté your onions and garlic for 3-5 minutes or until they just begin to brown.
Add your tomato and a teaspoon or so of salt and continue to sauté for another 3 minutes.
Then, add your turmeric and chili powder. Cook this all together for 2-3 minutes.
Remove it from the heat and let it cool for a few minutes.
Blend it into a smooth paste in your food processor and set aside.
Now, back to the skillet. Add a tablespoon of oil, a cardamom seed, a few cloves, and a small cinnamon stick. Sauté for 1-2 minutes to wake them up.
Then, add your potatoes. Most recipes call for more chopped onions at this stage, and it doesn’t really matter too much what you use because we are just adding bulk to the sauce. I chose potatoes, because I just didn’t want to eat that much onion in one meal. But it is up to you.
It is now time to add the paste you made in the food processor. Stir until all the ingredients are well combined.
Add the garam masala and sauté for another 2-3 minutes.
Add your beans and 1-2 cups of vegetable broth. I used all 2 cups because I like my beans saucy. Stir until well combined and sauté until heated through.
Serve over white rice with sliced green chili and yogurt. The kids and I didn’t use the green chili because palates just can’t handle anything spicy but we add it for my husband, for whom nothing will ever be spicy enough.

This article originally published on www.groundingup.com.

What is 40, exactly?

Tomorrow, at approximately 3PM, I will be 40 years old. I feel like that should mean something specific. I keep telling people I’m almost 40, hoping someone will reply by telling me what I’m missing about this milestone. Because for me, 40 feels like 39 plus one day.

Will I be wiser tomorrow? Am I supposed to be taking stock of my accomplishments and failures and planning for my next 40 years? Do I need to take a deep dive into my psyche to check in on how I’m doing at the proverbial halfway point? Is it time for a midlife crisis?

My parents, both of them Baby Boomers, celebrated their 40th birthdays in 1987. I remember both of them having these big “over the hill” parties with black balloons and cemetery themes. Inexplicably, someone presented by dad with a cake featuring two naked breasts –I cannot unsee that boob cake.

Not long after their birthday’s my Mom decided to completely unwind her life. She demanded a do-over, suffered a “midlife crisis”, divorced our Dad and moved my sister and me from Colorado back to her hometown in Iowa.

In the 1980’s the midlife crisis was commonly accepted as a legitimate phase of life, like puberty, and everyone was doing it. Technically defined, a midlife crisis is a transition of identity and self-confidence that can occur in early middle aged individuals.

However, I have noticed that my generation isn’t really doing the midlife meltdown anymore, or at least not defining it as such. There is a large body of psychological and sociological research that indicates the midlife crisis isn’t an actual “thing” after all.

But even without the research, we somehow came to the conclusion that age is arbitrary and that as individuals, we won’t likely all be in exactly the same place at exactly the same time in our lives. And that it is completely okay for that to be the case.It’s just life.

The clock will continue to go around and around regardless of where we are in our careers, where we live, what we look like, or what kind of car we drive.

Unless you are an atheist, you probably believe something comes after this life–heaven, reincarnation, hell, wherever Scientologists go when they die (note to atheists: your life expectancy is 78.9 years.).

So from my perspective 40 isn’t halfway to the end. And, I’m right here, right now, appreciating the blessings in my life and working through the challenges just like everyone else. I just happen to be 40.

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