It's a little funny to me that two posts in a row are about me trying new things. And this one's story began before my resolutions -- go me!
For four glorious years, I attended Pitt and was introduced to the perks of city life. And one of the highlights was a late night dining deal offered by many of the restaurants in town: half off the food bill after 10 or 11pm. If there's a sure fire way to attract poor students, it's to offer them large quantities of their favorite foods for a lot less cash. A girl can only eat chicken tenders and deli sandwiches from the dining hall (Eddie's!) for so long.
One of those restaurants that my friends visited time and time again was India Garden. They didn't just visit the place, they were downright obsessed with it! I was a little hesitant to try it since I had this notion that all Indian food was supremely spicy and knew I couldn't handle that. Growing up in Greensburg, I wasn't exactly bombarded with opportunities to try Indian food, so I just shelved the idea of Indian food for an undetermined amount of time.
Sometime during the summer between sophomore and junior years, my boyfriend convinced me to try Indian food... from a truck. To be clear, I'm not knocking all food trucks (especially since their revival has been grand in the Pittsburgh area), just this one. All you need to know is that I tried Indian food from that truck, got sick on said food from that truck, and went 8 years without dining on food from that truck or any other Indian restaurant.
That boyfriend and I broke up two years later.
It wasn't until the very end of 2012 that I gave Indian food another chance. Maybe it was the impending apocalypse (coughMayanswerewrongcough), or maybe it's that, like those college friends, Matt is unabashedly obsessed with India Garden. He's proclaimed that the chicken tikka masala from there would be his choice for last meal on earth.
So, one weekend, being in a rare combination mood of wanting to try something new, indulge Matt, and not wanting to cook, I suggested we head to India Garden. You'd think he'd won the lottery he was so surprised and happy.
That was around the time my love affair with chick peas began, so my eyes went straight to the vegetarian dish called chana masala -- "chick peas steamed with tomatoes, ginger, garlic, onions, and spices." Yes please, mister waiter.
As soon as it arrived, I was overwhelmed with the smell. "If this tastes half as good as it smells..." Oh, and it did. Precious chana masala! Where had you been all my life? I inhaled my portion and quickly proclaimed to Matt that we needed to visit again soon. Since that day, we've been back 4 times, and I've ordered the same thing every time. Love me some chick peas!
Since one cannot subsist on India Garden alone, I found a way to bring it home with me! As soon as sizzlin' slow cooker February was announced, this dish was the very first that I planned to make. While it's no India Garden miracle, Matt and I agreed that it was pretty darn close, which I consider a victory. Even bigger so that it was my first attempt at Indian cooking ever!
Spicy, savory, and so hearty -- all the things you'd expect from Indian cuisine. Paired with some fluffy white rice for the ultimate ethnic comfort food. And, just like half off late night deals in college, it's ridiculously inexpensive and makes a rather sizable quantity. But, thankfully, you don't have to wait until 11 o'clock at night to eat this. After all, I'm getting old and us seniors eat dinner much earlier.
Slow Cooker Chana Masala
(adapted a bit from Peas Love Balance)
-makes 8 servings
A few notes: The original recipe called for 1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper. Since I can't handle that kind of heat, I omitted it and substituted a generous amount of black pepper. Matt added hot sauce to his portion before eating. But, heat seekers, feel free to do your thing with this.
1 pound dried chick peas, rinsed
7 cups water
1 white onion, chopped
28 ounce can diced tomatoes
6 ounces tomato paste
3 teaspoons garam masala
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
Salt to taste
Cooked rice, for serving
The night before you plan to cook this dish, place the chick peas and water in the bowl of a slow cooker, cover, and turn on low for 8 hours.
In the morning, stir the chick peas and add the remaining ingredients, stirring to combine. Cook on low for 8 hours. Serve over a bed of rice or a bowl of fresh baby spinach and enjoy! Leftovers can be covered and refrigerated for up to 5 days.