America’s Test Kitchen – Chana Masala

 By America’s Test Kitchen

The allure of chana masala, arguably one of North India's most popular vegetarian dishes, is multifaceted. It's visually stunning, incredibly fragrant, and, most importantly, downright flavorful. It's also a practical dish that can be prepared in less than an hour using ingredients you probably already have on hand.
We made a couple of discoveries that gave our recipe layers of flavor. For one, we opted for canned chickpeas because their flavor and texture were nearly indistinguishable from those of chickpeas that are cooked from dried, and we didn't drain them because the canning liquid added body and savory depth to the dish. We also found that adding stronger foundational spices such as cumin, turmeric, and fennel seeds at the beginning of cooking ensured that they permeated the dish, and reserving the sweet, delicate garam masala until near the end preserved its aroma.
A generous garnish of chopped onion, sliced chile, and cilantro added so much vibrancy, texture, and freshness that you'd never guess that most of the ingredients in the recipe were from the pantry.
Chana Masala
Serves 4 to 6
1 small red onion, quartered, divided
10 sprigs fresh cilantro, stems and leaves separated
1 (1 1/2-inch) piece ginger, peeled and chopped coarse
2 garlic cloves, chopped coarse
2 serrano chiles, stemmed, halved, seeded and sliced thin crosswise, divided
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 (14.5-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, undrained
1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
1/2 teaspoon table salt
Lime wedges
1. Chop three-quarters of an onion coarse; reserve the remaining quarter for garnish. Cut cilantro stems into 1-inch lengths. Process chopped onion, cilantro stems, ginger, garlic and half of the serranos in a food processor until finely chopped, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary, about 20 seconds. Combine the onion mixture and oil in large saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the onion is fully softened and beginning to stick to saucepan, 5 to 7 minutes.
2. While the onion mixture cooks, process tomatoes and their juice in the now-empty food processor until smooth, about 30 seconds. Add paprika, cumin, turmeric and fennel seeds to the onion mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in chickpeas and their liquid and processed tomatoes and bring to boil. Adjust heat and simmer, then cover and simmer for 15 minutes. While mixture cooks, chop reserved onion fine.
3. Stir garam masala and salt into the chickpea mixture and  cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until the chickpeas are softened and sauce is thickened, 8 to 12 minutes longer. Season with salt to taste. Transfer to a wide, shallow serving bowl. Sprinkle with chopped onion, remaining serranos and cilantro leaves and serve, passing lime wedges separately.
Recipe notes: Because the sodium contents of canned chickpeas vary, there is a small amount of salt in this recipe; season with additional salt at the end  if needed. If you prefer a spicier dish, leave the seeds in the serrano chiles.
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