Karin Calloway

Food columnist for The Augusta Chronicle.

Vegetarian chickpea dish has India-inspired taste

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When I'm packing lunch I'll often choose bean and grain-based vegetarian or vegan dishes. Although I often pass on the meat, I'm not about to forgo flavor. This curried spinach and chickpeas dish is Indian-inspired and great for reheating at work.

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Curried Spinach and Chickpeas.   Zach Boyden-Holmes/Staff
Zach Boyden-Holmes/Staff
Curried Spinach and Chickpeas.

Like most Indian curries, this one begins by sauteing a thinly sliced onion. Give the onion time to cook down and turn golden, about eight minutes.

I'm using garam masala, which you can find in the spice aisles of most supermarkets, along with ground coriander, cumin and cayenne pepper. If you wish, you can omit the coriander, cumin and cayenne and use double the amount of garam masala.

This is delicious served immediately after sprinkling each serving with fresh cilantro, or you can pack it into individual containers for at-work lunches that are anything but boring. Serve with naan or flour tortillas.

I'm including a recipe for Indian rice pilaf in case you want to make this the center of a vegetarian Indian-inspired meal at home. The pilaf is similar to one served by Kavi Walia, of Martinez, at a school-related teen get-together my family attended several years ago. The teens devoured the fragrant rice and raved about its flavor.

This is the meat-free version, but Kavi also makes a chicken version by cooking diced boneless chicken thighs along with the onion and ginger.

Reach Karin Calloway at karin.calloway@comcast.net. See her prepare the recipe at noon Tuesday on television station WJBF (Channel 6).

Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/karincalloway.

CURRIED SPINACH AND CHICKPEAS

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 large onion, peeled and very thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon garam masala

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 16-ounce cans chickpeas, undrained

Juice of 1 lemon

1 9-ounce bag fresh spinach, washed and spun dry

Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until golden brown, 10-15 minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients except the spinach and cook for 10 minutes. Stir in the spinach, cover and cook until spinach is wilted. Taste and add more lemon juice, salt and pepper, if needed. Garnish with chopped cilantro.

Makes 6 servings.

BASMATI PILAF

1 onion, peeled and cut into chunks

2 tablespoons peeled and coarsely chopped fresh ginger root

2 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil

1 teaspoon garlic, about 1 medium clove

1 tablespoon garam masala

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or more to taste

2 cups basmati rice

4 cups water

Chopped fresh cilantro, to taste, for serving

Grind the onion and ginger together in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Heat the oil in large saucepan and cook until dry, about 8 minutes, stirring well to prevent sticking. Add the garlic, garam masala, turmeric, salt and cayenne and cook for 1 minute, until fragrant.

Stir in the rice and saute until rice begins to turn opaque, about 4-5 minutes. Stir in the water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes, until rice is tender. Stir in the cilantro before serving.

Makes 6 servings.

Groceries

1 large onion

1 lemon

1 9-ounce bag fresh spinach

1 bunch cilantro

2 16-ounce cans chickpeas

Spices: Tumeric (1/2 teaspoon)

Garam masala (1 teaspoon)

Ground coriander (1 teaspoon)

Ground cumin (1/2 teaspoon)

Cayenne pepper (1/4 teaspoon)

(Note: If you don't want to buy the individual spices, buy the garam masala and use 21/2 teaspoons in place of the other spices.)

PANTRY: Vegetable oil (2 tablespoons), salt and black pepper

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