This blog is named for my love of dates, which often don't make it into a recipe because I'm busy gobbling them all up. However, I've made this chickpea and date recipe several times recently, including for two dinner parties. People rave about it every time.
The recipe is from the New York Times, but being me, I've completely altered it. I moved the spices around a bit for a warmer less sharply spicy feel, and I've increased the masala-to-chickpea ratio. Most of my Levantine Arab friends hate Indian food, a trend I've observed widely, and which I haven't quite figured out. They don't like things that are spicy hot and for some reason the Indian style of cooking doesn't appeal to them (if anyone wants to explain this to me, I'm all ears). But in this recipe I think I've something to appeal to anyone, the dates melt into a luscious thick sauce and the spices are warm and comforting. It's also a snap to make.
Chickpeas with Date Masala
Serves two very hungry people for lunch, or 4 as a side dish.
3 cups cooked chickpeas (from 2 15-oz cans or cooked from scratch)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 small onion, peeled and finely diced
2½ tablespoons tomato paste
12 medjool dates, pitted and chopped (or another soft sweet variety, like deglet noor)
1/4 teaspoon ground black cardamom
4 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 whole star anise
1. Drain chickpeas and set aside. Combine all spices (cardamom through star anise) in a small bowl.
2. In a medium pot set over medium-high heat, heat the oil until it begins to shimmer. Add the onions and sauté for a few minutes, until they have softened and started to brown. Reduce heat to medium and stir in the tomato paste. Add the spice mixture and allow to toast for a minute or two.
3. Add the chickpeas, dates, and ½ cup or more of water, enough to make them less than dry. Simmer the mixture for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to incorporate the flavors, until the dates have fallen apart and the chickpeas are very tender, you may have to add a splash of water if the pan gets dry. Serve warm.