15 April 2011

Chickpeas with Date Masala

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.


Katy said...

Sounds wonderful!!

Anonymous said...

Haha... this post is amusing to me on so many levels (Indian origin, raised in the Arab Gulf and spent last year in Syria). In my experience, Khaleejis love Indian food. It's the Shami folk that are turned off by it. To be fair, the version of Indian food they usually encounter in restaurants is pretty revolting. Still, they're scared enough to believe that Indian cuisine can be reduced to thick, overly masalified, creamy sauces that only come in 3 colours - yellow, red and green. The horror!!! They have no idea how diverse and how beautifully simple Indian cooking can be. Gulfie 'cuisine' however, is inspired entirely by sub-continental ingredients and approaches to cooking. Examples - the basic baharat used in the Gulf or ubiquitous foods like Machboos.

While I love dates and am a huge fan of your blog, I'm not sure I'd want to introduce them into my channa! If this recipe sells Indian style food to Arabs though, more power to you. Keep churning out good food and great recipes.. always a pleasure to visit desert candy.

janet said...

This looks great. I have never seen a cury with dates, but I can imagine this could taste like crack! :)

Mercedes said...

Anon- thanks so much for your comments, I completely agree. Khaleejis are a whole other breed and they definitely appreciate Indian food (and spicy stuff like zhoug). Mediterranean Arab countries are much more comfortable with those Mediterranean flavors than with the eastern ones. Thanks for the compliment.

Anonymous said...

I have a few Arab friends who HATE Indian food. They dislike spices in any form, be it hot or not. My politically incorrect theory on this issue is that arabs do not like people from "the Hind"...i.e, India. They are unfortunately thought of as second class citizens...and maybe that influences arabs way of thinking about their food too.

GretchenJoanna said...

I adore dates and curry, so I definitely will try this -- but I don't understand about the star anise: Does it go into the pan in its whole form, or should I grind it first? If whole, it doesn't seem that it would have time to impart its flavor.

Jennifurla said...

we all have our obsessions in cooking, I can get on board with yours.

Molly said...

I love when I read a recipe that a) makes me drool and b)calls for ingredients I know I always have on hand in my pantry. Can't wait to make this. Thanks!

Figs, Bay, Wine said...

Oh wow! I am really looking forward to trying this! I absolutely love the photos too by the way.

badger4 said...

What is Aleppo pepper and is it hard to find? I am very excited to have discovered your blog. I am crazy about dates and have recently become addicted to eating them with oatmeal and walnuts.

Lakshmi Jagad said...

Indian food isn't spicy hot although food served in Indian restaurants may be. Hope your Arab friends get an opportunity to sample real Indian food... :)


Mercedes said...

Gretchen- I put in the star anise whole, and you're right it doesn't have a lot of time to impart flavor, but it does have enough. Feel free to use ground star anise for a more assertive flavor.

Figs, Bay, Wine said...

We had this tonight and loved it. I know I'll make it again and again now. Thank you!!

Osterreich said...

. I really appreciate the points you made. I don’t think I’ve actually thought about it in that way. I can really appreciate how you approached the subject matter and what you said really gave me a new perspective. Thanks for taking the time to write this all out.

Lauren said...

Love your blog and I made this a couple weeks back and it was AWESOME! Thanks!

Solange said...

Hi, loved it so much that I reblogged it. Let me know if you'd rather me not too and I'll remove it.


Emily said...

Oh my freakin' word. That was tasty.

meriem said...

i'm from desert country so i can't write very well english
but i would say think you to let me see another way to eat date which in me country we eat them without eny things and they are delisious so with this preparation i can't imagine how they will be

JulyG said...

This the first dish I made in 2012, I loved the sweet & warm spicy combo.


Darya said...

This sounds wonderful! Must try it out some day!