If you live in the Northern hemisphere, odds are good you’ve probably noticed that it’s summer and also that IT’S REALLY HOT OUT. Our planet is melting, New York City smells like deep-fried garbage, and I regularly catch myself daydreaming about being these guinea pigs in a swimming pool. Some people cool off with lemonade or watermelon, but I prefer to eat something insanely spicy in an effort to singe my stomach lining. Science backs me up here – spicy foods increase blood flow and cause you to sweat, which cools you down – which explains why hot peppers et al are so popular in sweltering climates. The idea is that while cold foods like ice cream will help lower your body temperature, spicy foods have the opposite effect, which means your body gets closer to the temperature outside. In the longer term, burning your insides with curry, salsa or sriracha turns out to be a pretty effective method for teaching your body to beat the heat.
When it’s this hot, I’m generally looking for something quick that takes very little effort to prepare, and this simple chana masala fits the bill perfectly. A coworker picked up this not-particularly-authentic Indian recipe recently at a cooking class, and I love it because it’s cheap, fast and super easy to throw together. Pro tip: if you want this with a little more kick, don’t remove the jalapeño seeds.
You will need:
- 1 16 oz can chickpeas or 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
- 1 bunch Swiss chard, washed and cut into 1/4 inch strips across the stem
- 2 cloves garlic, diced
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 serrano or jalapeño pepper, stem and seeds removed, diced
- 1/2 tsp curry powder
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds
- 1 tbsp garam masala
- olive oil
- kosher salt
- 1 lemon (zest and juice)
1. In a food processor, combine the onion, garlic, jalapeño, curry powder, cumin and garam masala and pulse until all the flavors are mixed together nicely.
2. Grab a heavy-lidded pot or pressure cooker and cover the bottom entirely with oil. Heat over a medium flame until the oil gets shimmery, then add your onion and spice mixture. Sprinkle a little bit of salt if that tickles your fancy. Brown that for 2-3 minutes, stirring to mix things around, toasting the spices, making your kitchen smell delicious. If things start to look like they might burn, reduce the heat.
3. Add the chickpeas, chard and a cup of water (if you cooked your own chickpeas, use the liquid from that). Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer until the water has reduced to about 1/3 cup (if you’re using a pressure cooker, just put the lid on and cook for 5 minutes, then take off the heat and let it sit a while). Stir until the swiss chard is tender, which shouldn’t take terribly long.
4. Add the juice from one lemon and some lemon zest right before serving. I’d recommend serving this dish over basmati rice, and the recipe I have suggests that this should feed four people. I didn’t have any rice so I just inhaled the entire thing by itself in one sitting, which might say more about me than it does about the recipe. The recipe also says NO PEPPER in large underlined letters across the bottom, so maybe don’t do that. Other than that, feel free to adjust to your heart’s content. Live your dreams.