We cook a lot of legume-based curries as side dishes. While they seem complicated at first, due to the sometimes intricate spice combinations, they are really pretty simple, quick to cook and follow some familiar patterns. This dish is no exception, although it originates in the Middle East and is referred to as a salad in the reference cook book Silk Road Cooking: A Vegetarian Journey. The spices, in this case cumin and asafetida, are toasted in oil over reasonably high heat, the remaining ingredients are combined, and the whole thing gets simmered to combine the flavors. Not much could be simpler, especially if you already have the cooked legumes handy or are using canned ones. As I have probably mentioned, cooking with legumes is greatly facilitated by using a pressure cooker. Modern pressure cookers are a really safe and efficient way to cook. You deserve one.
One bite of this dish lets you know what makes it special. Hell, one sniff of the air wafting out of the house would tell you; it’s all about the cumin. It would be unusual to find a dish that is more aggressively spiced with cumin, and if you are not ready for the heat that comes along for the ride, it is surprising, especially since there is a chili in there for backup. This dish is not about balance.
The sharp bite of the primary spices (cumin, black pepper, asafetida, and ginger), provided a great counterpoint to the rest of the flavors in the meal. Butternut Squash, Bulgar and Orange Soup, Seared Pork with Citrus and Chipotle, and couscous were the other components. It made for a really great Monday dinner. The pork may sound complicated, but is just a variation on the “meat soaked in marinade then fried” theme. For the marinade, 1 chipotle (yes, the type in the can) was blended with 1/3 cup of orange juice, 1 Tbs. olive oil, 1 Tbs. honey, and about 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Let it marinade in the refrigerator for at least an hour prior to cooking. The pork chunk that we had was pretty thick, so after it was browned over medium to medium-high heat, Brinn reduced the heat and used a lid to finished the cooking process. Turned out to be a lovely looking hunk of food.
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ tsp. asafetida
- 1 Tbs. toasted cumin seeds
- 1 small red onion, peeled and finely sliced
- 1 to 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- ¼ tsp. dried ginger
- ½ tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. black pepper, crushed
- 1 green chili, such as Serrano, chopped
- 2 Tbs. lime juice
- 1 large tomato, chopped
- 2 cups cooked chickpeas
- ½ cup cilantro, finely chopped
- Heat oil in wok or skillet over medium to medium high heat. Add asafetida, then cumin and cook for about 20 seconds, until cumin is fragrant and turns reddish brown. Add onions and garlic and continue cooking until onions are translucent.
- Add the remaining ingredients except for the cilantro and fry for about 20 to 30 seconds to combine. Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking until mixture dries somewhat. Stir in cilantro and serve.