Black Eyed Peas Masala

In Beans, Couscous, Indian, Quick Meal, Vegetables on January 18, 2012 at 10:24 pm

I really love Indian food.  My affair with this cuisine began in college.  Before Junior year, my experiences were limited to eating stocked up Amy’s frozen entrees.  Then I was introduced to a guy at a party through a mutual friend who was obsessed with Indian food.  He told me in Albany there were three places that had all you can eat lunch buffets, ranging from $5.95 during the week to $6.95 on the weekend.  After a drunken Saturday night, I woke up on Sunday and took him up on his offer to check out one of these buffets.  I know it sounds cliche, but it definitely was love at first bite (the food, not the dude).

I think what was most appealing to me about Indian food was its exoticness – not only in ingredients, but in methods of preparation.  It took me years to build up the courage to experiment in my own kitchen.  I started with a few recipes, stocking up on some essential spices, and then I was able to create  my own flavor profiles in the style of this category.

I’m sure there’s an actual Indian word for Black Eyed Peas, but I’m not sure what it is.  I hardly ever cook these peas, but I bought some in the dried bulk section to force myself to experiment.  Since they are related to chickpeas, I thought a good way to incorporate them into my repertoire is to replace them for chickpeas in a recipe I’ve made before.  One of my favorite chickpea dishes is chana masala, which is a spicy, slightly saucy dish found on many Indian menus.  Paired with a variety a veggies, this is the type of meal I dream of every time I’m hung over.  The original recipe I used was from Smitten Kitchen, so you can follow along there for exact measurements.

Before I prepared the masala, I cut up an acorn squash that I had on hand as a side dish.  I sliced it in half, then into crescents, and spread on a baking sheet covered with EVOO spray.  I sprinkled salt, pepper, and cinnamon on both sides, and let roast in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes on each side.


While that roasted, I chopped up some onion, garlic, and grated some fresh ginger.  I added everything to a lightly oiled sauté pan.


I measured out all of the spices: ground coriander, ground cumin, cayenne pepper, turmeric, amchoor powder (dried mango found in Indian spice shops), paprika, and garam masala.  I didn’t have any whole cumin seed (as the recipe dictated, so I just added some more ground).  I also didn’t have any green chilis, so I omitted.

I added the spices to the onion mixture, and cooked them out while I diced up some tomatoes.


I added the tomatoes to the pan, and cooked a few minutes more.

Then it was time to add some water and the black eyed peas, which I had soaked the night before and cooked earlier in the day.

I let the masala hang out while I prepared a second veggie dish.  I had some red swiss chard, and I really wanted to use it.  There’s this restaurant in my neighborhood called Char No. 4, which is a whiskey bar and nouveau-southern style restaurant, and they once had this lemon and garlic chard as a side on their menu.  I’m sure their version had a lot of oil, but I decided to try to make it a lil slimmer.

After chopping up the chard, I warmed up a non-stick pan (which is very useful for low-oil cooking) and added the leaves and some fresh squeezed lemon juice.  I used my handy-dandy lemon and lime squeezer.

Another interesting element to the original recipe was that there was preserved lemon peel pieces mixed into the chard.  I wasn’t sure how to accomplish that exactly, but I figured adding in fresh lemon peel while sautéing could perhaps yield a similar effect.

What was really interesting during this process was the redness of the chard stem dying the lemons to a juicy pink.  It kind of reminded me of pink lemonade, only not as pixie-stick-addictively delish.

I let that finish cooking while I prepared some couscous.  I know that couscous isn’t really Indian, but it’s the quickest pearl shaped grain I could whip up for this meal.  I would have preferred to make brown basmati rice, but it would have taken a much longer time, especially since I didn’t even think about the grain aspect until half way into the preparation.

When everything was done, I plated Nick’s portion.

My plate had no couscous, but more of the veggies 🙂

I thought all of the meal components complemented each other extremely well.  The tartness from the lemon chard goes perfectly with the masala – especially since amchor powder and/or lemon juice are featured flavors in the masala.  The acorn squash provided a nice balance to the plate with its silky texture and subtle yet sweet flavors.  I had the leftovers for lunch the following two days after, so I was definitely a happy camper.

Creating this meal (and now recreating it visually for this blog) really inspires me to try more ethnic cuisines or dishes out of my comfort zone.  The sad part about inspiration it that it is fleeting. Hopefully there’s a glimmer left for a future post :).

What are some dishes you’ve made that are out of your comfort zone?

  1. looks delish! the indian word (in hindi) for black eyed peas is chawla 🙂

  2. Gee, I wonder who the guy was that was obsessed with Indian food! ha! I was just telling my hubs the other day about the great Indian buffets in Albany. The best I’ve ever had. Im not sure if it’s because I’m nostalgic..or if it is really THAT good.

  3. […] couple of weeks ago, I made one of my go-to Indian dishes, chana masala (only with chawla – black-eyed peas).  Since then, I’ve ordered some Indian delivery, […]

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