There are times when I think I was born with this feeling of ennui. My mother can tell you that when I was little, I’d be complaining of boredom by the second day of summer vacation. Sometimes, she’ll still ask me if I’m bored. Nowadays, there’s more to it than boredom. Smiling, my mom will also tell you with of a small me who constantly, constantly asked “But why?” I’d bring home a pile of books from the library, looked for recipes to try on the backs of boxes, and studied the flowers as I wandered in our backyard. Looking for something, trying to learn some things.
You know, I have found it, that magical thing that makes me feel complete. It feels the other way other people say falling in love feels. Ecstasy and fear, and a kind of exhilaration. I know my writings have a melancholy, lonely quality, but after the frustration dies down, the writing fill me with a sort of a surreal joy. Something so big I can’t put it into words.
And yet, even with the writing and living with what might be the world’s loudest little cat, there’s still a sort of loneliness. That loneliness is so much a part of me, for so long that it will probably echo eternally in my writing. If anything, it is less a part of me than it was for most of my life. Still. That adolescence desire to be understood hasn’t left me. I’d like find the sort of people who want to sit around late at night sometimes and talk about lonely Kawabata and Nabokov’s cleverness, about dreams and beauty, and the rest of big, important things. The sort of talk that would be forgotten by morning light and remembered again in quiet thoughtful hours or the next time we got together.
About this recipe: Channa masala – or chickpea in masala sauce – is one of my go-to comfort foods. It’s one of very few dishes I prefer paired with quinoa instead of rice. This dish is a fresher, summery version of curried chickpea-quinoa combination. Chickpeas and quinoa together are a wonderful flavor pairing – and packed with vegetable-based protein. The tomatoes, tamarind, and goat cheese add freshness and tanginess to the hearty proteins, the parsley adds a fresh, almost mineral-like note, and the spices keep it interesting. It’s a great balanced meal in a bowl, and quite perfect for lazy late summer days and nights.
Turmeric-Roasted Chickpeas with Fresh Tomatoes and Black Quinoa
1.5 tbsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tbsp smoky chili powder (adjust for personal heat preference)
Salt, to taste
1/4 cup olive oil , divided (2 tbsp portions)
¼ cup minced shallots
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
½ tbsp. cumin seeds
12 oz. cooked chickpeas (about 2 – 15 oz. cans, drained; or ¾ cup dried, then cooked)
¼ uncooked black quinoa (approximately ½ cup cooked)
1 tbsp tamarind paste*
1/3 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
1 lb tomatoes, quartered
2 oz. of crumbled goat cheese (or not-too-salty feta)
Additional parsley leaves and salt, for serving
Preheat oven to 400°F. Combine the turmeric, garam masala, chili powder, and salt in a small bowl/jar. While the oven heats, heat 2 tbsp of olive in an oven-safe skillet**. Add the shallots, garlic, and cumin, and cook for about 3 minutes, or until the mixture barely starts to brown. Add the chickpeas, then about ¾ of the turmeric mixture, and mix together. Roast in warmed oven for about 20 minutes.
While the chickpeas roast, cook the quinoa***. Also, make the dressing by combining 2 tbsp of olive oil, tamarind paste, and remaining ¼ of turmeric mixture.
When the chickpeas are done, combine with quinoa, tamarind dressing, and parsley. Top with the quartered tomatoes and goat cheese. Add additional parsley, and salt (if needed – I didn’t find it necessary). Can be served warm or cold.
* FYI: Tamarind paste is the pulp of tamarind seed. It has a unique fruity-sour taste, and is common in Latin American, South Asian, and Southeast Asian cooking. It’s commonly used in fish/seafood dish. I used this brand. It’s much cheaper in a gourmet grocery store – you can also try a Latin-American, Indian, Southeast Asian grocer.
** If you don’t have an oven-safe skillet, cooked the shallots and garlic in a pan, and transfer to roasting pan, then combine with spices and chickpeas, and roast.
*** How to cook quinoa