3 15-ounce cans chickpeas (or 1½ cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and cooked)
⅓ cup neutral cooking oil, like canola, or ghee
1 ½ cups chopped onion
½ jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
6 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thinly
3 tbsp. tomato paste
9 dried Medjool dates, pitted and chopped
1 tbsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
2 whole star anise, or 1/3 tsp. ground
Since the chickpeas play a starring role in this dish, I urge you to cook your own chickpeas. It will be well worth your time. Soak the chickpeas overnight and drain the next day. Fill the pot with fresh water to cover the chickpeas by 2 inches, bring to a boil, then simmer until they become soft when pierced with the tip of a knife. This could take anywhere from ½ hour to an hour, depending on how fresh the chickpeas are, so pay attention to them or they will turn to mush. Drain and set aside when finished cooking.
If using canned chickpeas, alternatively drain and rinse the chickpeas and set aside.
In a medium pot set over medium-high heat, heat the oil or ghee until it begins to shimmer. Add the onions and sauté for 5 minutes, until they have softened and started to brown. Stir in the jalapeno and sliced garlic, sauté for a minute or so. Reduce heat to medium and stir in the tomato paste. Add the dates and the spices and sauté for 2 or 3 minutes.
Add the chickpeas and 1 cup or more of water, enough to make everything come together nicely. Heat the mixture, stirring occasionally to incorporate the flavors, and keep warm until serving. Try to find the star anise and remove.
Note: If not serving right away, add more water to make the mixture a little extra soupy and the chickpeas will continue to absorb water as they sit.
Notes and Instructions
Recipe contribution from Linda McElroy, adapted from “Vij’s Elegant and Inspired Indian Cusine,” by Vikram Vij and Meeru Dhalwala
Photo credit: Linda McElroy