Indian Spiced Chickpeas with Rhubarb

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Aviva, this one’s for you.

It’s tough being a smart kid, I’m not gonna lie. Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like to go through life as simply, well, average. Not that I’m some kind of genius. People just think I am. Must be that whole engineering degree thing.

You wouldn’t believe the questions I get asked, that have nothing to do with anything I’ve ever expressed interest in. I wish I could give examples but I can’t remember any, since they didn’t mean anything to me anyway.


But seriously, ever since I started this little food blog, it’s like, everyone around me forgot how to cook. Grandma will ask, “Cara, how do you cook salmon?” Funny you should ask, since I know you’ve made it every week for the past 30 years. Mom will wonder, “How much kugel should I make for 18 people on Rosh Hashanah?” Hmm, well, you seemed to know the answer last year, and the year before, and the one before that.

I love you.

But of course I can’t complain when the one asking the questions is one of my former campers, because as a camp counselor, it was firmly believed that I knew everything. And you never really grow out of being a counselor, in the eyes of your campers. They trust you, for life. So I felt a little bad when Aviva asked me, multiple times, for some tips on authentic Indian cooking. Sure, I’ve thrown around some curry here and there, but I’ve never even eaten in a real Indian restaurant, nevermind cooked an authentic recipe. But I know someone who has. Her name is Joanne. And I’m pretty sure she knows just about everything – that’s a little more than me.

So what did I learn? That real Indian food need not contain curry. That it can be sweet, spicy and sour in a completely harmonic way. The sweetness is fruity and nutty rather than sugary; the spice is deeply fragrant as opposed to hot, and the sourness is not vinegar-like but achieved from gorgeous, hibiscus-hued rhubarb. I’m have no idea how often rhubarb appears in true Indian cuisine, but with the right mix of spices, legumes, and a dollop of cool, tangy yogurt, it sure does taste like it belongs.

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Indian Spiced Chickpeas and Rhubarb
Slightly adapted from Eats Well with Others and Vegetarian Times, June 2011
Printable Recipe

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
2 1/2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
3 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium red onion, chopped
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 3/4 cups cooked chickpeas (or, 1 15oz can, drained and rinsed)
1/2 lb fresh rhubarb, cut into 1/4-inch slices
2 cups reduced sodium vegetable broth

10oz package baby spinach
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
plain yogurt (optional)

Heat 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add the mustard seed and cumin seeds and cover. Cooking, shaking the pan often, until the seeds begin to pop. Cook for 1-2 minutes more, or until the seeds stop popping. Quickly stir in the ginger and garlic, then turn off the heat and set aside.

In a larger, deep skillet or dutch oven, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Cook the onions and raisins for about 10 minutes, until the onions are softened and begin to brown. Add the chickpeas, rhubarb, and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 10 minutes.

Uncover and add the spinach a few handful at a time, stirring to incorporate and let it wilt down. When all of the spinach has been added, stir in the reserved spice mixture and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot, topped with fresh chopped cilantro and a dollop of yogurt, if desired. 

Nutrition Facts (does not include optional yogurt)
Servings Per Recipe: 4
Serving Size: 1 serving
Amount Per Serving
Calories 288.6
Total Fat 9.4 g
Saturated Fat 0.9 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.9 g
Monounsaturated Fat 4.9 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Sodium 292.3 mg*
Potassium 1,232.4 mg
Total Carbohydrate 47.8 g
Dietary Fiber 10.6 g
Sugars 18.2 g
Protein 11.6 g

*Sodium content will be higher if using canned chickpeas instead of cooking your own from dry beans.

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13 Responses to “Indian Spiced Chickpeas with Rhubarb”

  1. 1

    Kaytorade — July 18, 2011 @ 3:34 pm Reply

    Funny, the other day I was thinking about how different my life would have been if I hasn't been labeled "the smart girl" in school.

  2. 2

    Junia @ Mis Pensamientos — July 18, 2011 @ 3:49 pm Reply

    this dish is jam packed with nutrition and flavor. great recipe cara!

  3. 3

    Joanne — July 18, 2011 @ 5:29 pm Reply

    Damn girl your photos of this look a THOUSAND times better than mine did! I really miss this dish. Like a lot.And I SOOO do not know everything.  For example, I had no idea you've never been to an Indian restaurant?!?!?!?  What is THAT all about?  My favorite one in Boston is India Quality.  You need to go.

  4. 4

    Kalynskitchen — July 18, 2011 @ 11:18 pm Reply

    That looks and sounds just delicious.  And I don't like sweet rhubarb much, but I bet I would like this.

  5. 5

    Chrysta — July 18, 2011 @ 11:51 pm Reply

    Your recipes and pics always make me sssooo hungry. I love it!

  6. 6

    DHCooks — July 19, 2011 @ 5:38 pm Reply

    You are so right. I think many of us are so used to Americanized ethnic food that we don't realize we have never tasted "real" ethnic dishes. I am always on the search for the "real" thing but even when I go to a restaurant that I think might have the real thing I still wonder.  Is there ever a way to tell? 

  7. 7

    Anonymous — July 19, 2011 @ 7:58 pm Reply

    What a unique way to use rhubarb! I'd totally give this dish a try! I did find it funny when I realized a while back that actual Indian cooking doesn't use curry. I still like using my curry shortcut a lot of the time though :).Hope you have a great day!

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    Candace — July 19, 2011 @ 11:27 pm Reply

    I'm pretty sure that Joanne knows everything too.  :)This looks absolutely delicious!  I love rhubarb in something other than pie.  Yum!

  9. 9

    Brianna — July 20, 2011 @ 6:08 pm Reply

    Mmm, a great savory use for rhubarb! And lately I've been loving meals that have chickpeas as the protein. Can't wait to try this!

  10. 10

    Marla Meridith — July 22, 2011 @ 3:25 am Reply

    I just bought rhubarb today – had not thought to use it in a savory dish. This sounds awesome!

  11. 11

    elisabeth@foodandthriftfinds — July 22, 2011 @ 8:32 pm Reply

    Awesome chickpea dish, love the spices and also interesting with the rhubarb, as well.Would love this with a nice homemade naan!

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    Elizabeth — January 9, 2012 @ 6:33 pm Reply

    We have four hugely prolific rhubarb plants in the back garden, so I’m ALWAYS looking for ways to use it up. I love stewed rhubarb with muesli and yoghurt, but I’m a bit sick of it.. so glad I found this! We will be making it tonight. Bonus: it also uses up some of the also-prolific silverbeet!

    • 12.1

      Cara — January 9, 2012 @ 8:10 pm

      This is such a great dish, hope you love it as much as we do!

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