I first moved to Brooklyn in 1997 to attend graduate school at NYU. My homeboy from college, Mike Molina, and I got an apartment in Crown Heights on Schenectady Avenue near the Utica stop on the MTA’s 3/4 line. Coming from New Orleans, where we went to college, a Black neighborhood in Brooklyn was the perfect place for us to land in NYC. Most of the folks living in our building were from the Caribbean, and there were lots of independently owned West Indian businesses, including a plethora of Rastafarian-owned health food stores and juice bars. Feeling stuffed the day after late-night munchies? A shot of ginger juice from down the block would take care of that. Wanting to alkalinize/energize before a long day on campus in Manhattan? A large green smoothie with ginseng from the juice spot by the subway, please. There were also lots of good, fast, and cheap Caribbean restaurants in the neighborhood. My two favorite quick bites were veggie patties stuffed inside warm coco bread from any number of Jamaican spots around the way and doubles—fried flatbreads with a curried chickpea filling—at a hole-in-the-wall Trinidadian restaurant on Utica Avenue.
*REGGAE AIR HORN BLASTING*
At that same Trini spot, I would sometimes get chana and aloo, a mixture of chickpeas and potatoes simmered in curry sauce, and it was delicious. This recipe is my ode to that dish. I incorporate fennel, using it like I would an onion, to add its subtly sweet anise flavor. The cilantro sauce takes this to the next level. Eat it with a green salad to balance everything out.
- Combine the cashews and 1/2 cup water in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Use immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- In a small skillet, combine the garlic, olive oil, coriander, and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook just until the garlic is fragrant, about 11/2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.
- Transfer the oil mixture to a blender. Add the cilantro, lemon juice, jalapeño, and 1/4 cup water and blend until smooth. If necessary, season with additional salt to taste. Use immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
- Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Drain the chickpeas and pour them into a medium saucepan or Dutch oven. Add water to cover by 3 inches. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat to medium and add the bay leaf, onion, halved garlic cloves, and dried chile. Partially cover and simmer until just tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Add 1 tablespoon salt and simmer for 5 minutes more. Drain the beans, remove the bay leaf, onion, garlic cloves, and chile, and discard.
- While the chickpeas are cooking, in a large bowl, combine the potatoes, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a few turns of white pepper and toss well with clean hands to combine. Spread the potatoes over the prepared baking sheet in one layer and roast until tender and starting to turn golden on the edges, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- In a small skillet, combine the turmeric, coriander, cumin, fenugreek, mustard seeds, cinnamon, clove, and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Toast the spices over medium heat, shaking the pan so they don't burn, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Immediately scrape the spices into a mortar or spice grinder. Grind into a fine powder and set aside.
- In the pot you used to cook the chickpeas, warm the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the fennel and sauté until it begins to soften, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and the habanero and sauté until the garlic is fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the spice blend and cook, stirring, until well combined, about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste until well combined. Pour in the stock and cashew cream and add the potatoes and chickpeas. Stir well to combine, decrease the heat to medium-low, partially cover, and simmer, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan occasionally, until the flavors have melded and the curry has thickened, about 20 minutes. Season with salt to taste.
- To serve, spoon the chickpeas, fennel, and potatoes into bowls. Top with cilantro sauce and garnish with chopped cilantro, whole cilantro leaves, and a smattering of the reserved fennel fronds, if you like. Give the whole thing a big squeeze of lime juice and serve.
Reprinted with permission from Vegetable Kingdom: The Abundant World of Vegan Recipes by the Bryant Terry, copyright © 2020. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Photography copyright: Ed Anderson © 2020
A national leader in the movement to promote healthy eating, Bryant Terry is the author of The Inspired Vegan and the critically acclaimed Vegan Soul Kitchen. Along with Anna Lappe, Bryant co-authored Grub, which the New York Times called "ingenious." He is the host of Urban Organic--a multi-episode web series that he co-created--and a co-host of the public television series The Endless Feast. Terry's work has been featured in the New York Times, Gourmet, Food & Wine, O: The Oprah Magazine, Essence, Yoga Journal, Vegetarian Times, and Food & Wine, among others. He has made hundreds of national television and radio appearances including the Martha Stewart Show, Emeril Green, The Splendid Table, and The Tavis Smiley Show. Visit www.bryant-terry.com.