Baked Chickpeas with Fresh Cheese

MAKES: 6 servings

TIME: 40 to 60 minutes

Fresh cheese called paneer in India and sold in many Asian and natural food stores is easy to make and is great combined with beans, especially with the tasty Spicy Indian Tomato Sauce. Paneer is not unlike firm tofu in texture, but with a taste like ricotta; in its place, use tofu, feta cheese, farmer cheese, or even queso fresco. Serve this with Biryani or The Simplest Indian-Style Flatbread or even over baked potatoes.

Other beans you can use: kidney or mung beans.

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted

1 recipe Spicy Indian Tomato Sauce, warmed

4 cups cooked or drained canned chickpeas

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

11/2 cups cubed fresh cheese

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400В°F. Use a tablespoon or so of the butter to grease a 2-quart souff or gratin dish or a 9 — 13-inch baking dish. Make sure the tomato sauce is warm and seasoned.

Spread the tomato sauce in the dish and spoon the beans on top. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Spread the cheese cubes around evenly, pressing them into the sauce and beans a bit. Drizzle with the remaining butter.

Bake until the sauce is bubbly and the tops of the cheese and beans have browned a bit, 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of your dish. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with cilantro and a few more grinds of black pepper if you like, and serve.

Variations

Baked Chickpeas with Paneer and Spinach. A kind of glorified version of saag paneer, the common Indian-restaurant dish: Blanch, squeeze dry, and chop a pound of fresh spinach according to the directions in The Basics of Cooking Vegetables. In Step 2, after you pour the sauce into the baking dish, spread the spinach evenly around. Then add the chickpeas and proceed with the recipe.

Baked Chickpeas with Paneer and Cauliflower. Core and trim a small head of cauliflower into medium florets (see the illustrations in Cauliflower). In Step 2, after pouring the sauce into the baking dish, spread the florets evenly around, then add the chickpeas and proceed with the recipe.