In today’s Seasonal Pantry, which you can read here, I explore the halal and kosher, the food traditions of Jewish and Muslim cultures, respectively . In that column, I promise to promise to post Imam Ali Siddiqui’s recipe for chickpeas, which you’ll find below. I also promised to post a link to the episode of Mouthful, my radio show on KRCB-FM, that focused on these two traditions with Rabbi Stephanie Kramer of Congregation Shomrei Torah and Imam Ali Siddiqui, whose connections are too numerous to list. He works for social justice and peace, as his father and grandfather before him worked similarly in their native Pakistan. Ghandi was a family friend and Imam Siddiqui met him when he was a young boy. To be in his presence is to sense his deep commitment. Yet he is also lighthearted, with a robust love of life, which includes a love of good food.

You’ll find the podcast of the November 4 episode of Mouthful here. You can find details about Congregation Shomrei Torah’s upcoming Night of Lights celebration, taking place on Sunday, December 16, here. The public is invited and don’t worry if you don’t know anyone. You may show up as a stranger, but you’ll leave as a friend.

There was not room in the column to go into great detail so I’d like to expand just a bit here. In the kosher tradition, foods go through a process of kashering to become kosher. This is the primary purpose of kosher salt, for example. The salt, with its large crystals, is poured over meat to draw out all blood, a requirement to be kosher. When I wrote my book Salt and Pepper, the rabbi I interviewed explained that “kashering salt” would be a more accurate name.

When it comes to Muslim traditions, halal is just half the story. “Halal” describes what is allowed; “haraam” describes what is forbidden. Typically, forbidden foods serve another purpose. The rules do not seem arbitrary; rather, they seem based on an overall concept of balance with the environment.

Kosher foods are readily available in the Bay Area, though certain cultural foods–bialys, for example, and the best pastrami–are hard or impossible to find. Halal foods are more difficult. For a while, Costco was offering halal meals but anti-Muslim protesters managed to get the company to stop. This is a sad development for many reasons. We all eat and, when we move to a new land, we take our food traditions with us. Both kosher and halal traditions honor the land and the animals who become our food. There’s a lot to be learned from both traditions and a lot to be enjoyed.

Chana Beans (Chickpeas) with Attitude • Serves 4 to 8

You can, in a pinch, make this dish using canned chicken peas. To do so, you’ll need about five cans. Drain the chickpeas first and add the potatoes with all the other ingredients. Simmer together until the potatoes are tender and then continue as directed in the recipe.

  • 2 1/2 cups chickpeas, sorted to remove small rocks and non-chickpeas and soaked in water for several hours or overnight
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 slices of pickled mango
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kalonji (also known as nigella seed)
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 2-inch pieces of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into small dice
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 poblano, seeded and diced
  • 1 yellow or white onion, cut into small dice
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • Handful of fresh mint leaves, very thinly sliced
  1. Put the chickpeas, yellow onion, garlic, mango, cumin, kalonji, garam masala, cardamom, cayenne, cinnamon and half the ginger into a crock pot or other slow cooker. Add enough water to come 2 inches above the ingredients, season with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and cook on high until the water boils. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook until the chickpeas are almost fully tender. Add the potatoes and cook until tender.
  2. Remove from the heat, stir in the lemon juice, taste and correct for salt. Set aside briefly.
  3. Combine the poblano, diced onion, tomato and mint leaves in a medium bowl and season with salt.
  4. Ladle the chick peas into individual bowls and top with a generous spoonful of the poblano mixture and serve.