Thursday, March 25, 2010

Spinach and Chickpeas

This week has been pretty crazy for me, and so I was really needing easy recipes for this week's menu. The spring-ish weather has also had me in the mood for lots of fruits and veggies...and lots of flavor, which is why I just love Smitten Kitchen. Every recipe I try is just...perfect. This recipe was no exception.
I really loved this recipe for a lot of reasons. First, it was easy - I really got excited when I looked down the list and there was virtually NO chopping! Second, it's healthy, that speaks for itself. Third, it was really flavorful. Each bite had me tasting so many different flavors all just perfectly blended together. Fourth, it's different than my usual dish. I love a dish that is easy to make and uses familiar ingredients but tastes different than the same ol' same ol'. Four reasons to just love this dish right there. In fact, I brought some over to my neighbor and purposefully left it with her before she had tried it so she wouldn't feel like she had to say it was good even if it wasn't. A couple hours later she told me she really loved it and asked for the recipe! So there you go, it's not just me!And really, can you go wrong with a pound of fresh spinach? You have to feel good about that! Or a recipe with a pound of spinach in it that your 3 year old will eat with no complaints? Well, at least a few bites anyway. Or a recipe that has sauteed bread in the sauce? How cool is that?

I used a multi-grain shepherd's loaf of bread from Trader Joe's, but after sauteeing it up, I can see why really any bread would work. I had to add a little water to my sauce, like she added, especially since I don't have a food processor, just a blender. I really loved the sauce. Then, I simply toasted the left-over bread to serve the spinach chickpea concoction on top of. I didn't make a side dish that night, but I think it would be a great side to fruit.

Oh, and I arbitrarily added some parmigiano reggiano to the top. I thought it just sang with the dish. I'm sure it makes it unauthentic, but I was just going for yummy. =)

Oh - one more thing. I didn't have any smoked paprika, or paprika for that matter, so I just threw in a combination of Cajun seasoning and Cayenne Pepper. It was an acceptable substitute for us in a pinch. I also only had apple cider vinegar, so I used that instead of red wine vinegar.

Recipe here and below:

Espinacas con Garbanzos [Spinach and Chickpeas]
Adapted from Moro: The Cookbook and Lobstersquad

One of the reason I blended recipes was because I wanted the approachability of Ximena’s version but also some of the extras in Moro’s — the vinegar, paprika and the fried bread, mashed to a paste. Except, in hindsight, I think I’d also enjoy this recipe without the bread. It would be a bit thinner and saucier and possibly harder to slop onto a piece of toast, but also a bit lighter — in weight, not just calories. If you’re bread-averse or think you’d enjoy it without the crumbs in the sauce, give it a spin and let us know how it goes.

Tomato sauce, by the way, is emphatically not traditional in this dish but after making Ximena’s version with it — she says “you don’t have to use tomato in this recipe, but it’s so much better with it” — I can’t have it any other way.

Last note: This recipe is flexible. If you end up with a little less spinach or a little more sauce, or if you want it with a little less this or a little more that, so be it. Enjoy it. Have fun with it.

1/2 pound (230 grams) dried chickpeas, cooked until soft and tender* or two 15-ounce cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
6 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound (450 grams) spinach, washed
A hefty 1-inch slice from a country loaf or about 2 slices from sandwich loaf bread (2.5 ounces or 75 grams), crusts removed and cut inset small cubes
1/2 cup (4 ounces) tomato sauce (I used canned stuff I keep around)
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika**
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Lemon juice, to taste

Place a large saucepan over medium heat and add half the olive oil. When it is hot, add the spinach with a pinch of salt (in batches, if necessary) and stir well. Remove when the leaves are just tender, drain in a colander and set aside.

Heat 2 more tablespoons olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Fry the bread for about 5 minutes or until golden brown all over, then the remaining tablespoon of oil and the garlic, cumin and pepper. Cook for 1 minute more or until the garlic is nutty brown.

Transfer to a food processor, blender or mortar and pestle along with the vinegar, and mash to a paste. Return the mixture to the pan and add the drained chickpeas and tomato sauce. Stir until the chickpeas have absorbed the flavors and are hot. Season with salt and pepper.

If the consistency is a little thick, add some water. Add the spinach and cook until it is hot. Check for seasoning and serve with paprika on top, or on fried bread toasts (as the Spanish do).

* I make all of my dried beans in the slow-cooker these days. They are perfect every time, and the flavor of fresh beans — even the sad-looking ones from grocery store bins I used — is incomparable. No presoaking, just cover them 2 to 3 inches of water and cook them 3 hours on high. (I have learned that cooking time can vary widely in slow-cookers so allot more time than you might need. I often make mine in the day or days before and let them cool in their cooking water, which is then by then very flavorful.)

** This might be my favorite ingredient on earth — it’s amazing on eggs and potatoes, too. If you can’t find it locally, Amazon and Penzeys are among a bunch of places that sell it online.

4 stars. I don't know, maybe 5, I can't decide. =)

1 comment:

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