Espinacas con garbanzos, Chickpeas & Spinach - whatever you call it, it's good!

As much as I grumble when cool, fall weather initially sets in and my body struggles to adjust to the lower temperatures, there’s one thing I do wholeheartedly welcome about this time of year: warm food. Sure, I enjoy a salad every once in a while, and a good yogurt parfait is none to be trifled with, but in the end, I like my food hot. Autumn and winter give me the only excuse I need to churn out meal after meal of warm deliciousness: a chill in the air. If you’re at all like me, you’re probably gearing up for this kind of cooking, and if so, I have the perfect recipe for you.

If you don’t find yourself getting excited over a dish titled “Chickpeas and Spinach,” call it the much more exotic, traditional name of “Espinacas con garbanzos.” However you refer to it, though, know this: this is easy comfort food at its finest. It’s light in a way that most vegetarian dishes tend to be – that is, it’s certainly filling, but doesn’t leave you feeling physically heavy by the end of it. It also has a very nice heat to it, and this time, I’m talking spices, not temperature. The first time I made it, I brought it to a potluck and didn’t even get a taste of it before it was gone. So, it went onto my “try again” list, and just a month or so ago I gave it a second shot. I don’t recall what foul thing happened the day that I planned to make this for dinner for round 2, but whatever it was, I was in no mood to fuss around. I wanted food – good food, comforting food, hot food – and I wanted it a.s.a.p. Lucky for me, this recipe was wondrously forgiving, and I was able to throw the ingredients in without much measuring at all, and I was, in fact, able to have good, comforting, hot food in front of me in no time at all. (Unlucky for all of us, but mostly for you, said bad mood also meant that I just took a last-minute picture of the dish with my phone, rather than a thought-out picture with an actual camera.)

Espinacas con garbanzos / Chickpeas & Spinach, courtesy of Smitten Kitchen
Yield: 4-6 servings1

The Ingredients
1/2 pound (230 grams) dried chickpeas, cooked until soft and tender2
6 tablespoons olive oil3
1 pound (450 grams) spinach
1-2 slices hearty bread, cubed or pulsed into crumbs
1/2 cup (4 ounces) tomato sauce
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 paprika4
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
lemon juice, to taste

The Method
Place half the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, adding in the spinach once it’s hot. Work in batches, if necessary, and stir well with each addition. Remove the spinach when the leaves have just become tender, and set aside in a colander to drain.

Add 2 more tablespoons of oil to the saucepan, followed by the bread for 5 minutes, until golden brown all over. Finally, mix in the remaining tablespoon of oil with the garlic, cumin, and pepper, cooking for 1 minute or until  the garlic has turned a nutty brown.

If using bread cubes instead of crumbs, transfer the mixture to a food processor, blender, or mortar and pestle, and create a paste by blending in with the red wine vinegar. If using crumbs, however, simply mixing the bread crumbs and vinegar in a bowl is sufficient.

Return the bread paste to the pan and add the drained chickpeas and tomato sauce, stirring until the chickpeas have absorbed the flavors and have heated through. Season with freshly ground black pepper, and adjust for consistency by adding water (to thin) if necessary. Finally, mix in the spinach and cook until it, too, is hot. Remove from the heat, stir in the lemon juice, and serve with paprika on top.

1Depending upon how hungry you are, and if you’re serving this as a main or a side dish.
2I cooked my beans in a slow cooker covered 2-3 inches of water, 3 hours on high. I let them cool in the cooking water pretty much overnight. Check out this article about dried beans and why they're so awesome. If you still haven’t been won over by the ridiculous cheapness and ease of dried beans, though, 2 15-ounce cans will do just fine for this recipe.
3I can’t imagine that I used all of this oil, knowing how stingy and skeptical I am when it comes to greasing a pan. If you’re nervous, use it all – but don’t be afraid to experiment with less, either.
4Use smoked if you have it.


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