Wednesday, May 20, 2009

On a budget? Chickpeas do the trick.

Ever since I listened to NPR's "How Low Can You Go" with chef Jose Andres, I've wanted to make this dish. I love chickpeas, am always looking for new and satisfying vegetarian meals and, woohoo , this one is as cheap as chips. In fact, the premise of the show is to feed a family of four for under $10. Taking that even further, I increased the amount of chickpeas from 9 oz to 1 lb. (I left the remaining ingredients alone and the flavors were plenty strong.) The additional chickpeas stretch this, making it even more wallet-friendly, but when reheated the spinach became rather slimy and unappealing. I would recommend making a big pot and adding a handful or two of spinach to each individual bowl you dish out. One last note, the original recipe called for a pinch of saffron, but I didn't add it because I didn't have any...that's the way it goes in these here parts. Don't know what I missed and I'm okay with that; this was delish nevertheless!

Moorish-style chickpea and spinach stew

1 lb dried chickpeas
Pinch baking soda
6 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
1/4 cup olive oil
2 oz white sliced bread, with the crusts removed
2 T Spanish sweet paprika
1 t ground cumin
2 T sherry vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 pound spinach, washed and cleaned
  • The day before you cook, soak the chickpeas in cold water with a pinch of baking soda.
  • Drain and rinse the chickpeas.
  • In a large saucepan, add rinsed chickpeas and add cold water to cover by about 1 inch. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for two hours, until the chickpeas are tender. Every 10 minutes or so, add 1/2 cup of cold water to slow down the simmering. By the end, the water should have reduced so it is barely covering the chickpeas. (I cooked the chickpeas a day ahead and cooled in the refrigerator over night. Before resuming the recipe, I warmed the chickpeas over low heat until just simmering.)
  • In a small saute pan over medium to low heat, brown the garlic in oil, about 3 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add the bread and brown on both sides, about one minute per side. Remove the bread and set aside.
  • Turn of burner and allow oil to cool for a few minutes. Add the paprika, cumin and vinegar to the oil and whisk to incorporate.
  • In a mortar, smash the reserved garlic and the browned bread to make a very thick paste.
  • Add the spice mixture along with the garlic and bread paste, to create a thick, stew-like sauce. Simmer for another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Ladle into bowls and top each with a big handful of spinach. (It's also great ladled onto prepared couscous.)
  • Enjoy!
Here's the radio show with the original recipe and great tips from chef Andres (like serving a fired egg on top of the beans and spinach!). In the interview, Michele Norris is a little skeptical about "talking" to the chickpeas, as Andres recommends, because she's not "fluent in chickpea". Good thing touching and tasting them works as well!

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