I had assumed that the mixture of spinach and chickpeas was solely an Indian combination. The creaminess of the spinach is a perfect match for the hearty chickpeas, and with the addition of a few spices, it could turn into a satisfying full meal. Well, it turns that if you change some of those spices and add an interesting new thickener, you can end up in Morocco with a completely new dish. It’s kind of astonishing.
I found the recipe on the blog Smitten Kitchen, and while it looks like a regular Indian curry, it has a completely different character. The cumin adds a nice earthiness and the smoked paprika helps perk things up. The real secret here is the bread, which is sautéed until golden brown and then processed into a paste with the vinegar. It helps thicken the meal, and make it more substantial than it would be normally. You can serve this with a little toast if you’d like, but it is fine just by itself.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 pound fresh curly spinach, rinsed
- Kosher salt
- 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1/2-inch slice from a country loaf, cut into cubes
- 1/4 cup tomato sauce
- 2 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- pinch red pepper flakes
- 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 lemon, cut into wedges
Pour half of the oil into a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the spinach and a pinch of salt. Stir constantly, and cook until the leaves just wilt, about 4 minutes. Drain contents in a colander. Rinse out saucepan and dry with paper towel.
Add 1 tablespoon of remaining oil to the saucepan and return it to medium heat. Toss in the bread cubes. Cook, stirring often, until browned all over, about 5 minutes. Add the rest of the olive oil along with the garlic, cumin, and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 1 minute (If garlic begins to burn, remove contents from pan immediately).
Transfer the bread mixture to a food processor. Pour in the vinegar and process into a paste.
Add the paste back to the saucepan along with the tomato sauce and chickpeas. Turn the heat to medium, and cook until the chickpeas have absorbed the flavors, about 5 minutes. Quickly chop the drained spinach, and then add it to the saucepan. Season mixture with salt and pepper. As soon as the chickpeas and spinach are warm, turn off the heat. Serve with sprinkling smoked paprika and fresh lemon juice.