Spinach and Chickpeas

Spinach and beans is one of my favorite flavor combinations. Last week I happily existed for three days on a lima bean, onion, spinach and feta concoction. As for the below recipe, as the author on smitten kitchen says, “it 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.”

1/4 pound dried chickpeas, cooked until soft and tender (or or 15-ounce cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed – but the dried beans are always sooo much better!)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound spinach, washed
A 1-inch slice of bread, crusts removed and cut into small cubes
1/4 cup tomato sauce (canned stuff will do!)
1-2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch of red pepper flakes
2-3 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1/4 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).

– adapted from smittenkitchen.com