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In Our Kitchen: Recipe for Spinach and Chickpea Stew

Raisins give Espinacas con Garbanzos (Spinach and Chickpea Stew) a pop of sweetness.

ILEANA MORALES VALENTINE | Special to the Times

Raisins give Espinacas con Garbanzos (Spinach and Chickpea Stew) a pop of sweetness.

The first wedding anniversary gift theme is, traditionally, paper. Since I've already gifted Danny too many cookbooks, there were two ways to go with this: tickets to an event or a dinner reservation.

I reserved a couple of spots for us at a chef's tasting menu in town.

And as I turned a couple of pages in a flipbook Danny made for me, I realized he had also made a dinner reservation for us. In Spain. On a hill in the Basque country at a restaurant where the food is described as "techno-emotional" and has been ranked as one of the best in the world.

My 11-year-old sister put it plainly: Danny won.

The next day I stopped at a bookstore and picked up a travel guide to Spain. As I read about pintxos, the small snacks we'll eat at Basque bars, I learned we'll be treated to dishes fragrant with garlic and red pepper, and plenty of seafood from the nearby northern coast.

I decided to make dinner inspired by our future trip. Though the highlight awaits in northern Spain's town of San Sebastián, I am hoping we can also make it to Seville in the south, which is where we are likely to find espinacas con garbanzos (spinach and chickpea stew) on a tapas menu.

Chickpeas are one of my favorite beans for their nuttiness, texture and versatility. This deceivingly simple stew with spinach elevates them with a couple of steps. There's a garlic paste that transforms into a smoky, spiced sauce, which amps up crushed tomatoes. And there are raisins, which some people may be tempted to leave out. I grew up eating picadillo, a ground beef stew dotted with raisins, so I've loved the pop of sweetness against a savory dish ever since. The second time I made this recipe, I increased the amount of raisins called for.

I also nearly doubled the spinach since its volume always dwindles more than expected when cooked, and I used canned tomatoes and increased the amount as well. This becomes an easy weeknight meal with a side of crusty bread. Pop a few thick slices in the oven, and when they're toasted, rub the bread with the cut side of a garlic clove. Serve it all with a cana — that's beer in Spain — or a glass of vino tinto or vino blanco.

Ileana Morales Valentine lives in St. Petersburg with her husband. For more of their kitchen stories, visit her blog, ALittleSaffron.com. Say hello at alittlesaffron@gmail.com.

>>MODERATE

Espinacas con Garbanzos (Spinach and Chickpea Stew)

1 cup water

1 ¼ pounds fresh spinach

2 large garlic cloves

Kosher salt

Pinch of saffron threads

2 teaspoons sweet paprika

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

Pinch of ground cloves (or cinnamon)

Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

3 ½ to 4 cups cooked chickpeas (or two 15-ounce cans) with some of their liquid

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 small onion, diced

28 ounces crushed or diced tomatoes (canned or fresh)

cup golden raisins

Crusty bread, for serving

Pour the water into a large deep skillet and bring to a boil. Add the spinach and cook over high heat, tossing frequently, until wilted, about 2 minutes. Drain the spinach in a colander set over a sink. Use a wooden spoon to press the spinach and release some of its excess liquid.

Mash the garlic to a paste with ½ teaspoon of salt and the saffron. You can do this using the flat side of a large knife, a garlic press or a mortar and pestle. Transfer the garlic paste to a small bowl. Add the paprika, cumin, cloves and black pepper and mash until combined. Stir in ¼ cup of the chickpea liquid or water.

Wipe the skillet used to cook the spinach clean using a paper towel. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet and set it over medium heat. Add the onion and cook to soften, 2 minutes. Add tomato and spiced garlic sauce and cook over moderately high heat for another 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the chickpeas, raisins and a pinch of salt and bring to a boil over moderately high heat. Add the spinach, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes. Transfer the chickpea stew to 4 deep bowls. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the bowls and serve with bread.

Serves 4.

Source: Recipe adapted from Food & Wine

In Our Kitchen: Recipe for Spinach and Chickpea Stew 03/14/16 [Last modified: Monday, March 14, 2016 11:26am]
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