Chickpeas were brought to Spain by the Phoenicians, the people of the modern day Arab peninsula, around 500 BC. They thrived in Spain and quickly became a main ingredient in Spanish cuisine. Chickpeas are present in complex dishes as the Cocido Maragato, a multicourse meal involving seven cuts of meat cooked with cabbage and chickpeas and served along a variety of other dishes, or in simple dishes as the Spinach with Chickpeas recipe that follows. I would characterize this dish as “super comfort food.” With highly nutritious ingredients such as spinach, chickpeas and tomatoes, there is no debating how healthy and good this is. Yet it is prepared in stew form enriched with bread and almonds, making this an ideal dish for the cold weather. I particularly enjoy this as a side dish for grilled fish or meat or on top of toasted rustic bread as a tapa.
6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
16 ounces fresh spinach
3 thick slices of day old rustic bread with crusts removed and cut into cubes
¼ cup blanched unsalted Marcona almonds
4 garlic cloves, chopped
4 teaspoons mild (dulce) or hot (picante) smoked Spanish paprika, divided
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
½ oion, finely chopped
1 can/jar (approximately15 ounces) chickpeas
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
Salt and pepper (to taste)
Add two tablespoons of olive oil to a medium sauté pan and heat to medium high. As soon as the oil is heated, add the spinach and sauté until the spinach is barely wilted. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a colander set over a bowl to strain the excess liquid.
Add two more tablespoons of olive oil to the sauté pan. When the oil is heated, add the bread cubes and almonds and sautéed until they are golden brown on all sides. Then add the garlic, two teaspoon of paprika, and cumin and sauté for about one minute. Season with salt and pepper and remove from the heat. Transfer the mixture to a food processor, blender or mortar and add the sherry vinegar. Blend just enough to form a paste and set aside.
Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in the pan and sauté the onion for about six minutes or until softened. Add the bread and almond paste to the onions and m and add the garbanzo beans and chopped tomatoes. Mix gently and cook over medium low heat for about eight to ten minutes. Chop the fresh spinach and add it to the chickpeas and tomatoes. Stir gently until the spinach is heated, about one or two minutes. Transfer to a serving plate and drizzle the remaining tablespoon of olive oil on top and sprinkle the remaining paprika on top. Serve immediately.