If all has gone according to plan, I’m sitting on a beach right now, preferably with a decent base tan going (though more likely, a spectacularly uneven lobster-red sunburn), a fruity drink with an umbrella in it in hand and a good beach read. If it hasn’t gone according to plan, well… I hope I least still have the fruity umbrella drink.
Last week I told you about a summer dessert I recently made for the very first time; today, I’m doing a complete 180. Not only is this dish of the savory sort, but it’s also been on heavy rotation on our weekly dinner menus ever since Deb first posted it on her blog. It’s one of our go-to meals when we want something fresh, easy and fast for dinner (which is basically every day because I’m impatient when hungry).
Call me weird, but I’m OBSESSED with chickpeas. And I get all googly eyed when I see sauteed spinach. So when I first happened upon this recipe I knew I would love it right there, but then she had to go ahead and suggest serving it on top of fried bread toasts. And then I definitely knew: This was fate. It was my destiny to make this dish for dinner, and for many a dinner henceforth. And that is just what I have done.
I’ll admit, this isn’t the purdiest little recipe you ever did see. But aren’t some of the ugliest foods the tastiest ones? And this one sure is tasty. It’s made with earthy, savory flavors like tomatoes, garlic, cumin and paprika, and it’s hearty in the best way possible: Filling, but not overly so in the way that makes you feel gross after eating it. It’s Spanish comfort food and, while it is the dead of summer and you might have more popsicles, cocktails and fruit salads on the brain, comfort knows no season. Sometimes, you just need a little bit of it in the middle of July.
At least that’s how I felt, anyway, after making this most recently for what has to have been the second or third dozenth (is that even a word? Dozenth? Let’s go with it*) time. It felt like a conversation with an old friend — comfortable, relaxed, easygoing and without direction, just going where the flow led. And at the end of our conversation, we had a delicious dinner: one that stuck to our ribs, as it always does, in the best way possible.
If you haven’t had the chance to make this dish before, I suggest you get on it soonest. As for me, I’ll be over here in the sunny sunshine state, enjoying vacation as much as possible — and when real life returns, I imagine I’ll be needing comfort in the form of this recipe again.
*Looked it up. It’s totally a word.
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Yields: 4 servings
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 bunch spinach, stems removed
1 generous 1-inch slice from a rustic country bread loaf (French Boule and Ciabatta are good homemade options), crust removed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes, plus more thinner slices for fried bread toasts
3 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 15-oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup tomato sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste
Lemon juice, to taste
Olive oil, for fried bread toasts
Smoked paprika, for topping (optional)
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add spinach and salt to taste; stir until just wilted. Transfer to a colander to drain.
Wipe out skillet and return to medium heat. Add 2 more tablespoons olive oil and bread cubes. Fry bread until golden brown and toasted all over, then add remaining tablespoon of olive oil, minced garlic, cumin and red pepper flakes. Stir and cook one more minute until garlic is fragrant.
Transfer bread mixture to a small food processor or bowl; add red wine vinegar. Pulse until a coarse paste forms, or use a fork to mash the mixture to a coarse paste. Return mixture to skillet over medium heat, along with the chickpeas, tomato sauce and salt and pepper to taste. Stir, cooking until flavors are absorbed and chickpeas are hot.
Add spinach and stir, cooking until heated through. Add more salt and pepper, as well as lemon juice, to taste.
To make fried bread toasts, add a generous glug of olive oil to a skillet; place bread slices side-down in hot oil. Fry bread until golden brown and toasted on both sides, in batches if necessary. Serve immediately with spinach-chickpea saute, sprinkled with smoked paprika on top if desired.