Food Column ATK Chickpeas with Spinach

Chickpeas with spinach, chorizo and smoked paprika can work as part of a larger meal.

Espinacas is a traditional tapas dish found in the southern Spanish region of Andalucia consisting of tender stewed chickpeas, delicate wilted spinach, and bold North African-influenced spices.

We set out to develop an adaptation of this dish that could work as part of a larger meal. For the flavor backbone, we stuck with the classic southern Spanish flavors of saffron, garlic, smoked paprika and cumin.

Tasters also liked the traditional addition of chorizo, which added meaty richness. Curly-leaf spinach was the best choice for its sturdy texture in this brothy dish.

To keep the recipe streamlined, we opted to wilt the spinach and then set it aside before building the brothy base with canned chickpeas and aromatics. Including the chickpeas’ flavorful, starchy canning liquid helped to give the dish more body.

Finally, we added a traditional picada, which is often used in Spanish cooking as a thickener. The bread crumb-based mixture gave the stewed beans and greens just the right velvety texture and flavor boost. Our finished dish would be equally at home as part of a tapas spread or served as an entree over rice or with good crusty bread to sop up the flavorful broth.

If you can’t find curly-leaf spinach, you can substitute flat-leaf spinach; do not substitute baby spinach. For an accurate measurement of boiling water, bring a full kettle of water to a boil and then measure out the desired amount.


Servings: 4-6

Start to finish: 30 minutes

Pinch saffron threads, crumbled

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

8 ounces curly-leaf spinach, stemmed

3 ounces Spanish-style chorizo sausage, chopped fine

5 garlic cloves, sliced thin

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon ground cumin

Salt and pepper

2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas

1 recipe Picada (recipe follows)

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

Combine 2 tablespoons boiling water and saffron in small bowl and let steep for 5 minutes.

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add spinach and 2 tablespoons water, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until spinach is wilted but still bright green, about 1 minute. Transfer spinach to colander and gently press to release liquid. Transfer spinach to cutting board and chop coarse. Return to colander and press again.

Heat remaining 1 teaspoon oil in now-empty pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add chorizo and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, paprika, cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in chickpeas and their liquid, 1 cup water, and saffron mixture and bring to simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until chickpeas are tender and liquid has thickened slightly, 10 to 15 minutes.

Off heat, stir in picada, spinach, and vinegar and let sit until heated through, about 2 minutes. Adjust sauce consistency with hot water as needed. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.


Makes about 1 cup

Chopped or whole unsalted almonds can be substituted for the slivered almonds; however, they may require longer processing times.

1/4 cup slivered almonds

2 slices hearty white sandwich bread, torn into quarters

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/8 teaspoon salt

Pinch pepper

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 F. Pulse almonds in food processor to fine crumbs, about 20 pulses. Add bread, oil, salt, and pepper and pulse bread to coarse crumbs, about 10 pulses. Spread mixture evenly in rimmed baking sheet and bake, stirring often, until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool. (Picada can be stored in airtight container for up to 2 days.)

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