Chana Masala (Spicy Chickpeas and Spinach), and as part of collection of "Recipes for the Semi-Vegan" in the December 29 issue of The New York Times Magazine, Mark Bittman has yet another recipe for this combination, a recipe very similar but not quite as complex as the one, "Garbanzos con espinacas" that caught my eye in Moro:The Cookbook . Compared with Bittman's, the Moro recipe includes saffron and fresh oregano, uses red wine vinegar instead of sherry, and starts with bread cubes rather bread crumbs . The Moro recipe is very good, my guess is that if the spinach is not overcooked, the Bittman one would be good too.
The Moro recipe calls for 500 g of spinach; I used 352 g which seemed like a lot of spinach before it cooked down. The chickpea spinach ratio was okay but would have been better with the requisite amount of spinach. The saffron is a luxury, use it if you have it and want to, but the smoked Spanish paprika (pimenton), sweet (dulce) or hot (picante), is a must. Before being ground the peppers are dried over oak fires to impart a distinctive smoky quality. I use the Safinter brand which is available at Whole Foods.
Beet Soup with Cumin and followed by Almond Olive Oil Cake. All totaled, about one quarter of a cup of olive oil per person but no animal fat/butter. To reduce my company time in the kitchen, I made the bread paste early. Making the bread paste is by far the most time consuming part of this recipe; if I were halving this recipe to serve two, I would make a full recipe of the bread paste and reserve half for future (within a week) use. Alternatively, as Bittman does, use breadcrumbs prepared in large batches.
Also, (see next paragraph) I now save a step and cook the chickpeas and paste first and then add the (uncooked) spinach and oil and cook until the spinach is wilted. If using less oil or the spinach is quite dry and bread paste sticks to the pan, I add a little water to loosen the paste.]
Soak overnight with a pinch of bicarbonate of soda
200g [7 oz] chickpeas
Place a large saucepan [I used a wok] over medium heat and add
500g [17.5 oz] spinach with a pinch of salt [I omitted salt]
Remove when leaves are just tender, drain in a colander and set aside. In a frying pan [I used same wok] heat
3 T olive oil, when it is hot add
75 g [2.6 oz] white bread, crusts removed, cut into small cubes
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3/4 t cumin seeds
1 small bunch fresh oregano, roughly chopped [I used 14 g with stems, 10 g after stems removed]
1 small dried red chilli, crumbled [I removed seeds before crumbling]
Cook for 1 more minute until the garlic is nutty brown. Transfer to a mortar and pestle or food processor along with
1 1/2 T good-quality red wine vinegar (like Cabernet Sauvignon)
Mash to a paste. Return the bread mixture to the pan and add the drained chickpeas and
A good pinch of saffron (60 strands) that has been infused in 4 T boiling water for at least 10 minutes
Stir until the chickpeas have absorbed the flavors and are hot, then season with salt and pepper. If the consistency is a little thick then add some water. Add the spinach and cook until it too is again hot and served sprinkled with [I mixed in 1/2 t then just put a tiny additional dusting on top]
1/2 t sweet smoked Spanish paprika