Chana Masala (Spicy Chickpeas and Spinach), and as part of a 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; first try 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.
FINALLY THE RECIPE:
Soak overnight with a pinch of bicarbonate of soda
200g [7 oz] chickpeas
500g [17.5 oz] spinach with a pinch of salt [I omit salt]
Remove when leaves are just tender, drain in a colander and set aside.
In a frying pan [to save pans, use larger wok for this and subsequent steps] heat:
3 T olive oil, when it is hot add
75 g [2.6 oz] white bread, crusts removed, cut into small cubes
Fry the bread for about 5 minutes until bread is golden brown all over, then add:
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)
Return the bread mixture to the pan [assumes one starts with a large enough 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 [or if spinach is added raw, until it is wilted] 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