Chickpea (Garbanzo) & Spinach Casserole

White or Green Chickpeas

White or Green Chickpeas

By Cat, June 2008 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

It was 1981, I had just gotten a new cookbook:  A Passion For Vegetables, by Vera Gewanter (© 1980), and was headed for the Oregon Coast for a long weekend.  I wanted to try something new, something unlike anything I’d ever made before, and decided to try this French recipe.  I purchased all ingredients before I left and did some preparation in advance so that I wouldn’t have to take a lot of equipment with me.  I finished the cooking in my beach cabin’s kitchen.  Delicious!  And for more than a week after that trip, I could still smell the pleasant aroma of the almond-garlic-saffron-pepper paste in my car.

Chickpea and Spinach Casserole

Spinach in November

Spinach in November

(Photo, left, from Wikimedia Commons)

If you are in a hurry, you can use canned garbanzos, drained.  But I highly recommend cooking your own beans.  Especially cooking them in the mineral-rich liquid from the wilted spinach.  Mmmm.

This casserole is similar to another French dish from Provence, called Soupe de Pistou, and related to Spanish Braised Spinach with Chickpeas .

My adaptation of this classic French recipe serves 4.  It is important to make each of the “pastes” separately, in order to get the right flavor.  It’s a bit more work, but definitely worth the effort.

Regarding tomato paste: I don’t recommend using commercial tomato paste, as it likely contains HFCS, and leached lead solder from the can (or leached plastic from the BPA/BPS can liner). See also Homemade Tomato Paste (For Canning, Freezing, Refrigeration)

NOTE:  1 ½ cups dried chickpeas makes 3 ¾ cups cooked

Ingredients & Equipment:

  • Chick-Peas
  • 1 ½ cups dried chick-peas, soaked or sprouted (see Cooked Chickpeas for instructions).
  • warm filtered water
  • lemon juice (1 Tbsp per quart of water)
  • 2 ½ pounds fresh spinach or chard (or one 16-oz bag frozen, but it won’t turn out as good)
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into 4-5 pieces
  • 2 small onions
  • 4 whole cloves (spice)
  • Unrefined sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • bread crumbs
  • 2 – 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • Tomato Paste
  • 2 medium-sized tomatoes, chopped (or 14 oz canned chopped tomatoes, drained)
  • 1 clove garlic (or more), chopped
  • 2 – 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp savory (dried herb)
  • Almond Paste
  • 12 almonds, blanched
  • 2 – 4 cloves garlic, peeled (optional)
  • ¼ tsp saffron
  • pinch of black pepper
  • dash cayenne pepper
  • Equipment
  • large bowl
  • saucepan
  • 3-quart saucier (or French oven that can be used on stove top)
  • nut chopper or blender
  • mortar and pestle
  • casserole dish or French oven


  1. Chick Peas: Cover beans with warm water in large bowl.  Stir in whey or lemon juice and leave in a warm place overnight (7 – 12 hours).  Check after a few hours and add more water as necessary.
  2. Soak or sprout the chickpeas; then drain, rinse and put in saucier (or French oven).
  3. Wash spinach and wilt it in a saucepan for a few minutes.  Squeeze dry, saving the liquid.
  4. Cover chickpeas with water and liquid from spinach.
  5. Alternately: wilt spinach in saucier, and squeeze liquid into the saucier. Then add chickpeas.
  6. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer.
  7. Stud each onion with 2 whole cloves; cut carrots. Add these, along with the thyme to the beans.  Simmer about 1 hour or longer, until tender.  During the last half hour, add salt and pepper.
  8. Tomato Paste: While chick-peas are cooking, simmer tomatoes, uncovered, in about 2 Tbsp oil.  Add garlic, parsley, savory and a little salt.  Cook until it forms a paste-like sauce.
  9. Almond Paste: Preheat oven to 400°F.
  10. Chop almonds, mince garlic; place in mortar and pound to a paste.  Add saffron, black pepper, and cayenne.  Pound some more.  If the paste becomes too dry, add a little liquid from the chickpeas.
  11. Casserole: When chickpeas are ready, there should be just a little liquid left, the consistency of a sauce. Drain off some liquid if there is too much.
  12. Remove carrots and onions and pass them through a sieve, discarding the cloves.  Add the puree to the chick-peas, then stir in the tomato and almond pastes.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
  13. Add spinach; adjust seasoning.  If using separate casserole dish, oil it with olive oil & scoop in bean mixture.  Level the surface, sprinkle with bread crumbs and bake 30 minutes.


Retesting 1/5/09:  Although I’ve made this before with good results using fresh spinach or chard, I wanted to test using frozen spinach. I partially thawed two 16-oz bags of frozen chopped spinach, then dumped contents into saucier to thaw by warming over low heat, then allowed to cool a bit before squeezing out the liquid (for cooking the garbanzos).  Otherwise, I followed recipe as written, using fresh tomatoes for the tomato paste.  Result:  Finished casserole tastes great, but spinach resembled canned spinach in texture (overcooked and a bit slick), and there was too much of it.  Recommendation:  Fresh spinach produces better end result; if must use frozen, use only one 16-oz bag.


  1. A Passion For Vegetables, by Vera Gewanter, © 1980; published 1980 by The Viking Press, New York

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