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.
- Includes: 1. Chickpea (Garbanzo) & Spinach Casserole
- See also: 1. Braised Spinach with Chickpeas, Spanish-Style; 2. Soupe au Pistou; 3. Homemade Tomato Paste (For Canning, Freezing, Refrigeration); 4. Beans & Other Legumes: Soaking & Sprouting; 5. Vegetarian & Bean Menu
Chickpea and Spinach Casserole
(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.
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:
- 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
- large bowl
- 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
- 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.
- Soak or sprout the chickpeas; then drain, rinse and put in saucier (or French oven).
- Wash spinach and wilt it in a saucepan for a few minutes. Squeeze dry, saving the liquid.
- Cover chickpeas with water and liquid from spinach.
- Alternately: wilt spinach in saucier, and squeeze liquid into the saucier. Then add chickpeas.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer.
- 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.
- 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.
- Almond Paste: Preheat oven to 400°F.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- A Passion For Vegetables, by Vera Gewanter, © 1980; published 1980 by The Viking Press, New York