It’s one of those dishes that you keep thinking about long after you’ve taken the last bite.
I first ordered espinacas con garbanzos in Seville, convinced by a friend that this simple sounding spinach and chickpea stew was a Spanish culinary masterpiece. Served piping hot, it was as comforting as any homemade stew should be, and I immediately understood her obsession.
Espinacas con garbanzos are a traditional tapa in Seville, especially popular during the chilly winter months and during lent. But the dish’s history goes far beyond Andalusia. Spinach comes from Ancient Persia (modern Iran), where Arab traders got their hands on it and eventually introduced it to the Mediterranean. There are records of spinach being a popular Spanish vegetable by the end of the 12th century, and it was an important ingredient in Moorish and Sephardic Jewish cuisine in Spain.
Chickpeas (also called garbanzos) originally came from the Middle East as well, and made their way into the Spanish kitchen by way of the Phoenicians. Their importance in Spanish cuisine is paramount, and they are a primary ingredient in many popular Spanish dishes, such as the delicious Cocido Madrileño.
This recipe for espinacas con garbanzos strays a wee bit from the traditional version, but the addition of tomato and almonds enhances the heartiness of the dish in my humble opinion. The best part? This is easily a 30-minute meal, and a healthy, filling, and delicious one at that.
- - 1 jar (around 500g or 18 ounces) of garbanzo beans (chickpeas) (note: you could also soak and cook dried garbanzos for even more delicious results, but I find that good quality canned beans do the trick nearly as well)
- - 1 large bag (around 300 grams/10 ounces) fresh spinach, washed
- - 2 thick slices of day old bread (sourdough works well) with crusts removed and cut into cubes
- - 15 blanched unsalted Marcona almonds
- - ¼ cup tomato sauce
- - 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- - Extra virgin olive oil
- - 2 Tablespoons Sherry vinegar (or red wine vinegar if sherry vinegar is hard to come by)
- - 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- - Ground cayenne pepper (to taste)
- - Salt
- - Black pepper (to taste)
- - Smoked Spanish paprika (I use pimentón dulce, but you could also use pimentón picante)
- - Coat a large saucepan with extra virgin olive oil (approx. 2 T) and heat to medium high
- - Before the oil gets too hot, add the spinach (in batches if necessary)
- - Sauté the spinach until just wilted and remove to strain in a colander
- - Re-coat the pan with olive oil and add in the bread cubes and raw almonds. Fry until the bread and almonds are browned and crispy on each side
- - Add the chopped garlic, cumin, cayenne and black pepper and sauté for a couple of minutes, until the garlic is fragrant and turning brown
- - Transfer the ingredients to a blender/food processor and add the sherry vinegar
- - Blend the ingredients together until you have a thick paste (don't over blend and make it gooey)
- - Return the paste to the saucepan and add your garbanzo beans and tomato sauce
- - Stir gently until the chickpeas are fully coated by the sauce and add a bit of water to thin things out
- - Add the spinach and stir gently until it is evenly incorporated and hot
- - Season with salt and pepper
- - Once plated, drizzle a swirl of extra virgin olive oil on top of each dish, then sprinkle a small amount of smoked Spanish paprika on top
- - Enjoy!