Braised Chickpeas & Spinach

(formerly known as miss congeniality)

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the bachelorette party of a friend from work.  She'd decided to take a slightly different route with the party plans - no penis straws, strippers or pole dancing classes - instead we'd be heading to Rustico cooking for a hands-on cooking class, lots of wine & a 3 course meal.

Kim (the bachelorette) got to set the menu and in a group of 16, you can imagine that meat wins out as the main course.  I was fine with this - i've made a meal of 'sides' more times than i care to think about - but the lovely ladies at Rustico asked if anyone was vegetarian and since i was the only one, i figured they'd just make sure that i got extra butternut squash raviolis or something...  However, when the ravioli came out and i got the same portion as everyone else, i just figured i was in for extra broccoli and potatoes.  No biggie, but when another friend offered up her leftover ravioli, i said sure...  When they came to clear the plates, they mentioned that they'd made something else for me as a main meal...  Cool!  what was it?  Chickpeas.  oh...

I'm not always a chickpea fan - sure, i like hummus as much as the next guy, but plain chickpeas had never really been my thing, so i held onto those extra ravioli anyway...  figured i'd choke down a few chickpeas but that would be it.

never did i imagine i'd end up not only finishing every last one, but then, two days later, emailing them to get the recipe...


this dish - while not particularly attractive - is incredibly healthy and wildly yummy.  it accomplishes all of those things a good vegetarian dish should - its not trying to be something its not (meat) and it uses spices to bring out the flavors in an otherwise bland main ingredient.  it went so well with the broccoli and potatoes (at the class) that the meat-eater and i decided to leave well-enough alone and make similar sides at home...  in the end, this is one of those super-easy, super-yummy, super-healthy dishes that is sure to find a permanent place in our rotation.

Braised Chickpeas & Spinach
Courtesy Rustico Cooking with slight modifications by me

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
pinch crushed red pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves, minced
2/3 medium yellow onion, minced
2 tsp chopped Italian parsley
2 tsp chopped oregano

7 grape tomatoes, halved
2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch freshly ground black pepper

3 cups slightly packed baby spinach
2/3 cup vegetable broth


Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a heavy 2-quart pot over a medium flame. Add the chili flakes, garlic, onion, parsley, and oregano, and cook 5 minutes, or until soft.

Stir in the tomatoes, chickpeas, salt, and pepper, and cook for 5 minutes.
Add the spinach and the broth and cover; lower the heat to medium-low.

Simmer 1 hour, or until very tender, stirring once in a while and checking to make sure there is always a bit of liquid in the pot.

If the sauce is too liquid when the chickpeas are ready to serve, uncover and reduce over medium-high heat.

Serve hot, drizzled with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. <- super important step!!!

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