Eating Jewish: Espinacas con Garbanzos (Spinach and Chickpeas)
Hamantaschen are the signature food of Purim, and I definitely look forward to this time of year knowing that I’ll get to eat my fill of those delicious cookies. Yet despite wishing that I could eat nothing but hamantaschen for the entirety of the holiday (don’t you wish you could eat cookies all the time too?), I wanted to find another dish to prepare for the celebrations. Reading about food traditions for Purim, I was pleased to see that they extend beyond sweets, to foods that are also nutritious and healthy.
Chickpeas are a traditional Purim food within both Sephardic and Ashkenazi communities. This dates back to the belief that Esther ate only vegetarian foods while living in the king’s palace in order maintain a kosher diet. It’s thought that she subsisted mainly on legumes, seeds and nuts.
Another reason legumes are traditionally eaten on Purim has to do with the holiday falling at the end of winter, when there isn't an abundance of meat or vegetables to be consumed. Therefore, the focus came to be on foods that were available and could be easily prepared at this time of year, like legumes.
I was especially excited about this Purim food tradition because it offers a way to commemorate and honor the heroine of the Purim story, when many of the more popular Purim foods such as Hamantaschen or Oznei Haman are connected to Haman. Esther’s actions that saved the Jewish community from Haman’s plot to kill them, and so it seems to me that vegetarian dishes should always be included in the feasting that goes along with the celebrations of this holiday.
Although this dish is not traditionally prepared for Purim, it is one of my favorite ways to cook chickpeas and I think it is a great way to showcase these delicious legumes on your holiday table as a reminder of Esther’s actions. What you get is a hearty and comforting dish that is full of flavor, which will leave you wanting to make it again and again.
This recipe comes together in only a few steps; these include cooking the spinach, toasting the bread, the garlic and the spices, and then creating a paste out of these ingredients. After this, it’s simply a matter of cooking the bread mixture along with the chickpeas and tomato sauce until the flavors come together. The spinach goes in at the end to add a bit of freshness to the dish. The bread in the recipe can be replaced with store-bought breadcrumbs, panko, or even gluten free breadcrumbs.
This is a great vegetarian dish that will definitely excite your taste buds with its extraordinary flavors. It would be a perfect addition to the table at your Purim seudah (feast), while offering a way to connect with Esther, a fellow "Jewess with Attitude" if I say so myself!
Espinacas con Garbanzos (Spinach and Chickpeas)
Adapted slightly from Smitten Kitchen
Two 15-ounce cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
About 6 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound (450 grams) spinach, stems removed and washed
About 5 slices of a baguette, 2 slices from sandwich loaf bread, cut into small pieces or about one cup of breadcrumbs (or sub panko or gluten-free breadcrumbs)
¾ cup tomato sauce
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon chili flakes
2 ½ tablespoons white wine vinegar
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Lemon juice, to taste
1. Place half the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the spinach along with a pinch of salt. Cook until the leaves are just tender, then drain in a colander and set aside.
2. In the same frying pan, warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Fry the pieces of bread until they are golden brown, about 5 minutes. If using the breadcrumbs, toast them until they are golden brown. Without removing the bread, add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the pan along with the garlic, cumin and chili flakes. Cook until the garlic is beginning to turn golden brown, about 1 minute.
3. Transfer the bread, garlic and spices to a food processor and add the vinegar to the mixture. Pulse until the mixture becomes a fine paste. If you’re using breadcrumbs, you can simply place them in a bowl and mix the vinegar in at this point.
4. Return the bread mixture to the frying pan and add the chickpeas and the tomato sauce. Stir until the chickpeas are warm and the favors have come together. If the consistency is too thick you can add ¼ - ½ cup of water. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Add the spinach to the pan along with the smoked paprika and lemon juice, and cook until it is warmed through.