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Restaurant fare is complex and time consuming to make. Understandable. That's why you pay a lot for it. But bringing some of that flavor home needn't be either.
This chickpea and spinach stew is based off of the garbanzos con espinacas that I used to make with Chef John Critchley over at Toro in Boston. It's about as classic a Spanish bar snack as there ever was and you'll find it all over Spain flavored with everything from smoky chorizo and rich morcilla (blood sausage) to simpler preparations served with nothing but a spritz of bright vinaigre de Jerez.
At the restaurant, we'd painstakingly make vegetable stock, brine beans, sweat aromatics, braise spinach, and crush olive under the hooves of real live Spanish burros to drizzle over the finished dish. At least, we did most of that stuff. Painstakingly tasty is how I'd describe that kind of food. At home, I'm happy to take a couple of shortcuts.
This version, which ends up somewhere between a soup and a stew, relies on canned chickpeas and their liquid for body, but giving them a bit of a simmer with some aromatics—garlic, onion, bay leaf, and smoked paprika—adds a ton of flavor back to them (for more on that technique, check out this article on 30-minute bean soups). The unique part is the bit of ginger added into the pureed tomatoes. It's not enough to make itself obvious, but just enough to add a bit of complex heat to the saucy backbone of the dish.
It's great served hot in a bowl as is, but to be honest, I actually like it better on the second day, served room-temperature on top of slices of dark toast drizzled with olive oil. Perfect fare for when you want to act all cool, sophistacated, and suave at that Spanish wine tasting you're going to host. Or something like that.
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About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Managing Editor of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.