A perfect vegetarian pantry meal, made with just a few ingredients in less than 30 minutes. Chickpeas and spinach are simmered in a flavorful tomato based sauce flavored with garlic, cumin and lemon.
Every parent needs a few quick and easy, one pot dinners made with just a few ingredients - especially now. These are the sort of dinners that require a recipe only once, and then you just riff on them over and over again depending on what you have on hand.
One such recipe is Martha Rose Shulman's Chickpeas with Baby Spinach. It's a perfect example of simple pantry dinner that's healthy and satisfying and takes just a few minutes to get started.
Her version, using cumin seeds and chopped onion, is only slightly different than the chickpeas and spinach I make here. I don't bother with the onion (Sometimes, at the end of a long day I just can't bear to chop an onion. Am I alone in this?) and I use ground cumin instead of seeds. I also double her recipe, because I'm always hoping for leftovers.
- Olive oil
- Tomato paste
- Ground cumin
- Canned chickpeas
- Baby spinach
The tomato paste is a key ingredient, simmering with water into a thick, surprisingly flavorful sauce that coats the soft and creamy chickpeas. A few handfuls of baby spinach add instant color right before serving.
When I serve chickpeas and spinach for dinner, I always serve something on the side that will also fill up my kids (in case they eat only 4 chickpeas). I often make a pot of orzo, or white or brown rice, or grains (like barley or farro) and we spoon the chickpeas and spinach on top. Toasted baguette or pita bread or homemade yogurt flatbread also go well with this meal.
For the adults, lemon wedges and some sort of hot sauce are a must, and a dollop of cool and creamy cucumber yogurt sauce is highly recommended.
How to Improvise this Recipe
- Use white beans instead of chickpeas
- Use frozen spinach or kale (add with the chickpeas instead of at the end)
- Add chopped onion or ginger
- Add fresh herbs, like cilantro, parsley or mint
- Add coconut milk in place of some of the water
How to Store Tomato Paste
For a long time, tomato paste and I were frenemies. I love its intense tomato flavor and the way just a little bit can give food a boost. But the leftover can, after I scooped out the tablespoon I needed....that drove me crazy.
These days, I almost always buy a tube of tomato paste instead of a can. Tubes of tomato paste, along with frozen cubes of garlic and ginger, are a convenient short-cut for any busy parent trying to get dinner on the table.
A tube of refrigerated tomato paste should stay fresh for months, so you can use a tablespoon here or there as needed. After making this recipe, you'll see how just a little bit of tomato paste can be the base for many simple dinners.
If you do end up with an open can of tomato paste, try to convince yourself to scoop tablespoons of the paste onto wax paper and freeze until solid. Put the frozen tablespoons of tomato paste in a freezer bag, and grab one or two as needed. Frozen tomato paste can go directly into a hot skillet with oil.
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