Espinacas con Garbanzos



The first wedding anniversary gift theme is, traditionally, paper. Since I’ve already gifted Danny too many cookbooks, there were two ways to go with this: tickets to an event or a dinner reservation.

I reserved a couple of spots for us at a chef’s tasting menu in town.

And as I turned a couple of pages in a charming flipbook Danny made for me, I realized he had also made a dinner reservation for us. In Spain. On a hill in the Basque country at a restaurant where the food is described as “techno-emotional” and has been ranked as one of the best in the world.

My 11-year-old sister, Lila, put it plainly: Danny won. BFF, Katie: Danny is smooth AF. All true.




The next day I stopped at a bookstore and picked up a travel guide to Spain. As I read about pintxos, the small snacks we’ll eat at Basque bars, I learned we’ll be treated to dishes fragrant with garlic and red pepper, and plenty of seafood from the nearby northern coast.

I decided to make dinner inspired by our future trip. Though the highlight awaits at Mugaritz in northern Spain’s San Sebastián, I am hoping we can also make it to Seville in the south, which is where we are likely to find espinacas con garbanzos (spinach and chickpea stew) on a tapas menu.


(Hangman, because we played several rounds of it on bar napkins during our anniversary weekend in Asheville.)


Chickpeas are one of my favorite beans for their nuttiness, texture, and versatility. This deceivingly simple stew with spinach elevates them with a couple of steps. There’s a garlic paste that transforms into a smoky, spiced sauce, which amps up crushed tomatoes. And there are raisins, which some people may be tempted to leave out. I grew up eating picadillo, a ground beef stew dotted with raisins, so I’ve loved the pop of sweetness against a savory dish ever since. The second time I made this, I increased the amount of raisins called for in the recipe.

I also nearly doubled the spinach since its volume always dwindles more than expected when cooked, and I used canned tomatoes and increased the amount as well. This becomes an easy weeknight meal with a side of crusty bread. Pop a few thick slices in the oven, and when they’re toasted, rub the bread with the cut side of a garlic clove. Serve it all with a caña—that’s beer in Spain—or a glass of vino tinto or vino blanco.

All we have right now is a dinner reservation in Spain. So Danny and I flipped through our travel guide and wondered aloud all the things we could do, in between bites of espinacas con garbanzos. We opened a bottle of white wine to toast to our future trip. It was a Verdejo, a grape variety from, of course, Spain.




Espinacas con Garbanzos (Spinach and Chickpea Stew)

This will look like a lot of spinach at first, but it loses volume quickly. I liked how silky and soft the spinach became after wilting it and later simmering it with the chickpeas, but if you’d prefer your spinach to retain its color and a slightly firmer texture, feel free to stir in the spinach after simmering the chickpeas in the sauce.

Serves 4.

1 cup water
1 ¼ pounds fresh spinach
2 large garlic cloves
Kosher salt
Pinch of saffron threads
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch of ground cloves (or cinnamon)
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
3 ½ to 4 cups cooked chickpeas (or two 15-ounce cans) with some of their liquid
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, diced
28 ounces crushed or diced tomatoes (canned or fresh)
⅓ cup golden raisins
Crusty bread, for serving

Pour the water into a large deep skillet and bring to a boil. Add the spinach and cook over high heat, tossing frequently, until wilted, about 2 minutes. Drain the spinach in a colander set over a sink. Use a wooden spoon to press the spinach and release some of its excess liquid.

Mash the garlic to a paste with ½ teaspoon of salt and the saffron. You can do this using the flat side of a large knife, a garlic press or a mortar and pestle. Transfer the garlic paste to a small bowl. Add the paprika, cumin, cloves and black pepper and mash until combined. Stir in ¼ cup of the chickpea liquid.

Wipe the skillet clean using a paper towel, if necessary. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet and set to medium heat. Add the onion and cook to soften, about 2 minutes. Add tomato and spiced garlic sauce and cook over moderately high heat for another 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the chickpeas, raisins and a pinch of salt, and bring to a boil over moderately high heat. Add the spinach, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes. Transfer the chickpea stew to 4 deep bowls. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the bowls and serve with bread.

(Recipe adapted from Food & Wine.)



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