How Low Can You Go? Moorish-Style Chickpea And Spinach Stew

In April and May, National Public Radio featured a series on inexpensive gourmet dishes entitled “How Low Can You Go?” Although many of the dishes looked quite tasty, most of the dishes weren’t actually all that inexpensive, often narrowly getting below $10 to feed a family of four, and many involved arduous cooking processes. I decided to try out some of these recipes throughout the summer to see how I could take the recipes and reduce them down to a simple and very inexpensive form.

Finished Moorish-Style Chickpea And Spinach Stew

Jose Andres’ Moorish-style chickpea and spinach stew looked and sounded delicious – a vegan recipe that appeals to a burger-eating guy like me. Andres’ recipe was submitted as follows:

9 ounces dried garbanzos (chickpeas)
Pinch bicarbonate of soda
6 garlic cloves, peeled and whole
1/4 cup Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
2 ounces white sliced bread, with the crusts removed
2 tablespoons pimenton (Spanish sweet paprika)
1 pinch Spanish saffron
2 tablespoons Spanish sherry vinegar
1/2 pound spinach, washed and cleaned
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and white pepper to taste

The day before you cook, soak the chickpeas in cold water with a pinch of bicarbonate of soda. The next day, drain and rinse the chickpeas.

In a big saucepan, combine the chickpeas with 2 1/2 quarts of water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for two hours, until the chickpeas are tender. Every 10 minutes or so, add 1/2 cup of cold water to slow down the simmering. By the end, the water should have reduced so it is barely covering the chickpeas. Turn off the heat and let sit.

In a small saute pan over medium to low heat, brown the garlic in 1/4 cup of the olive oil. When the garlic is browned, after about 3 minutes, remove from the pan and set aside. Add the bread and brown on both sides, about one minute each side. Remove the bread and set aside.

Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes. Add the pimenton and saffron to the saute pan, and the sherry vinegar immediately afterward to prevent the pimenton from burning.

In a mortar, smash the reserved garlic and the browned bread to make a very thick paste.

Bring the chickpeas back to a low boil and add the spinach. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add the pimenton mixture along with the garlic and bread paste, to create a thick, stewy sauce. Simmer for another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.

Got that? It seems rather … involved … to me, but the end result sounded fantastic, so I gave it the old college try.

I went through the cupboard and discovered what we had on hand. We had some ordinary extra virgin olive oil, plenty of slices of whole wheat bread, sweet paprika (I decided pimenton was a bit much – ordinary paprika should do), saffron, red wine vinegar (which we decided to substitute for the sherry vinegar), cumin, salt, and pepper – all of these items can be reasonably expected to be found in the cupboard of a person who cooks regularly.

I then purchased half a pound of spinach for $1.66, a pound of dried garbanzo beans for $1.99, and a garlic bulb for $0.30, finishing out the recipe for a total cost (to us) of $3.95.

I then put the beans to soak overnight with just a tiny pinch of “bicarbonate of soda” … which is a five-dollar term for plain old baking soda. I made the conscious decision to use all the beans in the soup and increase the other ingredients by roughly 50% in order to make plenty of the stew so it could be enjoyed for lunch the following day.

Chickpeas/Garbanzos soaking

I then set the beans on to boil in a small pot for two hours, adding a cup of water every ten minutes or so. Trust me, if you try this at home, it won’t take this much work – see my conclusions below.

Chickpeas/Garbanzos boiling

With the beans well in hand, I pulled out the other ingredients and set to work. First, I peeled out the cloves, then I decided I should probably take a picture of the ingredients I used…

Other ingredients

I then took 1/3 cup of the oil, tossed in the garlic cloves, and began to brown the cloves over medium heat. This part smelled fantastic – my mouth was watering.

Garlic cloves in olive oil

When the garlic cloves were fairly brown, I took out the cloves, then put a piece of bread into the hot olive oil, flipping it after twenty seconds and removing it after twenty more, then repeating it with a second piece. If you waited much longer, the bread started to burn.

I then took the bread and the cloves and smashed them into oblivion. We own a mortar and pestle, but I couldn’t locate it, so I improvised with a spoon, a bowl, and some extra time. Here’s the “mash” I wound up with.

Garlic cloves mashed up in bread

I put the spinach in with the chickpeas and let that cook together for five minutes. Meanwhile, I put the saffron and red wine vinegar in with the still-hot garlicky olive oil, then, confused as to what to do with the cumin, tossed that in there as well. I stirred this up a bit, then added the saffron/vinegar/olive oil/cumin mix straight into the chickpeas, then dumped in the obliterated bread and garlic and stirred, letting it boil for five minutes more. Here’s what it looked like, near the end.

Moorish-Style Chickpea And Spinach Stew nearly finished

As with many soups and stews, a hearty bread on the side is a good idea. We picked up this loaf for a dollar on sale rather than making our own and had it on the side.

Bread on the side...

And then, the meal is served!

Finished Moorish-Style Chickpea And Spinach Stew

We had enough stew for all four of us as well as lunch for all four of us the following day with still a fair amount left over. If I were to do it again, I’d make less soup.

Did we like it? I liked it quite a bit and thought it was just right. My wife wasn’t sure at first, added significantly more salt, stirred her bowl, and then seemed to like it quite a bit, having a small second bowl. The children didn’t like it nearly as much, though they both enjoyed the bread.

Our total cost (ignoring fractional items we had on hand): $4.95. Our cost per meal: $0.62. Not bad. But we can do better – and we can certainly make it less involved.

Changes I Would Make to Save Cost and Time
First of all, I’d buy two cans of garbanzo beans instead of soaking and boiling the beans. The dry beans are cheaper and they are nominally better for you than canned, but for most working families, the distinction isn’t enough to make the effort worth it in this case.

Second, I’d cut the saffron. Saffron is easily the most expensive item in the dish and you’re only using a pinch of it. Although it does add a nice, subtle flavor, I think it can be dropped without too much concern.

Third, I’d substitute garlic powder for the cloves. Although you miss the caramelization of the cloves, you also save the work of peeling the cloves, cooking the cloves, and smashing the cloves.

Fourth, I’d use bread crumbs instead of “cooking” the bread and smashing it. Obviously, this change is for similar reasons as stated above.

These changes modify the recipe quite a bit, but it also reduces the cost and vastly reduces the time. Here’s the new recipe, as I’d do it:

Trent’s Moorish Chickpea and Spinach Stew

2 cans garbanzo beans/chickpeas
Garlic powder equivalent to six cloves
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup bread crumbs
2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 pound spinach, washed and cleaned
Salt and pepper to taste

Rinse the chickpeas thoroughly, then put them in a pan, add 1 1/2 cups of water, and bring it to a boil. In another pan, bring the olive oil to a boil, then remove from heat for two minutes. While stirring the olive oil, add the paprika, the cumin, the red wine vinegar, then the bread crumbs (slowly). Set this aside. When the beans are boiling, add the spinach and allow it to boil for five minutes, stirring a bit. Add in the olive oil mixture, stir, then allow it to boil for another five minutes. Serve, preferably with bread. This should be enough for at least three meals.

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77 thoughts on “How Low Can You Go? Moorish-Style Chickpea And Spinach Stew

  1. Stella says:

    You can also buy crushed garlic in a jar at Trader Joes. Very easy and much better tasting than garlic powder!

  2. Marsha says:

    1. I’m glad you suggest to eliminate the saffron – that would be cost-prohibitive for me.

    2. DANG that bread looks good! I’m comin’ over to your house! :)

  3. aura says:

    Looks good Trent! Thanks again for continuuing with your creativity and projects! Love it!

  4. Lisa says:

    To use garlic, don’t actually use your fingernails and peel it bit by bit. Just lay a clove on your cutting board, lay the flat side of your big chopping knife over it (holding the knife with your right hand), and wham it (the knife, right over the clove of garlic) once with your left hand. You will have smashed the clove and the dried outside layer will come off very simply now(usually in one piece). You may choose to cut the dried end of the clove off with your knife.

    No more super smelly fingers. Very quick. Still cheap. Will smell even better in your oil since you have opened the clove up a bit.

  5. Rebecca says:

    I made this stew after hearing the story on NPR. I left out the saffron, but grilled a chicken breast to split with my husband. We enjoyed it, though it was a little labor intensive.

    I have found that I prefer the taste of dried garbanzos to canned (and it helps me plan ahead, which I need!).

    Great post!

  6. Lisa says:

    Here is a short (24sec) and very nice video on the garlic peeling.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=th1YOvG5VgQ&feature=related

  7. Leslie says:

    I really, really enjoyed this article. I too heard the series on NPR and was a little intimidated by how complicated some of the recipes were. I am a competent cook but just didn’t want to approach most of the tasks. Thanks for doing all the adapting for me!

  8. Kira =] says:

    Oooh, thanks for posting this. I actually have everything on the list except the spinach and I was just thinking about what to make for dinner tonight. Thanks Trent!! =]

  9. a conscience life says:

    A few comments, if I may.

    Concerning dried garbanzos vs. canned. You can make cooking the dried garbanzos much easier by (1) not soaking them (2) not adding baking powder and (3) using a slow cooker and starting in the morning. With beans like garbanzos I feel that they are firm enough that they would stand up to many hours in the slow cooker (whereas white beans may not). I am actually rather surprised that Trent went through the bother to soak the beans and add baking soda, given that (if memory serves) ‘How to Cook Everything’ explicitly states that you do not need to do so (could be remembering wrong though) and he seems to be a big fan of that book. On top of all this, dried beans are also much less physical waste than are canned beans.

    Concerning the garlic. Fresh garlic vs. dried garlic is a bit like fresh ginger vs. dried ginger. You are going to get vastly different tastes out of them whether they are fresh or dried and as Lisa pointed out above, there is an *extremely* simple way to peel fresh garlic. I am not saying that dried garlic would not work, just that the taste will not be similar if you change this. So try fresh and dried and see which one you like. The time cost is negligible.

    On the idea of low cost meals, dried beans and rice just cannot be beat. They are a cheap source of high quality protein and carbs. Together they form a complete protein. They can be easily flavored in any way that you wish. The freeze well. And they are dirt cheap.

  10. tentaculistic says:

    I’ve heard that adding the baking soda helps to reduce the “beans beans the magical fruit” effect. I haven’t tried it yet but should.

    I wonder if instead of using garlic powder you could use pre-minced garlic? I have a big old jar that I use regularly, and it works great. Pretty cheap especially for how long it lasts.

  11. Justin says:

    Another garlic tip:

    I used to use the chef’s knife “slam” method and then a friend showed me something even easier!

    Pop as many bulbs as you want off of the clove, and then put them in the microwave for 7-15 seconds (depending on the power of your microwave.) They will pop and sizzle, and be VERY hot, so be careful. Once you can stand to touch them you can pop them right out of their skin.

  12. Looks great! Happy to see a recipe our vegetarian family can try. :)

    (Not knocking on meat eaters. We just…aren’t.)

    @tentaculistic: That “magic effect” only happens if you don’t eat beans regularly. We eat them probably 10 meals/week. It just takes a while for your body to adjust to the higher fiber intake.

  13. Johanna says:

    I don’t understand why, if you have saffron on hand, you would consider omitting it from this recipe. What do you have it on hand for, if not to use in recipes? But if I did omit the saffron, I’d substitute some other seasonings. Maybe some dried herbs, like sage or thyme.

    Garlic powder and fresh garlic have different flavors (at least, to me they do), so I’d only consider substituting one for the other if I was out of fresh garlic (which doesn’t happen very often).

    But I would consider using frozen spinach instead of fresh. I prefer fresh for flavor and nutrition and all that good stuff, but frozen greens aren’t that bad, and they’re miles more convenient, because you can keep them on hand without worrying about them spoiling.

  14. Sheila says:

    I soak dried beans during the day, then put them in the crockpot at night. The next day I put two cups (amount in one can) each in storage containers and freeze. So, with very little work, I always have cooked beans on hand that are cheaper than canned plus you’ve reduced your waste (the can–even though you can recycle it), and you can reuse the freezer container.

  15. Anne KD says:

    Thanks, I’ll have to try it! My dh is a strict vegetarian, which has led to my cholesterol/triglycerides lowering dramatically. And it’s also led to a new level of cooking for me, even better.

    1 lb dried chickpeas costs me anywhere from $1.79 (Goya) to $1.25 (house brand). I just cooked a bagfull yesterday with our slow cooker. A pound of dried beans, 5-7 cups of water to cover (it’s a bigger slow cooker) and anywhere from 4-7 hours depending on the bean type, and I get 6 or more cups of cooked beans. If the beans are soaked overnight first it doesn’t take as long to cook. I separate the cooked beans into freezer baggies, 2 cups per bag since that’s about what most of my recipes call for, then freeze them for future use. That’s 4 cans worth of beans that taste better for cheaper. Cooking the beans this way takes time and planning but it’s super easy.

    @tentaculistic- We definitely agree with ObliviousInvestor. We have no problems with bean tooting.

  16. Katharine says:

    This is probably one of my favourite posts ever on TSD.
    I plan meals monthly and this will definitely be on next month’s plan.

    I can’t wait for future installments in the “Make the NPR recipes better” series! :-)

  17. Lisa says:

    Did I miss it – what is the estimated new cost for the final recipe?

  18. Elizabeth says:

    Hey Trent,

    As a food blogger (hey, and look, you can see my site by clicking on my name!) I’d like to suggest substituting turmeric for the saffron. It’s much cheaper and will give you the same color and similar flavor.

    I’ll have to try the recipe out myself and blog it some time.

    Cheers!

  19. Ms. Teacher says:

    That recipe looks delicious! However, I am very concerned about your decision to replace garlic cloves with dried garlic. Dried garlic powder does not taste much like fresh garlic, especially caramelized fresh garlic!

  20. Justin says:

    THis stew sounds great. Thanks fro sharing the wonderful recipe and approximate cost of items included.

  21. Debbie Cowherd says:

    I can’t imagine why the recipe has you cooking the garbanzos in such a work-intensive manner. The baking soda doesn’t do anything useful, I never use it (but I guess it’s cheap enough …). I cook my beans in either a slow cooker or a pressure cooker. I recommend either way. Just put in enough water to cover your soaked beans and cook according to your cooker’s (either pressure or slow) instructions. I think garbanzos, especially, develop a really nice flavor when slow cooked for about 10 hours (or more).

    Always make as much as your cooker/pot can manage and, as Sheila notes above, freeze the ones you aren’t using right away for more impromptu cooking in the future.

  22. Yum! I think this is essentially harira (Moroccan). You should check out gallo pinto (Costa Rican beans & rice) for another insanely cheap meal. :)

  23. Brittany says:

    I would third cooking the beans in the crockpot–it takes more planning ahead, but no more than five minutes more of work to fill up your crockpot with beans and water, let them soak overnight, flip the crockpot on (or draining and rinsing first if you’re one of those), and go off to work, to come home to cooked beans at a fraction of the cost.

    And there’s no substitute for fresh garlic! It’s only me and my roommate (who doesn’t even eat here everyday), and I go through at least a head of garlic a week! Definitely worth the little extra effort, especially if you follow Lisa’s advice.

  24. Ivy says:

    For the taste, we enjoy fresh garlic, but for convenience and cost, we buy tubs of minced garlic from a nearby ethnic grocery. It’s as cheap or cheaper than bulbs (depending on the time of year) and doesn’t have any ingredients but minced garlic and a bit of water. Lasts forever in the fridge and tastes great!

  25. megan says:

    You can save time by buying fresh garlic in bulk and then crush it all in one go with a garlic crusher. Place the crushed garlic in a jar and cover with oil. The garlic will last for months in the fridge and you have a beautiful garlic infused oil to use in your cooking. Better still you don’t have to crush garlic every time you need it just take it out of the jar with a spoon. This method also works with roasted garlic. Place the whole garlic bulb in the oven on a low heat and cook until soft. Once cooled squeeze each clove of soft sweet garlic into the jar and cover with oil. This garlic is great as you don’t get garlic breath as you do with the fresh garlic. The roasting sweetens the flavour.

  26. Sean says:

    We are making lots of soups and stews right now because we are living in Argentina currently and it is winter in this part of the world. Not sure I can find all of these ingredients but it looks great!

  27. Gene's mom says:

    I use a pressure cooker for my bean. No presoaking….1/2 hour from start to finish. You just have to be sure to add enough water & not have your cooker more than half full.

  28. Erica Tesla says:

    Trent -

    I second the “use dried beans” thing, but only because of this blog post over at the Paupered Chef: 90 Minute, No-Soak Beans. It really is that quick, and the beans are so delicious. (I’ve used all kinds of beans, too, recently – red beans, black beans, great northern beans, lima beans, so I’m sure it works fine with chickpeas.)

    Also, if you can’t get saffron (availability or price), consider turmeric, which lends some similar coloring – you may like the earthy flavor, too, which should go well with chickpeas and spinach. :)

  29. cutiepie says:

    Pressure cooker! Really speeds up the cooking time of the chickpeas. I use the pressure cooker for beans they are soft in 25 min as opposed to 2 hours on the stovetop. I like the original recipe and I also like that you took use through all the steps and then through “Trent’s version”. Great post. I’ll have to try it sometime next week.

  30. JerryB says:

    Sounds good to me. However I will still use real garlic and saffron (although as Elizabeth said, you can sub turmeric). All things considered the original recipe, although lengthy, is not that labor intensive. A food processor would make short work of the garlic and bread is a mortar and pestle weren’t handy.

  31. McKay Clarey says:

    I had heard this recipe on NPR and was considering trying it, but now that I’ve heard your take on it I’m definitely making it. Thanks for the reminder

  32. Christine says:

    Seriously, a cheap meal that includes SAFFRON of all things!! I actually have saffron and will try this recipe because I love everything in it, but really, SAFFRON!!!!

  33. Connie says:

    I’d just like to point out that “bicarbonate of soda” is not necessarily a result of the author being pompous, but is used in everyday language in place of “baking soda” in britain.

  34. Green Bean says:

    Looks delicious! Love your changes to simplify it though I guess I’d throw the garbanzo beans in a slow cooker the night before and freeze the leftovers. Thakns for sharing.

  35. Jeremy says:

    > but is used in everyday language in place of
    > “baking soda” in britain.

    Really? I live in the UK and have never heard it referred to as Bicarbonate of Soda. What part of the UK are you from?

  36. Jay says:

    Being of Indian descent (with an American wife), I have noticed that most westerners have difficulty cooking/planning meals with beans and lentils as the main ingredient. This may be partially because of the work involved in cooking these. We use a pressure cooker for lentils, beans and tough meats. The soaked beans would have taken about 10 mins in a pressure cooker. This has been especially useful for us when we have to whip up quick but nutritious meals.

  37. Helen says:

    I’m British/Australian and have always known Bicarbonate of Soda as just that, or ‘Bicarb’. It reacts with acids in the recipe (such as buttermilk in buttermilk scones) to make bubbles of air to lighten the texture and make it rise. ‘Baking Powder’ in Australia is Bicarb plus Cream of Tartar pre-mixed, which react once you’ve added the liquids to again raise your cake.

    It’s not the ‘five dollar’ term, it’s the name for the active ingredient, which is useful when you’re making cross-culture recipe translations.

    If you’re going to leave out the Cloves AND the Saffron, I’d consider leaving off the ‘Moorish’ since it’s the seasoning/spices that give a lot of the regional flavour. Use a little Ground Cloves maybe – cloves and garlic are utterly different, you can’t substitute one for the other.

    Cloves are a standard part of most pantries.

    A study by The Environmental Working Group found BPA at unsafe levels in 29% of vegetable food cans, so I’d opt for the dried beans if you’re concerned about health. They also cook up to a much nicer texture, and because they ship dried and in lightweight packaging, the carbon footprint is a little smaller.

    It’s ALWAYS worth thinking twice before substituting any product for one which may have dubious health ramifications, unless you want to put the savings aside for future health bills.

  38. Amit says:

    Well, i would suggest a simple change that might makethe taste better. Instead of using mashed bread- its better to take 2-3 spoonfulls of fully cooked chickpeas and make into a paste..it will thicken the stew…..u can also make paste of cooked spinach….with these handy variations u can enjoy the same dish with with different taste. enjoy.

  39. M says:

    Thank you for this post, I hope there will be some more in the future, pictures included as that seems to be a big part of my falure in the kitchen, I need to see what it looks like during different stages of prep. I am a terrible cook. And everyones comments really help. This fall I want to do something with squash, acorn etc. I hear you can cook it with brown sugar, Spaghetti squash can you really cook it and use it instead of pasta, what do you do with Zucchini except make bread and steam it or put it on the grill. Looks like there are exceptional cooks out there and one of the biggest expences is on food, I have a pantry of old stand-bys and have gone back to some frozen dinners (expensive but at least you can eat them). Fish sticks and frys, pasta sauce in a jar, canned soups that have a lot of salt etc. Keep it up.

  40. M says:

    BTW love your floor.

  41. Like you, I figured out that at least half the cost was in the saffron! I loved the concept of the series, but wrote a post (at the time of the series) on the fact that many, many family meals fall into the under $10 category. Two that I mentioned in my blog–4 ingredient enchiladas and Thai shrimp curry. Both of my recipes are EASIER than those in the NPR series.

  42. Becca says:

    I know my job as a cook makes me biased, but some of the changes you suggest to the recipe are outright silly. Garlic powder and garlic taste exceedingly different — with a recipe that depends so much on the caramelization of the garlic, I wouldn’t sacrifice all that flavor for five minutes work. And are you seriously suggesting people buy breadcrumbs instead of using the bread they already have? Not only will the bread crumbs taste gross, they will have the wrong texture and won’t soak up the garlic oil goodness. Canned beans, fine, though it is perfectly reasonable to leave them all day or overnight in the fridge. I normally love this blog and your attitude to cooking, but in your changes to this recipe you’ve sacrificed both flavor and frugality. Americans need to stop viewing food as something to be rushed! Use cooking time as family time, use it to unwind, or get better at planning and faster at techniques. Just feed yourselves right.

    PS: the instuction to boil the oil makes no sense and is outright dangerous. The olive oil will burst into flame before it boils.

  43. michael bash says:

    Using garlic powder will get you into big trouble with any serious cook. It’s like using dried parsley. One foodie on About.com says she wouldn’t allow it in her kitchen. Be careful; you’ll get a reputation.

    What’s the problem with real chickpeas. The overnight soaking takes none of your time, and the cooking is an unsupervised hour.

  44. Andrea says:

    MMMM, sounds good! I will try it. It sounds similar to the chickpea and tomato soup I make (from my all time favorite, Joe Famularo’s cookbook — a lot of good, cheap, Italian family recipes).

    Let me add my voice to the chorus about not using garlic powder. It does have a very different taste. As Lisa pointed out, just put each garlic clove under the flat of your knife and give it a good thwap with the heel of your hand. Voila, instant peel AND crush. And I also vote for NO bread crumbs — use the bread you have; your palate AND your wallet will thank you.

    I will use canned garbanzo beans in a pinch, but I prefer to cook my own and freeze them and pull them out as needed.

    Ditto the suggestion of substituting turmeric for saffron.

  45. Kathy says:

    I wanted to comment on the fresh ingredients vs. the canned. Fresh is always better health wise. You can choose to spend the money up front to have healthier ingredients, or you can pay later when you have medical bills from health problems you have from a poor diet.

    I’m not implying that the substitutions in this recipe are going to cause you cancer or anything like that (and yes, you can rinse the canned beans off to get rid of most of the added sodium), but we Americans eat so much canned and processed foods and it’s taking a toll on our health.

    My point is towards the bigger picture. Where is the greatest value overall: saving a few dollars now and a few minutes by using prepackaged, processed, and canned ingredients or spending the money on healthier ingredients and having fewer health problems down the road?

  46. Anne says:

    Wow! People get really intense about food! I just wanted to let you know another option to enjoy the convenience of canned beans, with the price of dried. I buy all my beans dry and then pressure can them at home. A can of black beans from the store costs, on average, about a dollar. A pint of home canned beans costs about $.20! We eat a lot of beans and this saves us tons of money. And I have the added benefit of putting what I want in with the beans…I always add a little minced garlic. As far as canning goes, I know that all the websites will tell you that you need to soak and cook the beans and wet pack them. I’m old school…throw them in the jar dry (which I’m sure people are going to freak out about now). Couldn’t be easier!

  47. Rosa says:

    Anne, I used to home-can beans, but we got a pressure cooker last year and now I don’t bother – lots of beans can be pressure cooked from dry, so then there’s no planning required.

    The other thing about this recipe (I make a very similar one pretty regularly) is that lots of different mild greens can be substituted for the spinach. Lots of cooking greens will grow very happily in a pot on the porch and keep growing after you cut them back.

  48. dsz says:

    Sheila, Anne-never thought to precook and freeze the beans, thank you for sharing. I’ll be doing this from now on.
    M-All good cooks started out as terrible cooks. The good cooks just had better teachers, and most started to learn at an early age. You are just inexperienced and we all were at some point. You will get better with practice. Get a couple of books which focus on explaining techniques and ingredients and learn what the terms mean. James Beard’s Theory and Practice of Good Cooking and Cooking A to Z are two good ones. Watch cooking shows-there are a few where the host teaches instead being a ‘star’. Stick with simple meals at first and allrecipes.com is a good site. Choose a recipe with high ratings and read the reviews for tips and tweaks. You can do it, just take your time.
    Helen-forgive me if I’m misunderstanding but I saw no mention of cloves (the dark brown stud-the-ham-Christmas-cookie kind) just cloves of garlic. Don’t want to confuse the newbies.
    I have to agree on the garlic. Powder has its uses but there’s nothing like fresh. I use chopped in a jar regularly but sometimes only whole garlic will do. I would caution anyone using fresh or chopped to be very careful in the browning step. The line between brown and burnt is fine and burnt will completely ruin the dish. Better to cook whole cloves to a golden brown and chopped even less. (M-little stuff like this makes a big difference)
    Ditto on the boiling oil-Becca is right. It won’t boil but it will smoke, burn, and start a fire. At the very least if it doesn’t cool down enough tossing anything in the pan won’t go well for the dish or the cook.
    I’d also go with a 10oz package of frozen spinach for $.50.
    Thanks, Trent, I’d love to see more of this type of post.

  49. Melody Bakeeff says:

    Trent, I’d be very interested to hear about your experiences if you actually do make this again with your suggested substitutions! Sounds like you might figuratively be eating words. :-)

    This does look great, though, and I will definately try it! I have a bag of dried chick peas waiting for me to find them a recipe.

  50. Gwen says:

    I really like the posts like this.

  51. xepe71 says:

    Yeah, I can smell the garlic in the house… That seems quite a spanish recipe, as all the ingredients are common to me. I guess I already have all the ingredients at home for it.
    Here in Spain we do also have pre-cooked garbanzos, but oy can also buy them in the market. This is a common ingredient here, about 1.50€/kg already cooked. The ones you find in a market are really good, pre cooked are just “average” but so easy to have on the shelves just in case.
    Saffron is also really expensive in Spain, but we use to have some for the paella, that is, THE spanish most famous dish made out of rice. You can probably skip this ingredient, alough price is reduced significantly if you purchase it in large quantities (but then, you would have saffron for all your life!).
    Extra virgin oil is not expensive in Spain (say around the Mediterranean sea, here, Morocco, Egypt, Israel, Greece or Italy), but might be in other countries. You might try to substitute this too.
    I owuld not replace garlic. Just smash it a little bit by hitting it with the side of a knife, and cut the tail. You’ll be able to remove the skin so easily, as says Lisa (#3).
    You can also replace vinegar with other kinds. Sherry vinegar is very common, red wine vinegar will do.
    It is also very common to have some dried bread at home (we use to buy bread daily), so it does not make sense to buy pre fried bread, and wouild make the recipe more expensive.

    Anyway, a good vegetarian recipe I will try at fall! Good job!

  52. Jen W says:

    Here are a couple of ways that may make cooking your own beans more appealing and easier for busy families:

    Soak overnight or set to soak when you leave for work in the morning. I don’t bother w/ the baking soda step, just rinse beans well between steps.

    Use a pressure cooker to cook the soaked beans or, even better (less hassle & attention req’d)-

    Cook the soaked beans in a crockpot. Cover beans by approx 1″ of water and cook on low setting for 8 hours or so. I’ve done this both overnight as well as during the day while I’m gone.

    Always make and freeze extra beans in containers or ziploc bags for use when you’re in a time-crunch.

  53. Ken says:

    Soaking beans –

    The gas that beans cause are due to oligosaccharides, sugars that are not digested and interact with the bacteria in your intestine.

    Soaking helps break done these sugars in addition to cleaning dried beans. Make sure you wash the beans of afterward.

    The reason you use baking soda is to ensure a higher pH. A lower pH, or acidic, makes it harder for the beans to absorb water.

  54. Leilani says:

    This was a fantastic post, Trent. I really appreciate your approach and effort. And the stew sounds delicious (both versions). I love beans and greens in all varieties!

    Being gluten-free, the only substitution I’d make would be to either omit the breadmash/crumbs or use glute-free bread–but the texture would be very different.

  55. Mary says:

    Helen @ 3:40 am June 27th, 2009 (comment #21

    I had to laugh out loud at your post. Not at you, mind you, just the confusion with language. He was not substituting cloves for garlic- the reference was to the cloves of garlic. :)

    Actual cloves, the spice, would be disastrous in this I agree. :)

  56. Karen says:

    I just want to say thank you for a great web site. I have been looking for a site like this for a long time, and have just came across this recently love, love love it thank you Trent.

  57. Lisa Clarkson says:

    Thanks for the tip. Couple of notes:

    * your version of the recipe doesn’t say when to add the garlic powder

    * you definitely should NOT boil the oil. Especially extra virgin olive oil, which has a lower smoker point than most oils.

  58. Anon says:

    Many cultures have a chickpea recipe like this, but w/ different spices. I happen to be Indian-we eat a lot of different pulses and they are great tasting and good for you as well as being cheap. Here are some thoughts-I dont care what Elizabeth recommends, NO Indian would EVER substitute turmeric for saffron! Not only are they totally different spices, they are used differently. You can throw saffron in a dish at any time, but turmeric has to be pre-fried w/ the onions and other spices or it is acrid. This is a basic rule all Indian cooks are taught by their mothers. If you have the saffron, use it-thats what its for! It isnt for washing your hair, its for cooking with!-it keeps well and and a little goes a very long way so it isnt as extravagant as you might think. Also, I agree with several posters, substituting breadcrumbs for proper bread, dried garlic for real garlic, turmeric for saffron, etc etc destroys a dish’s identity and bastardizes a cuisine. You might like it but I bet a Spaniard would be offended. I see it often with Indian food and its annoying and insulting-leftover roast lamb in a “curry sauce” ugh. …Indians don’t eat this stuff…. Call it leftover lamb in a curry sauce but please dont call it Indian food-it isnt. Sometimes the greatest value lies in taking the extra time and doing the recipe properly. By the way-bread thickened sauces go back several hundred years-its the way FRUGAL people who baked their own bread in large quantities used it up. They have given way to flour thickening, but my guess is the bread tastes better.

  59. Kathleen says:

    Jose Andres sells this as a tapa at his Jaleo restaurants in DC… for about $8 for a small bowl. It *is* delicious, and I’m so happy to find a recipe to make it at home on the cheap!

  60. Michelle says:

    I loved this post. I am learning how to cook on a budget and it is great to have a new recipe to try. I recently check-out “How to Cook Everything” by Mark Bittman from the library and love getting new ideas from his book. Thanks!

  61. Helen says:

    lol… CLOVES OF GARLIC … *duh* …. well I dunno, there’s often sweet spices in Moroccan type dishes…. coulda been cloves… maybe… or not…

  62. Sounds great! The garlic looked great! Simple, basic ingredients make some of the best meals– people are so conditioned to the processed taste these days that they will be dazzled by this sort of recipe. Thaks for sharing.

  63. Rosa says:

    I have a question – i made this yesterday – is it really supposed to be two tablespoons of paprika? That’s an awful lot of paprika and it was pretty much the only flavor that came through.

  64. reulte says:

    Powdered garlic is an abomination and an affront to the senses!

    Ok, I’m pretty passionate about garlic — sometimes go through 4 or 5 bulbs in a week and there’s only me and the boy. While you can manage to crush a garlic clove with the side of a chef’s knife – or any other hard, flat surface – I’d suggest a garlic press if you really enjoy fresh garlic. With a really good press, you don’t even have to peel the clove – just trim off the hard bottem (where it was connected to the bulb) with a paring knife. Alternately, you can find jars of whole, minced or crushed garlic in many stores. Let the garlic rest about 5 to 10 minutes – supposedly this allows the beneficial compounds to form – but I find it allows the flavor to mellow just a bit.

    In fact, I didn’t notice where the garlic went with the revised recipe — so I assume you tossed the powdered garlic in the trash — a perfect thing to do with it!

  65. EngineerMom says:

    There is no good substitute for fresh garlic. It’s not that expensive, so just use it! Garlic powder imparts an odd taste.

    Smash the whole clove and the peel pretty much falls off. You can do this to a whole bulb, storing the individual cloves covered in oil in the fridge.

    You can also do a “quick soak” with most beans, including garbanzos – bring the beans and water to a boil, then turn off the heat and let them sit in the water for about an hour. Proceed to cook as instructed.

    Frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry, should work as well as fresh with very little nutritional value lost.

    I agree with Comment #36 – the original recipe isn’t all that expensive, so just stick with the more authentic flavors. Try leaving out the saffron, but other than that, stick with what works!

  66. Amy says:

    My parents have never bought a head of garlic in their lives. Casseroles used powder and that was as exotic as the food got. It wasn’t until I was pushing 30 and my boyfriend introduced me to cooking with real garlic that I learned what others have commented: never sub garlic powder! Heavens, get the pre-minced stuff to keep in the fridge if you don’t want to prep fresh, it works nearly as well as doing it yourself.

    That looks like too much oil, but would work. Just heat it med-high until it shimmers–don’t boil it!!

  67. Melody Bakeeff says:

    Well, it took me about an hour longer to cook the beans than it said because evidently my idea of ‘simmer’ varied a bit! I had to substitute a few ingredients (I used regular paprika, the minced garlic & white wine vinegar) because frankly I was too poor to go out and buy them right now! (at an ugly point of self-employment) But, it did turn out and I’m proud to say that hubby will eat it. :-) Maybe I can find something to do to ‘kick it up a notch’ when reheated? The flavor grew on me as I ate it, but initially it’s terribly watery-tasting.

  68. Cindy says:

    Trent – please change the post about boiling the oil. I tried to boil it for over 30 minutes before I checked the post. The oil was very dark brown and never did boil. Soup is good though. Thanks.

  69. ed says:

    Moorish Chickpea and Spinach Stew: Delicious!

  70. Something about the idea of grinding up bread like that bothers me and turns me off this recipe. Would flour work instead?

  71. steve says:

    I will second the other posts : There is nothing that substitutes for the unique savory flavor of browned garlic. Browning garlic is a standard technique with many dhal recipes and changing to garlic powder will vastly change the overall flavor of the dish. I’m not sure that the browning effect is actually caused by carmelization either, in the case of garlic.

  72. steve says:

    @ #25 megan @ 4:39 pm June 26th, 2009

    “You can save time by buying fresh garlic in bulk and then crush it all in one go with a garlic crusher. Place the crushed garlic in a jar and cover with oil. The garlic will last for months in the fridge and you have a beautiful garlic infused oil to use in your cooking. ”

    This is a pretty good way to court a bad case of botulism. The anaerobic enviroment of the oil combined with the inevitable botulism spore on a ground-harvested garlic clove is like the perfect envronment for the spores to grow and produce botulinum toxin. The most recent recommendations from the USDA is to avoid homemade “garlic in olive oil” preparations. If they have been pressure canned to the appropriate degree of heat and length of exposure to heat that *may* be a different matter.

    You might get away with it if it’s used pretty quickly, but I’d “just say no” to this one.

  73. Jordan says:

    Just wanted to say that this recipe is not only delicious, it can also stand a lot of mucking about and still turn out great – I made it last night with 1 can of red kidney beans, 100g of diced chicken, no spinach, and a splash of old red wine since we were out of red wine vinegar, and it was STILL incredibly good. Thanks a lot Trent!

  74. Brittany says:

    Finally got around to making this, and I have to say…

    What is the huge time-intensive process you’re trying to eliminate with your revisions? I cooked the garbanzo beans overnight in my crockpot, which is no effort and no different than cooking beans, which you’re always raving about. After that, it took me 20-30 minutes to throw the original recipe together–including washing all the dishes to do it because my kitchen was a mess.

    I must say after trying this… Please don’t use any of Trent’s revisions (except maybe leaving out the saffron)! No powdered garlic (see about half the posts above for the reason); no bread crumbs instead of real bread (it takes about two minutes to fry the bread since the pan/oil is already hot and about a minute to smash it (I don’t have a mortal and pestle… I used my hands.) and the garlic/bread paste makes this have a FANTASTIC texture that would be lost with crumbs); and no canned beans (complete waste of money, as I think your site points out in many places, when you can cook them in a crockpot with basically no effort).

    I made a half-batch of the original recipe and served it over rice for a little more substance and to make the beans a high-quality protein. Excluding the saffron and including rice, I spent $2.23 on all the ingredients. This includes carefully calculated “fractional” items already on hand, including spices (I buy bulk spices super cheap a few tablespoons at a time, so this calculation is a fairly easy). I also used frozen spinach, which is cheaper, more convenient, and more healthy unless you’re getting fresh, locally grown spinach. I made five generous servings, which brings the cost to 44 cents a serving. Why destroy a wonderful recipe that takes fewer than 30 minutes to cook and only costs 44 cents?

  75. Kristin says:

    1. I’d be curious to see what your final cost was including the “ingredients on hand”. Some of those, such as spices, can be surprisingly expensive when you add them all up, even per tsp. At least, that’s what I’ve found when I’ve done similar calculations.

    2. Saffron is not as commonly found in cupboards as you might think. :) Although I suppose I really should invest in some.

  76. Roseclar says:

    We are used to cook from scratch and I usually cook batches of chickpeas and beans in a press cooker and freeze in small portions. It’s no hassle.
    This stew is very flavourful. I made the original recipe and we enjoyed it very much and decided that is a winter dish because is comforting an very filling.
    As for the leftovers, as I read that spinach shouldn’t be re-heated (because in this process the spinach will develop harmful substances like nitrite) I made a hummunach pate (hummus w/ spinach) that was very yummy too.

  77. Roseclar says:

    Thanks for posting it Trent!!
    I love your blog. Keep up the good work :) :)

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