Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Don't have spinach? Use kale!

I love sharing recipes with my sons and daughters in law. Here is one that is now a 'go to' recipe for my younger son and his wife. However, the recipe calls for spinach (don't have), chickpeas (don't have), tomato sauce (don't have), and red wine vinegar (don't have). Does that stop me from trying a great sounding recipe when a friend is coming over for dinner? LOL - no, not at all.

So here is how I took the actual recipe for espinacas con garbanzos and made my own substitutions:


• 2 - 15 ounce cans of chickpeas, drain, rinse (I substituted pre-cooked cannellini beans I had in the freezer - use any beans you have on hand)
• 6 Tbsp. olive oil (I am sure I used less than this amount)
• 1 pound spinach, washed (I used one large 'bunch' of kale from our garden, a mixture of varieties, wash, shake dry, strip away tough stems, and then cut into smallish pieces)
• 1 smallish onion, peeled, cut into wedges
• 2 slices whole grain bread, cut away crusts (I didn't do this) and cut into small cubes (the original recipes calls for 2.5 ounces or 75 grams - I did not weigh my bread)
• 1/2 cup tomato sauce (use it if you have it - I used 3 slices of dried tomatoes and ~1/2 vegetable broth)
• 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (I didn't have this either but I had some already toasted cumin seeds so I used these instead)
• Pinch red pepper flakes
• 1-1/2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar (I am out of that so I used balsamic vinegar)
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (no options here - this ingredient is a must!)
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper (I used a little bit of each)
• Lemon juice to taste (I didn't bother with this)

Well, now that I can see all that I didn't do (highlighted in blue), I realize that I probably created a totally new recipe. However, my hope is that you see how flexible most recipes are, and that with a few things on hand for reasonable substitutions, dinner can be created from what you have available.


1) Place a large saucepan (I used a soup pot) over medium heat and add 1-2 Tbsp. olive oil.
2) Add the onion and let sizzle for a few minutes
3) Add the kale and stir well, remove kale and onions when leaves are cooked but still bright green, I transferred the kale to a large bowl so I could add back any liquid at the end
4) Add ~1 Tbsp. olive oil to a small frying pan (next time I will just use the big soup pot I cooked the kale in) and fry the bread cubes for ~5 minutes until it is golden brown.
5) Then add the garlic, cumin, and red pepper flakes. Cook for only ~1 minute more until the garlic is toasted but not dark brown.
6) Transfer the bread and spices to a small food processor (or you may use a mortar and pestle to smash all this together), add the dried tomatoes and the vinegar and grind until like a paste. Add a little of the 1/2 cup of vegetable broth if necessary to mix it all together.
7) Return this mixture to the large pot and add the drained beans (or chickpeas) and remaining broth (or tomato sauce). Stir until the beans have absorbed the flavors and are hot.
8) Season with a bit of salt and pepper.
9) If the consistency is still a little thick, add a bit of water (or more broth if you have some on-hand).
10) Finally add back the kale and heat everything over medium heat until it is all hot again.

I served this delicious, beautiful, easy, one-pot meal over some rice I had cooked the day before along with some home-made tomato soup (using up many of our now ripening tomatoes that were picked green before our killing frost a week ago or so), and some whole grain bread made by a friend.

Both my husband and a friend eating with us that night thought this was a great dinner. I did too and will definitely make this recipe again, maybe even getting around to using chickpeas and spinach!

The chopped kale and garlic, cooked and set aside

The beans with the bread/herb/tomato mixture before adding back the kale and reheating. 

I repeat, the smoked paprika is a 'must'. Find a store that sells it in bulk for the best price of this amazing spice, as you will find yourself using is a lot!

This meal is filled with health-promoting molecules, but I'll make this recipe again because it is so delicious. Yum, yum, yum!!

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

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