Braised Coconut Spinach & Chickpeas w/Lemon

Back when I was killing time with my friend Torey spectating a Spartan Race in Vermont (a state worth visiting, by the way), I mentioned to her I was trying to eat more lean protein and that I’m really into chickpeas as one source. She mentioned a particular recipe, and even more impressively, remembered to email it to me later the next week once we were both back on our respective coasts. It’s a happy coincidence that the kitchn is one of my favored sources for recipes too, yay! I roasted a sweet potato the first time, and grossly underestimated the amount of time for that to finish baking in my toaster oven, so if you do the sweet potato, try starting that a bit early, or cut it up to help it cook. Note: there is no recipe directly in here for sweet potato, only a link.*

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The finished product, plus quinoa, steak (thanks, K_____!), and some leftover fries. Sorry vegetarians, I threw you one with this recipe and then featured it with meat..

Braised Coconut Spinach & Chickpeas with Lemon (from The Kitchn)

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Ingredients the first round: relatively few. The most prep time is washing, soaking and rinsing the spinach repeatedly to get rid of the sand.
Serves 4 as a main dish or 6 as a side
Ingredients

2 teaspoons oil or ghee
1 small yellow onion
8 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon grated ginger, from a 3-inch piece
1/2 cup sun-dried small tomatoes, chopped (I overlooked getting tomatoes the second trial and used a tiny can of tomato paste for similar taste but different.. mouthfeel)
1 large lemon, zested and juiced (about 2 tablespoons juice)
1 dried hot red pepper or dash of red pepper flakes (optional but delicious!)
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 pound baby spinach
1 (14-ounce) can light coconut milk
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon ground ginger

To serve:
Whole roasted sweet potatoes
Cilantro leaves, to garnish omg, I hate cilantro. Booo. Maybe try mint next time.
Toasted unsweetened coconut, to garnish

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Step 2 visualized.

Steps

  1. Heat the oil in a large, deep Dutch oven or heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is beginning to brown.
  2. Add the garlic, ginger, sun-dried tomatoes, lemon zest, and red pepper, if using. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
  3. Add the chickpeas and cook over high heat for a few minutes, or until the chickpeas are beginning to turn golden and they are coated with the onion and garlic mixture.
  4. Toss in the spinach, one handful at a time. This will take about 5 minutes; stir in a handful or two and wait for it to wilt down and make room in the pot before adding the next handful.
  5. When all the spinach has been added, pour in the coconut milk, salt, ground ginger, and lemon juice.
  6. Bring to a simmer, then turn down the heat and cook for 10 minutes, or until the chickpeas are warmed through. Taste and add more salt and lemon juice, if necessary.
  7. Serve hot over roasted sweet potatoes, with cilantro leaves and toasted unsweetened coconut to garnish. rice, quinoa, or other staple starch/grain etc.

Recipe Note from The Kitchn:

  • Freezing instructions: Freeze in individual portions for up to 3 months. Allow it to thaw overnight in the fridge and then reheat gently over low heat on the stove.
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Mid-step 6. MMMmmmmm.

Novelty Rating: 5 of 5
Yum! This meatless dish is satisfyingly filling yet feels extra healthy to me.
Likelihood of Repeat: 80%
I didn’t manage to get around to trying it until a couple weeks ago -the night I got back from London for some brief solo dinner time, and a second trial just this week (second time was with my household focus group of one). He’s not always so thrilled with my meatless dishes, so it was a pleasant surprise to get an assenting nod when I queried “worth trying again?”  ..and I was all ready to only make it on solo dinner nights in front of watching Fresh Off the Boat.
Fortunately, my half portion means I have leftover ingredients, and I’m tempted to make this again just to freeze it for those precarious and hectic holiday nights coming up.

Other Combos: I also just ate another tiny leftover portion about Wednesday night after a workout. I threw it in the microwave with a little quinoa, raw washed spinach, and some frozen peas. It was solid enough to feel like a meal but not so heavy I feel sluggish, plus the barely-defrosted peas added a nice fresh pop, both in texture and color. Novel!
I think some kids would eat this. Somebody try it and tell me?
I could see this being palatable with some wilted kale or chard too if spinach doesn’t fly in your house.

Lesson learned: My main error was winging the sweet potato bake, and I felt it was significant enough to mention up above (see asterisk*), I guess it was bigger than the internet’s collective estimate, plus a big much for the little toaster oven that could. For the record, I actually made a half portion, but I’m leaving it whole here plus my adjustments, because it’s irritatingly inefficient to use half a can of coconut milk, and half a can of chickpeas. If you half the recipe, watch the cooking more, and consider cutting down each step by a few minutes depending on how done it looks. I got pretty close to burning mine. I don’t much like sun-dried tomatoes so that’s why I used fresh ones. Including washing the spinach and chopping prep, this takes more than 30 minutes.

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If you want to add more carbs back in, serve it on pasta. The sauce coats each piece nicely. FYI: it looks pretty big, but this is actually a close-up of a really small serving.

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