Are you in the mood for some comfort food? Of course you are; it's February. But in the interest of lingering New Year's resolutions, you might, however, be leaning towards something with vegetables — perhaps even a vegetarian dish?
I have a proposal for you: fresh baby spinach and chickpeas, slow-cooked with ginger, garlic, and onion in a creamy coconut milk sauce, finished off with a healthy dash of lemon. But it doesn't stop there. No — this spicy, tangy dish of greens was designed to be served over a sweet potato. See? Both comforting and your daily dose of vegetables, all in one dish.
It's a mess of colors and vegetables — green, tender spinach draped over a big, hot sweet potato.
→ Find out how to bake sweet potatoes, step-by-step, right here.
This isn't, by any means, an especially difficult or even original meal; there are scads of recipes out there for greens braised in coconut milk. But I was looking for a very specific taste — hot and spicy, extra tangy, rich and sweet — every sense and flavor in the dish amped up to 11, so to speak.
The stew itself is a quick one, for something stewed. I pulled it together in about 30 minutes. That is one benefit to using baby spinach, instead of the kale, collards, or turnip greens often called for in this kind of recipe. Those need to cook longer or even be blanched in boiling water beforehand, but the baby spinach cooks much faster. It also wilts down tremendously — the pound of spinach called for here will look huge before cooking!
Poured over the sweet potato, this is powerhouse vegan comfort food, with loads of flavor and solid sustenance from the chickpeas and sweet potato. I haven't tried freezing the braised greens yet, but I think it would make a great make-ahead and even freezer-friendly meal for winter eating.
Braised Coconut Spinach & Chickpeas with Lemon
Serves 4 as a main dish or 6 as a side
2 teaspoons oil or ghee
1 small yellow onion
4 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon grated ginger, from a 3-inch piece
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1 large lemon, zested and juiced (about 2 tablespoons juice)
1 dried hot red pepper or dash of red pepper flakes (optional)
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 pound baby spinach
1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon ground ginger
Whole roasted sweet potatoes
Cilantro leaves, to garnish
Toasted unsweetened coconut, to garnish
Heat the oil or ghee 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. Add the garlic, ginger, sun-dried tomatoes, lemon zest, and red pepper, if using. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
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.
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. When all the spinach has been added, pour in the coconut milk, salt, ground ginger, and lemon juice. 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.
Serve hot over roasted sweet potatoes, with cilantro leaves and toasted unsweetened coconut to garnish.
- This is thick enough to eat on its own with a fork, but it's also saucy enough to serve over pasta, rice, quinoa, or another grain.
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.
This recipe was originally published January 2012.
(Image credits: Faith Durand)