This dinner came about in one of my many searches for a simple, creative weeknight meal. You know, Monday afternoon at work, when the week beckons and the fridge is empty, and you need a plan before you show up at the supermarket hungry and find yourself checking out with an odd assortment of foods that won't get you past a pre-dinner snack. I stumbled upon an old post for a chickpea stirfry and it caught my eye. It looked easy and I figured I could add some greens, no problem.
The first iteration of the recipe tasted both hearty and bright. I pan-fried the chickpeas and onions, and then added some spinach with a big dash of lemon juice. Although it looked a bit of a hot mess, Doug and I fell in love. I think we ate the stirfry every three days for the next month. But, then I started to get a little frustrated. Instead of turning crisp, the chickpeas lost, on the bottom of the pan, a little of themselves. And, I accidentally overcooked the spinach - twice. The dish required a bit of an upgrade.
As it turns out, the internet food world is mad for roasted chickpeas. I somehow missed this the first time around. Many people eat them as a snack, and while I'm eager to get on that bandwagon, my immediate interest was subbing the roasted version into this dish. Huge success. They are crispy on the outside, but soft and warm on the inside (sort-of like small balls of virtuous fried mashed potatoes) and imbued with all the spices you coated them in. These chickpeas require a bolder green than spinach - and in my world, that means kale. Depending on the day, I cook the kale in a hot pan with just a touch of olive oil or give it a nice, slow braise. (Molly Wizenberg inspired me to try it both ways.)
If you, like me and some of my fellow food writers, want a respite from the rich foods of the holiday season, I promise you this dinner will not fail. It is wholesome, yes, but also satisfying in that deep, honest way where your insides feel like they are giving you a round of applause.
Roasted Chickpeas with Kale and Couscous
This is a recipe open to any number of adaptations. I can imagine an Indian version, with chickpeas seasoned with cumin and coriander and saffron-scented couscous. The kale is damn good with a dollop of harissa, if you like your food spicy. And, although I tend to be someone who likes the parts of my dinner separated, even I'd suggest mixing the whole mess together. Use the directions below as a guideline and make it your own way - certainly, every time we've eaten it, it has tasted different, but never once has it failed to be delicious.
For the chickpeas:
- 1 15 oz. can of chickpeas
- 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 3/4 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/4 tsp cayenne
- 1/4 tsp salt
Drain and rinse the chickpeas and dry off with a paper towel. Spread them in a baking dish or sheet. Drizzle the chickpeas with olive oil and season with smoked paprika, cayenne, and salt. Roast at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Stir occasionally to keep the chickpeas from sticking to the pan. You may need to add more olive oil to keep the chickpeas moist.
For the couscous:
- 1 cup Israeli couscous
- 1/4 cup diced onion
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 cup sherry, white wine, or white vermouth
- 1 1/2 cups chicken broth or water
Heat the onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat. When the onion softens and the garlic begins to turn golden, add the couscous. Season with salt and pepper. Toast for a minute, tossing frequently. Add the sherry and stir, allowing the liquid to burn off. Add the chicken broth, stir, and bring to a boil. When it boils, cover the pot, turn it to low, and cook for approximately 15 minutes (checking every few minutes after ten). The couscous is ready when the water has been absorbed and the pearls are tender to the bite.
For the kale:
- 1 bunch kale, ribs removed and coarsely chopped, rinsed
- 1 small onion, diced (use a bit for the onion in the couscous, above)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
- 1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
- Salt, to taste
Heat the onion in olive oil over medium heat. When the onion softens and begins to brown, about five minutes, add the kale (with the leaves still wet). Drizzle with the second tablespoon of olive oil and add a healthy pinch of red pepper flakes. Saute uncovered, 5-10 minutes. Cover, and cook another 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently. Toss with the lemon juice and salt; serve hot.