Gratin of Chick-Peas with Spinach

Gratin de Pois-Chiches aux Épinards

Preparation info

  • Servings:

    4 to 6

    • Difficulty

      Easy

Appears in

Simple French Food

By Richard Olney

Published 1974

  • About

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds spinach, picked over, stems removed, washed in several waters
  • 2 quarts water
  • Salt
  • 8 to 10 ounces chick-peas
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • Thyme, bay leaf
  • 1 onion stuck with 2 cloves
  • 1 (3- or 4-ounce) carrot, peeled
  • About cup olive oil (in all)
  • 2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, coarsely chopped (or equivalent of canned tomatoes, drained of their liquid)
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled, sliced paper-thin
  • 1 handful chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh savory (or a pinch of finely crumbled dried savory)
  • 10 to 12 almonds, blanched 2 minutes in boiling water, skins removed
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs
  • 1 pinch cayenne, teaspoon saffron, freshly ground pepper
  • About ½ cup stale bread, crusts removed, crumbled

    Method

    Cook the spinach for no more than 3 minutes in lightly salted, boiling water (the same water will be used for the chick-peas and later reduced, so excess salting must be avoided), drain it, saving the water, rinse in cold water, and press lightly—only to remove excess water. Put aside in a bowl, covered.

    Pick over the chick-peas, looking carefully for small stones. Soak them overnight in a large quantity of cold water in which the soda has been dissolved. Rinse in several waters and put to cook with the cold spinach-cooking water, the herbs, the onion, and the carrot. Bring slowly to a boil, skim, and cook, covered, at a bare simmer, for about 2 hours—or until done. Drain the cooking liquid into another saucepan, discard the herbs, onion, and carrot, and put the chick-peas aside. Reduce the cooking liquid to about 1 cup (tasting for salt—if it risks becoming too salty, stop reducing), skimming off any scum that forms on the surface.

    Stew the tomatoes gently in 2 or 3 tablespoons of the olive oil with the garlic, parsley, and savory, lightly salted, for about 15 minutes. Pound the almonds to a paste in the mortar, add the yolks of the 2 hard-boiled eggs, the cayenne, the saffron, and the pepper, and work together with the pestle into a consistent paste. Slice the egg whites thinly.

    Combine the chick-peas, their reduced cooking liquid, the tomato mixture, the almond and egg-yolk mixture, and the sliced egg whites, bring to a boil, stirring—and, with the pestle, crushing some of the chick-peas to lend greater body to the sauce. Mix in the spinach, taste for salt, and pour the mixture into a lightly oiled gratin dish. Smooth the surface, sprinkle evenly with the breadcrumbs, dribble olive oil in a crisscross pattern over the entire surface, and bake in a hot oven (about 400°) for ½ hour or until the mass is bubbling and the surface is crisply golden.