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
Stew the tomatoes gently in
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.
Copyright © 1974 by Richard Olney. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.