In the past few months I’ve read all three of Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbooks, Plenty, Jerusalem, and, most recently, Ottolenghi. (http://bit.ly/1caF9BA) With each book, I had big plans for making some elaborate meal. But it never happened. These past few months have not been the highlight of my cooking life. I think I’ve been overwhelmed. Life has been good, but maybe a little too busy. Plus I had checked the books out from the library. With each book, before I got around to making anything, it was due back, requested by another patron. So it’s only now that I finally tried a recipe. Which I did without fanfare one morning last week, the day after I left FB. Instant infusion of extra time. But that’s another story. For now, recipe.
Although there were several dishes that looked good, I decided to go with this one because (a) it involved beans, which meant I could blog about it, (b) I had all the ingredients on hand, and (c) the flavors sounded simple enough to be able to eat more than just once. That meant I’d be able to eat for lunch and dinner a couple of days. This was important because I knew I probably wouldn’t cook anything else for the week. It was a busy one.
For my first go with this recipe, my only departure was in cooking the chickpeas. The original calls for an overnight soak with baking soda. But I didn’t soak or use baking soda. Instead, I cooked the chickpeas in the slow cooker with kombu, as I always do. It’s super easy.
To cook the beans, measure out a generous cup of dried beans. Pick through them and remove any that are discolored or broken as well as any stones or dirt. Then rinse, drain, and place in the slow cooker insert. Add a 1″ piece of kombu (a sea vegetable that adds a hint of smoky flavor and allegedly helps make beans more digestible by breaking down the phytic acid), cover with 2-3″ of cold filtered water, and cook for 8-10 hours or until soft. Add salt to taste and either use right away or cool and refrigerate until you’re ready to make the recipe. Here it is:
2 T. olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 t. cumin seeds
1 t. coriander seeds
1 T. tomato paste
14 oz. canned tomatoes, chopped
1 t. sugar
1-1/2 t. ground cumin
2 c. baby spinach
2/3 c. cilantro leaves, for garnish (I skipped this because I didn’t have any cilantro on hand)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lb (2 medium sized) sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1″ rounds
3 c. water
3-1/2 T. unsalted butter, chopped into pieces
4 T. honey
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. Greek yogurt
1 clove garlic, smashed
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 T. olive oil
1 t. dried mint
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Combine the water, butter, honey, and salt in large skillet, and arrange the sweet potatoes so that they’ve pretty evenly dispersed with the pieces of butter. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and cook for about an hour, turning the sweet potatoes halfway through so they’ve evenly colored on both sides.
2. While the sweet potatoes are cooking, make the sauce for the chickpeas by heating olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the onion, cumin seeds, and coriander seeds. Fry for 8 minutes, stirring, until golden grown. Add the tomato paste and stir for another minute. Then add the tomatoes, sugar, and ground cumin. Cook over medium heat for another 5 minutes or so. Add salt and pepper to taste, keeping in mind that the chickpeas are also salted.
3. Stir the spinach into the tomato sauce, then add the cooked chickpeas. Stir together and cook for another 5 minutes or so. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4. To make the yogurt sauce, whisk the garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, and mint into the garlic. Let the flavors meld for at least 10 minutes before serving.
5. To serve, simply transfer the chickpeas to a serving dish, place the sweet potatoes on top, and garnish with cilantro leaves. Either top with the yogurt sauce or serve it alongside.
When I made this, I was a little worried about eating whole coriander seeds. But they were delicious. As was the overall dish. Simple, but also fresh and interesting and somehow enlivening. I see what all the fuss is about. And I’m excited to try more recipes. Which I plan to do very soon. Because fall is here. And I’m tired of eating cheese and crackers for dinner. Ready to settle in, eat healthy food, reestablish a routine. Celebrate home and take care of myself by cooking. And writing. It’s a plan.