A Genius Way to Marry Chickpeas & Spinach (Or Whatever Is in Your Fridge Now)

April 22, 2015

Every week—often with your help—Food52's Executive Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: A trick for turning whatever is in your fridge into real dinner—plus, a meatless main with more personality than a 16-pound brisket.

Fast forward to tonight. You're standing at the fridge again, eyeing disparate ingredients, unsure how you will turn them into a dinner that feels whole.

Here's a handy new mental pathway for those moments, thanks to Sam and Sam Clark's Moro: The Cookbookbread sauce.

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Bread sauce could be romesco or tarator or a British version literally named bread sauce. ("Don't think you can cheat and use a shop-bought one," says Jamie Oliver.) The only requirement for bread sauce is leftover heels of the stuff, which, even after the apocalypse, will still be falling out of my freezer—yours too, I imagine.

Not only is bread sauce a means of making more out of those castaways, it's also a vegan alternative to other saucing and binding agents like eggs and cream and butter—and, perhaps more importantly, a cleaner carrier of flavors.

In the Moro template, after first crisping up cubes of bread in olive oil, you'll sprinkle in layers of garlic, cumin seeds, crushed chile, saffron, and an entire bunch of fresh oregano to form the base for your sauce. (Sometimes making a sauce means tempering eggs or making a roux; here, it's pouring red wine vinegar over your bready mix and mushing it up in a mortar and pestle till it sticks together.)


This is your dinner-maker. Sam and Sam Clark use it to marry chickpeas and spinach, but it could just as easily be lentils and mushrooms, roast chicken and leeks, broccoli rabe and penne. You could have instead toasted up the bread with whatever flavors you're interested in tonight: fennel seeds or fresh thyme or coriander or mustard. Deb Perelman's version on Smitten Kitchen had tomato sauce, and now she won't make bread sauce without it. It's a slot machine dinner with smushed breadcrumbs as the wildcard.

Moro's version, however, is also perfect as-is. If you want guidance, follow them. It will be feisty, but it won't be too much. In fact, the Moro cookbooks might be known as go-to sources for Spanish- and Moorish-influenced recipes, but I think of them as places to find vibrant, smoky, full-bellied meals made entirely from plants (see also this genius salad).

Is serving it on fried bread a little too much? Yes. 

Moro's Chickpeas with Spinach (Garbanzos con Espinacas)

Adapted slightly from Moro: The Cookbook (Ebury Press, 2003)

Serves 4

200 grams (7 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and soaked overnight with a pinch of baking soda; or two 400-gram tins cooked chickpeas, rinsed
6 tablespoons olive oil
500 grams (18 ounces) spinach, washed
75 grams (3 ounces) white bread (about two 1/2-inch slices), crusts removed, cut into small cubes
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 small bunch fresh oregano, roughly chopped
1 small dried red chile, crumbled
1 1/2 tablespoons good-quality red wine vinegar
A good pinch saffron (about 60 threads), infused in 4 tablespoons boiling water
1/2 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
Sea salt and black pepper

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected]. Thanks to our Design & Home Editor Amanda Sims and Deb Perelman at Smitten Kitchen for this one!

The Genius Recipes cookbook is finally here! The book is a mix of greatest hits from the column and unpublished new favorites—all told, over 100 recipes that will change the way you think about cooking. It's on shelves now, or you can order your copy here.

Photos by James Ransom

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • FrugalCat
  • Millicent
  • Onlyessential
  • TheWimpyVegetarian
  • elena barrera
    elena barrera
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


FrugalCat April 22, 2022
This was excellent with canned low sodium chick peas. At my dinner table, it was a side dish to chicken legs.
Millicent June 8, 2015
I made this using chickpeas I'd cooked and frozen earlier, plus cicoria greens (like dandelion but more tender) from my CSA, and I'm not sure what was added by making a bread sauce rather than adding the bread and seasonings individually. Without this recipe, I would have added the bread, garlic, chile, cumin, vinegar & oregano directly to the chickpeas and greens and cooked them all together, which I think would have resulted in the same tasty, stew-ish dish that I got. Was it really worth the extra work to make croutons, cook them with seasonings, mash that all together, THEN add to the chickpeas and greens? If someone has all these ingredients on hand already, a quick weeknight dinner is not made or broken with a bread sauce -- it's in having a range of seasonings to dress up a veg-protein combination.
I love to hear what others have found with this recipe; maybe I missed the boat?
Onlyessential May 5, 2015
This recipe looks great .The images looks very nutritious and delicious healthy recipe. Can't wait to try your recipe. Thanks for this blog. Perfect for a meal :-)
TheWimpyVegetarian April 22, 2015
This looks just amazing to me. Now I'm hungry for dinner and it's only 10:15am.
elena B. April 22, 2015
This is a bit different version of our "Espinacas con Garbanzos", a very typical recipe from where I live, in the south of Spain, near Seville. This recipe is stunning with moorish roots and tasty. I recommed to try it! We don´t put oregano or chile on this recipe, and we add some chopped onion (2 tablespoons or so) and some pepper to season it. Anyway, I´ll try this version. Enjoy it!!! ;)