This recipe was inspired by Mark Bittman's recipe for rack of lamb with pimentón-rye breadcrumbs. The lamb didn't interest me at the time, but I started wondering what else those breadcrumbs could go on. I decided to do a Spanish interpretation of Nigel Slater's chickpea gratin, and this is the result: creamy chickpeas, tender spinach, and meltingly soft onions held together with a sherry gravy and topped with those amazing smoky rye breadcrumbs. This is one of those wonderful side dishes that also doubles as a vegan main course; if you end up with leftovers, top them with a fried egg for lunch the next day. —ieatthepeach
Test Kitchen Notes
The smoky, garlicky, rye crumb topping and the sweetly caramelized onions are the stars of this dish and they form the basis of a healthy, nondairy gratin recipe that lends itself to endless variations. I found I wanted a hit of acid and brightness so I served it with Roma tomato halves that I had roasted with balsamic and olive oil and added a squeeze of lemon to the dish. Next time, I'll substitute a sherry vinegar for some of the dry sherry to offset the sweetness. —chezjewels
Preheat the oven to 350º F, and lightly grease a 9 by 13-inch baking dish.
To make the gratin, heat olive oil in a large, deep-sided skillet over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, and a pinch of salt, and cook, stirring frequently, for 15 to 20 minutes, until the onions are soft and starting to brown. Sprinkle over the flour, and stir to coat the flour with oil. Add the sherry and cook for a minute or two, until the liquid has reduced and thickened. Add vegetable broth and bring to a simmer; let cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until the liquid has thickened to a gravy-like consistency.
Turn off the heat and stir in chickpeas and spinach, letting the spinach wilt from the heat of the pan. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish.
To make the breadcrumbs, in a food processor, combine the olive oil, garlic, paprika, and a pinch of salt and pepper, and pulse until the garlic is finely chopped. Add the rye bread, and pulse until it forms coarse breadcrumbs. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly over the top of the gratin. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is deeply browned and the gratin is bubbling and fragrant.
Remove the gratin from the oven and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm. Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 to 4 days.