Wednesday, May 06, 2015

West African Spinach and Peanut Stew + Greek Style Chickpeas

Habanero chilies contribute an authentic heat level to the spinach stew. Using only one chile will create a spicy base note without scorching your mouth. For those who prefer milder flavors, substitute 1 serrano or jalapeno chili.

Using frozen spinach for the stew is both economical and time-saving. Studies have shown that frozen vegetables retain more vitamins and minerals than old, tired ones lingering in supermarket produce cases.


Likewise, canned beans are a viable alternative to those cooked from scratch and WAY faster. At Cafe Drake HRV our policy is to make a batch or two of dried beans every week in the slow cooker, but we still don't always have the ones we need - or want - on hand for a quick weeknight meal. Hence, pantry shelves lined with cans of organic, low-salt chickpeas and black beans.


The moody lighting doesn't do justice to this colorful plate of food: Spinach and Peanut Stew, Turmeric Rice, Yellow Squash, Greek Chickpeas and Tunisian Carrot & Parsley Salad.

The only way we know of to improve on a lunch of leftovers is to add a green salad with plenty of tahini dressing.

WEST AFRICAN SPINACH AND PEANUT STEW

At Cafe Drake HRV we're focusing, during these longer, warmer days, on quick meals that allow us more time outside to garden and revel beneath sunny skies. This recipe gets you in and out of the kitchen faster than most, packing a wallop of complex flavors despite minimal ingredients and effort.

Begin with 1 16-oz. bag of frozen chopped spinach. Cook according to the package instructions via stove top or microwave. Allow to cook slightly and then drain, pressing out as much water as possible. Set aside while you heat 2 T. coconut or vegetable oil in a large, deep skillet. When the oil is hot toss in 1 large onion, diced. Cook over medium-low heat until nice and soft and then add 1 medium-size tomato, also diced, and 1 habanero chili, minced. Stir fry for a minute or two before dropping in the reserved spinach. Cover the pan and cook for 5 minutes. If needed, add a tablespoon of water to prevent burning or sticking.

After 5 minutes, in a small bowl, mix 4-5 T. smooth peanut butter with just enough water to make a thick sauce. Add this to the spinach along with 1 T. grated ginger. Season to taste with salt and black pepper and cook, uncovered for another 5 minutes. Again, if the mixture becomes too dry add a bit of water and then adjust salt accordingly.

Your stew is now done. Enjoy! Serve with rice, quinoa, polenta or wedges of moist cornbread. An optional garnish is a handful of chopped roasted peanuts or sliced scallions. Or both.




GREEK -STYLE CHICKPEAS IN A FLASH

Swapping black-eyed peas for the chickpeas is a delicious alternative, BTW. 

Let's begin: heat 1 T. olive oil in a skillet or saucepan over a medium flame. Add to the pan 4 sliced scallions (green and white parts) and 1 clove of minced garlic. Cook for a couple of minutes, until the onions are soft. Pour in 1 16-19 oz. can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained, along with 2 T. water, 2 T. lemon juice, 1/2 t. or so of lemon zest and salt and black pepper to your taste. 

Cook for one minute and add 2 t. chopped oregano (or 1/2 t. dried) and  2 short sprigs of thyme . Cook for another minute, stirring often and remove from heat. 

Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

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