New Recipe: Braised Chickpeas with Tomato, Spinach, and Feta
This has to be the healthiest way to eat feta cheese. Better yet, it takes only one pan and 20 minutes to make.
Chickpeas are a miracle food. They’re affordable, good for you, and fit into just about every kind of diet. They’re also versatile, working their subtle magic in everything from hummus to flourless cakes. And when cooked alongside other Mediterranean ingredients, chickpeas tend to steal the show.
That’s why this simple recipe from Brittany Conerly is so dang yummy. Here, chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans) get the famous salt-fat-acid-heat treatment accompanied by flavors native to where they’re grown. The recipe combines feta cheese (salt), olive oil (delicious healthy fat), tomatoes, and lemon (acid), then bakes them together (heat) to form a bright, balanced, and savory main course.
The beauty of this dinner is that it requires minimal sautéing (read, actual hands-on cooking) before popping it into the oven. The whole thing requires just 20 minutes from start to finish, which is about as long as it takes to make a sandwich or whip up an omelet. It’s also a one-pan meal, so you don’t have to worry about much cleanup time afterward. Not a bad deal for a main course!
Aside from being delicious, I also consider this skillet dish to be health food: With plenty of spinach, garlic, and a total calorie count of 370, this is something I can truly feel good about putting in my body. Here’s where it gets even healthier: Tomatoes are one of the rare vegetables that are actually more nutritious when cooked, and this recipe features a good amount of them. Tomatoes already contain a variety of nutrients, such as Vitamin C, Vitamin E, potassium, and fiber. On top of that, they’re rich in antioxidants, including the cancer-fighting lycopene. When tomatoes are cooked and canned, it makes it easier for the body to absorb that lycopene.
Also, you won’t need to eat a lot of it to get full (thanks, fiber-rich chickpeas!), but I wouldn’t sneer at the prospect of sopping it up with pita bread or hunks of crusty bread. And since this meal is gluten-free, meatless, and grain-free, almost everyone can enjoy it.
To start, lightly cook some minced garlic cloves in extra-virgin olive oil, then spice things up with a dash of red pepper flakes. Add a few handfuls of baby spinach and sauté this savory mixture over medium heat until the greens are wilted.
Then, add a jar of marinara sauce and canned Roma (or plum) tomatoes. These should be gently crushed before spooning them into the pan; You can either buy them already crushed or flatten them yourself with the back of a wooden spoon. Either way, these sweet, juicy tomatoes lend a lot of savory flavor to the dish.
To make the flavors really sing, add the zest and juice of one lemon. Don’t be intimidated by this step! The trick to getting lots of lovely lemon zest fast is to zest it before you slice and squeeze: Hold a microplane or fine grater vertically over a bowl and rub the lemon up against it, applying pressure. The extra acid from the lemon really punches up the tartness of the tomatoes, adds some delicious, citrusy brightness, and counters the density of the chickpeas.
Speaking of chickpeas, you’re next going to throw a can of them (drain and rinse them first) into the pan with some kosher salt and cook for just five minutes, which is about how long it should take to bring everything to a gentle simmer.
From there, you’re nearly done. Take your skillet off the heat, add a few chunked-up blocks of feta cheese, and pop that skillet into an oven preheated to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Let it cook for 8 to 10 minutes until the cheese has melted. Now enjoy!