The last time I browsed the newsstand in a book store, I was hoping to find something new to me. Tucked back behind Bon Appetit and to the side of Donna Hay I found Cuisine, a publication from New Zealand which I’d never read. It takes a little longer to appear on the racks in the States, which is why the issue I bought is from September. It’s full of incredible photography, a lot of wine info, and many, many recipes I want to try. There was an article about informal entertaining and dishes that can be easily eaten with just a fork, and that’s where I came upon these braised chickpeas. First, I saw the photo with the crispy onions on top of browned haloumi in a bowl of chickpeas, and then I flipped the page and read about the mojo verde that adorns it all. That was it. I had to make this dish.
I used dried chickpeas which I soaked overnight before cooking, but rinsed and drained canned chickpeas would also work. While the chickpeas cooked, I mixed together the mojo verde in a food processor and fried some thinly sliced shallots since they could sit while the rest of the dish was prepared. I decided to use shallots for the crispy topping, but onions were used in the original recipe. To begin the braise, finely chopped onion, garlic, broken pieces of dried red chiles, and ground cumin were sauteed in olive oil. Tomato paste was stirred into that mix before the cooked chickpeas and some of their cooking liquid was added. That was left to simmer until the liquid had almost disappeared, and then I added a mix of fresh greens that I found at the farmers’ market. There were spinach leaves and mizuna and a few small kale leaves which were washed, stemmed, and torn into pieces. While the greens wilted their way into the chickpeas, the haloumi was quickly pan-fried in olive oil.
The chickpeas were full of flavor from the onion, garlic, and dried chiles and those flavors wound into the greens as well. Haloumi can’t help but be delicious. The same goes for crispy shallots, and the mojo verde with cilantro and sherry vinegar was a touch of herby acidity in the dish. This could make a very good, little starter stacked nicely with the frizzy shallots on top, but I’m glad I served this as a main course because I would have wanted more than just a small plate of it.
The recipe is not available on Cuisine’s web site, so I’ll include it here.
Braised Chickpeas with Spinach, Haloumi, Crispy Shallots, and Mojo Verde
1 1/2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight (or two cans of chickpeas, rinsed and drained)
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for frying haloumi
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped plus 2 cloves garlic smashed
3 small dried chiles such as chile de arbol, crumbled
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 big handfuls spinach leaves or small leaves of other greens, washed, drained, stemmed, and chopped or pulled into pieces
1 package haloumi, cut into ¼ inch slices
Salt and pepper to taste
-Drain the soaked chickpeas and place in a large saucepan with water to cover by two inches. Add the smashed garlic cloves and one crumbled chile. Bring to a boil and simmer until chickpeas are tender, about one to two hours. When cooked, reserve the cooking liquid.
-While the chickpeas are cooking, prepare the mojo verde and fry the sliced shallots as described below.
-In a large saucepan, heat two tablespoons olive oil and fry the onion until soft. Add garlic, crumbled chiles, and cumin and fry for an additional minute. Stir in the tomato paste. Add the cooked, drained chickpeas and two cups of the reserved cooking liquid. If using canned chickpeas, add two cups water. Season with salt and pepper and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated.
-Add the spinach and/or greens and stir to combine. Check seasoning and adjust as needed.
-As the greens wilt into the chickpeas, fry the haloumi slices in olive oil until golden on each side, about one minute per side.
-Serve the braised chickpeas and greens with a few slices of haloumi on top. Drizzle haloumi and chickpeas with mojo verde, and top with crispy shallots.
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup tightly packed cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
4 tablespoons olive oil
-Place garlic, cumin, and sea salt in a mini food processor and process until smooth. Add the cilantro, vinegar, and olive oil. Process again until smooth and emulsified.
2 large or 4 small shallots, skinned and thinly sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
- Place oil and sliced shallots in a small frying pan and slowly bring up to bubbling. Continue cooking until the shallots are golden, about 10 minutes. Remove shallots and drain on paper towels.