About 6 months before we left Morocco I began to make this version of a recipe I came across on The Kitchn for spinach cooked with coconut milk and lemon and spinach. Then as now, and especially then, the focus was on making wholesome, quick, simple meals from whole food ingredients. I loved making a pot for dinner during rainy stretches; our house creaked and moaned in the wind off the Atlantic Ocean like a huge and leaky ship. Casa had weather and while we do get a bit of rain here and there in Riyadh it is nothing like those wild, drenching storms that tossed around the leaves of the palm tree in our yard and prompted the lush growth of everything from weeds to grass to banana trees to the California poppies we planted in our yard. That city challenged me for sure and I still find that I miss it; life was realer in a sense, or at least we were living in a real city. After eight years in San Francisco and two years in Casablanca the rather quieter life outside of Riyadh proper can feel surreal.
But I still make braised spinach, even when it’s hot out, and it still is delicious. Fragrant with coconut milk and garlic and finished with a good squeeze of lemon this dish fits all the dietary restrictions — it’s gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian. More important, it’s nourishing and fresh and so, so good. It’s in rotation about once per week and is always considered a highlight. When you have an active little one cooking meals that are quick to put together are key; this more than fits that requirement.
Many days feel like a lot of hurry up and go and quick make oatmeal NOW and please sit and finish your dinner and how is it bedtime already? while at the same time I almost feel as though I have my life back in a sense, the occasional terrible night’s sleep aside. And I try to enjoy it, because it will change again; inevitably, we will be moving on again, will be spending a nomadic summer in California again, will be leaving the sunny desert for, hopefully, a clime that gives us more cool and rainy months. The afternoons when I have a happily occupied toddler and can cook or bake in a more leisurely fashion feel like small victories. I tuck them under my belt and keep going.
I serve this over brown basmati rice, quinoa, or millet (shown). A trick with the rice or quinoa is to make it when you have a spare 20 minutes and let it rest in the pot until serving. The Kitchn recommends draping your spinach over a baked sweet potato which also sounds like a fine idea.
Makes 4 servings.
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion
4 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 large lemon, juiced (about 2 tablespoons juice)
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 pound baby spinach
1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon ground ginger
Heat the oil a large, deep Dutch oven or heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is beginning to brown. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add the chickpeas and cook over high heat for a few minutes, until the chickpeas are beginning to turn golden and they are coated with the onion and garlic mixture.
Toss in the spinach, one handful at a time. This will take about 5 minutes; stir in a handful or two and wait for it to wilt down and make room in the pot before adding the next handful. When all the spinach has been added, pour in the coconut milk, salt, ground ginger, and lemon juice. Bring to a simmer, then turn down the heat and cook for 10 minutes, or until the chickpeas are warmed through. Taste and add more salt and lemon juice, if necessary.