Spanish-inspired Chickpeas, Chorizo and Spinach, inspired by the written word

by Terry B on July 15, 2009

Spanish chorizo, chickpeas, spinach and sweet paprika create hearty, Iberian-influenced fare that comes together in just minutes. Recipe below.


Adam Platt has a way with words. His restaurant reviews in New York magazine almost always contain at least one turn of phrase that, even if I’m not interested in the restaurant in question, get me thinking about food in new ways. So when I recently read his review of George Mendes’ sophisticated new restaurant Aldea and came across the phrase chorizo nickels, I knew I would be doing something with this dense, paprika-powered Spanish sausage that included slicing it into nickel-sized pieces.

spanish-chorizo-smallSpanish chorizo is made from coarsely chopped fatty pork and seasoned with Spanish paprika, salt and garlic. That’s pretty much it. Spicier versions will also include small dried hot chiles. In Portugal, they make a similar sausage called chouriço. Both are completely different from Mexican chorizo, which is made from ground pork.

Chickpeas [or garbanzo beans] are packed with nutrients and fiber, making them an ideal staple in many cultures. They play a big role in Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, European, African and Indian cuisines, for instance.

The Stanfords travel website calls chorizo and chickpeas “emblematic ingredients of Spanish cooking,” and you’ll often find them paired in Spanish recipes, especially for tapas dishes. Because chickpeas are so protein-rich, the chorizo can serve as a flavoring in this dish and not as the primary source of protein—you use just four ounces of chorizo here. Fresh spinach adds plenty of nutritional punch too, making this quick and easy dish a complete meal in a bowl. It’s a flavorful dish too. Paprika, another “emblematic” Spanish ingredient, makes it fragrant and delicious.

Chickpeas with Chorizo and Spinach is an ideal weeknight dinner. The prep work is minimal—slice some chorizo, mince some garlic, zest and juice a lemon, drain a can of chickpeas. And once you’ve turned on the flame under the skillet, you’re less than 10 minutes from sitting down at the table. The paprika-rich big flavor also makes it perfect for a small plate or tapas dish.

Chickpeas with Chorizo and Spinach
2 main-course or 6 to 8 small-plate servings

3 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces Spanish chorizo, sliced thin
1 clove garlic, minced
15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon sweet paprika [see Kitchen Notes]
5 to 6 ounces baby spinach [or regular spinach, chopped]
juice and zest of 1 lemon
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium flame. Add oil. When it starts to shimmer, add chorizo and lightly brown, stirring occasionally, for 1 to 2 minutes. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Add chickpeas and paprika. Stir to coat chickpeas with oil and paprika [the most wonderful smells will fill the kitchen at this point] and cook until chickpeas are just heated through, stirring frequently, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add spinach [in batches, if necessary], tossing to coat it with oil and wilt it. When the spinach is just wilted, remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice and zest. Serve immediately or let cool to room temperature to serve.

Kitchen Notes

Stick with sweet paprika. Spanish paprika, or pimentón, is a key flavoring in Spanish cuisine. Many recipes call for smoked paprika, but I think it would take over this dish, masking other flavors. The chorizo adds just the right amount of smoke. Use Spanish sweet paprika, if you have it. I used Hungarian sweet paprika because it’s what I had on hand. And besides, the Hungarians certainly know a thing or two about paprika too.


{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Kim July 15, 2009 at 5:35 am

This looks so fresh and full of flavor! Very nice!

Carolyn July 15, 2009 at 2:00 pm

I wonder if the natural mold that grows on aged chorizo is specific to where it’s made, like certain cheeses or sourdough bread, both of which taste of where they are produced and what people are around.

Laura July 15, 2009 at 2:26 pm

Oh Terry, I just wrote about Barcelona today and you are bringing me back there with this delicious sounding recipe! Wonder if it might be nice with a little sherry thrown in? Nigella’s spanish stew, of which I am a massive fan, makes great use of it and the taste is wonderful…

Terry B July 15, 2009 at 2:47 pm

Thanks, Kim!

Carolyn—Leave it to a science writer to think about the mold. I’m guessing that most commercial producers of chorizo rely on commercial starter mold cultures, but you do raise an interesting question about how smaller producers might achieve this and whether or not it affects the taste and the whole terroir aspect of sausage production. Among other things, for instance, the diet of the pigs would have a definite influence on the flavor, as would the source of the paprika used.

Laura—Some sherry might make a good addition. Although so would throwing a little sherry into the diners. Marion’s long been a fan of sherries, but I only recently got interested in them at a sherry tasting at the National Restaurant Association’s annual show.

Carol July 16, 2009 at 1:24 am

Thanks for the chorizo primer…combining them with chickpeas sounds a perfect match–both bold flavors.
I like to share a little aside to the sherry discussion, specially the ‘adding it to the diners’ part. It reminds me of your other blog today, about the tote-your-own shopping bags. When I lived in England the village liquor store sold sherry out of big, was it oak? casks, just like out of Poe’s story. You brought your OWN bottle in and they filled it: amontillado, golden, I forget the selection. I thought that was pretty cool.

Alta July 16, 2009 at 1:46 pm

This looks so yummy. I love chorizo, and this does indeed look like a speedy dinner!

Jean July 17, 2009 at 7:53 pm

I hate chorizo that is all heat and no flavor. It’s happened more times than I care to count. I have to start writing down all the meat counters at the market that I visit and keep a running tally on who has what. I’m still looking for the right balance, and when I do, this recipe is at the top of the list to try.– Jean

Nishta July 17, 2009 at 9:07 pm

oh yes sir! so I’ve done these flavors before, minus the chorizo, in a bread-thickened stew with some tomato. while that’s certainly yummy, I’m always up for a new way to use chorizo–I think I get into a rut, being down here in Texas, of always employing it at breakfast, or occasionally as a component for stuffed portobellos. I’m certain it will thank you for offering it a new job in my kitchen.

Miakoda July 18, 2009 at 2:42 pm

Protein, chickpeas and spinach- sounds very nutritious! A beautiful dish!

joan Nova July 19, 2009 at 1:54 am

You’ve hit on 3 staples in my kitchen with this post! I’m a first time visitor to Blue Kitchen but enjoyed my visit and have subscribed so I don’t miss future posts. Nice work!

Terry B July 19, 2009 at 6:01 am

Carol—Thanks so much for the cool sherry story! We bought some grapeseed oil from a place here in Chicago that will give us a discount on our next batch if we bring in the bottle for them to refill.

Thanks, Alta! Yes, it is an impressively quick dish.

Jean—Check the ingredients list. If it doesn’t include chiles, you’re probably okay.

Nishta—Chorizo with portobello mushrooms sounds absolutely wonderful!

Thanks for stopping by, Miakoda!

Welcome to Blue Kitchen, joan Nova!

altadenahiker July 20, 2009 at 2:28 am

I came, I saw, I ate. (Spanish chorizo took some getting.)

Jean July 20, 2009 at 9:16 pm

Checking ingredients lists can work when there are some. I usually go to the west side market here in Cleveland. They are not prepackaged meats. — oh well, gives me an excuse to experiement.

Terry B July 21, 2009 at 2:17 pm

altadenahiker—But once you got the Spanish chorizo, the hardest step was done, right?

Jean—Sounds like you’re getting great stuff then! Just ask the guys behind the counter how spicy it is—they can often be quite helpful.

Otehlia Cassidy July 27, 2009 at 8:38 pm

Nice to read about Spanish chorizo. I’ve been using Mexican Chorizo, but never quite knew what to do with the harder version. It reminds me of the Tyrolian sausage I grew up with. I will have to try this recipe.

Terry B July 28, 2009 at 6:18 pm

Otehlia—It really is closer to sausages in its density and texture. I hope you enjoy it!

zac September 10, 2009 at 5:36 pm

I love that great blogs like this have great blog rolls on the side. It is like food linking heaven in here! I will be back if I don’t get lost.

Terry B September 10, 2009 at 5:50 pm

Thanks so much, Zac! After a quick look at your blog, I’ve already bookmarked it. I’m a sucker for good, thoughtful writing. And I love the Jill quotes. You’re right—no one will really come to know your wife from these brief statements. Calvin Trillin’s wife Alice knew that people got completely the wrong impression of her from his writings. But in both cases, they will have some sense of your wonderful marriages, and perhaps that is enough.

zac September 10, 2009 at 6:37 pm

Thanks Terry!

Yeah, the wife totally knows as soon as she says something that may end up in the blog. Sometimes she starts with saying: “And this is NOT a Jill quote!”

Liv March 31, 2012 at 6:44 am

I just found this recipe from a link on Summer Tomato and cooked it tonight – delicious!

Terry B March 31, 2012 at 2:29 pm

I’m glad you liked it, Liv! I love when older posts like this one get new comments.

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