Sometimes I fantasize about living alone. My own little apartment, perhaps with a little dog and a little kitchen where I can cook anything I want. Daydreaming about dinner in between meetings and emails, I would think to myself: What exactly do I want to eat tonight? I wouldn’t care if Dad notices the anchovies that I sneakily melted into a luxurious pasta sauce, or if Mom succumbs to her fear of beans and refuses a hearty, cumin-spiked vegetarian chili. I’d rid my mind of dinner anxiety once and for all, free to focus on precisely what I was craving.
I got home late from work last night and Dad was already clearing sandwich crumbs from the table and Mom was ready to retire to bed with the dog and Oprah. Family dinner wasn’t going to happen, but I had the kitchen all to myself. I decided to reimagine a recipe I hadn’t tried since college.
I went to the pantry and grabbed the 15 oz can of chickpeas that I keep for occasions just like this. Fifteen minutes and one skillet later, that can had been transformed. The beans turned creamy on the inside and slightly crisp on the outside over the gentle coaxing of a hot skillet. They were deep golden from a pinch of bright turmeric and a dusting of toasted cumin. Slivers of fresh garlic, heated slowly until just barely tanned, perfumed the velvety nuggets of protein and left the memory of a great meal on my tongue until late the next morning. I mixed in some baby spinach and waited until its crunchy surface yielded to the spiced steam rising from the beans. I added a few heaping scoops of sundried tomatoes and warmed them through, waiting for their burnt-orange oil to melt into the other ingredients. I whipped up a garlic-dill yogurt (that was more garlic and dill than yogurt) to serve on the side and piled the hot, spicy beans onto a plate of soft, leafy greens.
Somehow this healthy dinner felt indulgent, even mischievous. I ate alone, in front of the TV, like I used to do after school as a teenager (in high school, however, my after school snack was usually a slice of pizza followed by a nap). I enjoyed each bite like a prudent grandmother might savor a half-slice of cake. But it was missing something. I didn’t have Mom to my right, nodding her head and furrowing her brow as we examined the subtle flavors of the meal. I didn’t have Dad across from me, abandoning his fork to tell a story that required the animation of both hands. I’d missed a night to learn a little more about the lives of the people I know best, and it turns out, that may be the secret ingredient to any successful meal.
Garlicky Chickpeas with Sundried Tomatoes, Spinach, and Herbed Yogurt
What you need
- 1 cup yogurt (any kind you like)
- 3 TB chopped fresh herbs (I used dill, but mint would also be great)
- 1-2 tsp granulated garlic (depending on how garlic-crazy you want to get)
- 3 cloves fresh garlic
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 15 oz can chickpeas
- 5 oz box pre-washed baby spinach
- 1/2 cup oil packed sundried tomatoes
What you do
-Combine yogurt, herbs, garlic, and 1/4 tsp salt in a bowl. Set aside.
-Heat a bit of olive oil and 3 cloves of sliced garlic in a skillet over low heat until the garlic is fragrant, 3-4 minutes. Add cumin and turmeric and toast for about 30 seconds. Stir in chickpeas and cook until slightly crisp, about 5 minutes.
-Add spinach with a pinch of salt and cook until wilted, about another 5 minutes. Add sundried tomatoes and heat until everything is warmed through and all of the flavors have melded.
-Enjoy with yogurt, greens and/or crusty bread. Best served with someone you love.