Kate Jones' Chickpeas and Spinach

We asked Kate Jones, the brilliant designer behind the jewelry line, Ursa Major, to share one of her favorite  dishes. Kate lives in Maine, where she keeps a kitchen garden and cooks avidly. And, best of all, she loves a mortar & pestle!

"I picked up the Moro cook book, some 15+ years ago while living in Melbourne, Australia. This chickpea and spinach recipe was the first thing I made from it, and it's made a reliable appearance in every subsequent place I've lived in. It's probably my husband's most requested meal, and the unexpected breadcrumb component takes it from a veggie meal to a superb comfort food.

I cook by feel and taste—typically following a recipe once, then abandoning it for the sake of practice, personal tastes, and shortcuts. You can find the original recipe online if you want to follow their exact measurements, but I'm gonna give you my fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants version that uses my beloved 'Alice's Mortar and Pestle' for a little shortcut action.

• Extra virgin olive oil
• 3-4 large cloves of garlic
• Salt (flay sea salt if you have it- it's extra good for grinding up with)
• Chili pepper in whatever form and heat level you prefer (I added this amazing heirloom chili powder from Chimayo, NM, along with my favorite Urfa Biber pepper flakes which have slight spice and raisiny flavor)
• One tablespoon (if dried) or two (if fresh) of oregano (fresh is ABSOLUTELY recommended if you can, but freshly dried is second best)
• 1 1/2 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
• 1/2 tsp of ground coriander 
• 1 1/2- 2 cups of breadcrumbs (you choose!)
• 1/2lb of dried chickpeas or two standard sized cans
• 1 pound of cooking greens- I've used chard, kale, spinach, and collard greens- any are great
• Vegetable or chicken stock, enough to cover the chickpeas by about 1/2" (about 4 cups)
• 1 pinch of saffron (20 strands or so, I like to get the hint of saffron without it getting overpowering as it can...)
• Smoked paprika


Start with making the magical breadcrumb mixture in the mortar and pestle.  Roughly chop up the garlic and toss into the mortar along with the chili powder and/or pepper flakes, oregano, salt, ground coriander, and about a tablespoon of the olive oil. Grind until you get a paste-like consistency. Add the breadcrumbs and another tablespoon or two of olive oil, along with the red wine vinegar. 

Continue mixing it in the mortar—it doesn't matter if the breadcrumbs get totally broken down, the idea is to make this yummy, thick breadcrumb paste that bulks up the chickpeas. I grabbed a can of Panko breadcrumbs for this special COVID occasion, but if you have bread that's stale you can leave it out until totally dry and process in a blender to make homemade breadcrumbs. And if you're one of those many folks making sourdough at home, you can cut some up and toast it. I typically choose that method but wanted to see if we could get it an equally delicious result with something store bought (it was). At this point I like to taste the mixture and see if it needs anything, you should definitely taste the vinegar, garlic, oregano, and chili. If you can't pick up on one of those flavors, add more of it.

Next, take your chickpeas, canned or freshly soaked and cooked, and toss them in a large pan with olive oil to coat. Cover them with about 1/2" of stock—chicken or veggie.  Cook on medium heat.  When the water is hot, sprinkle the saffron threads over it and cook until the liquid is cut down by about 1/2 or less. I like to partially mash the chickpeas, leaving plenty of whole ones, but this helps them to absorb some of that good broth and makes them extra ready for the next step.
While the chickpeas simmer, cook the greens in olive oil with a little salt and pepper until just wilted. Set aside. Add the breadcrumb mixture to the chickpeas and stir until mostly combined. Then add the greens and mix through. Sprinkle the smoked paprika over the top and serve! I had some delicious cilantro micro greens from our local farm share so I topped with that and a little of my favorite olive oil (you know the kind you reserve only for the very best things??)
Photo of Kate: Greta Rybus. All photos courtesy Kate Jones.