The thing you should know about the Netherlands is, that most of the country is bellow sea level. Which means it would be under water, were it not for the ingenious dams holding the sea back. Therefore, if you live in this country, it is essential to learn how to: 1) swim 2) build a raft 3)sail
For this reason my daughter’s school organizes a sailing camp where the students are trained in this essential skill. She went there last week and it turned out to be amazingly educational. Besides learning to sail (somewhat), she learnt to appreciate mom’s cooking. Oh, she’s always appreciated the cakes and the pies, even a good salad, but though she’d eat just about everything, she did not exactly do a happy dance when confronted with a greens&beans dinner. Until know. Because the food at the camp was awful: “We had this really awful ragout with potatoes that were half raw and overcooked red cabbage mush that had no taste at all…” – you get the picture.
She even told me the next day how they agreed with friends at school how nice it was to get a proper meal again! Hurray for sailing camps!
How this dish came about: One of the most important jobs in the garden is thinning. It is a pain to do because it feels like you’re throwing away your future yields, but it’s essential for the healthy growth of vegetables. Fortunately there comes a point where “thinning” becomes “harvesting of gourmet baby vegetables”. I thinned/harvested the beets and chard, added some of the last spinach and mixed them with cooked chickpeas plus some spices, The result was an easy, hearty, nutritious and delicious dinner which I can appreciate even without going on a sailing camp. The food at our school canteen was really awful, too, you see.
Chickpeas with garden greens
I made this dish to use the beets and chard thinnings, but it would be great with just spinach, too. Or just chard. Or just beet greens. They are closely related vegetables, after all. But I love the addition of tiny beets and will surely make it next year again when beets need thinning.
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ tsp red pepper flakes
½ tsp ground cumin
small bunch parsley, finely chopped
250 g (half pound) cherry tomatoes quartered or 1 cup canned chopped tomatoes
3 cups cooked chickpeas or 2 cans, rinsed
salt and pepper
2 bunches of young beets, chard and spinach (any or a mixture of all)
mayonnaise to serve (optional
Remove the stems of spinach. If your beet thinnings already have small bulbs/beets, cut these in half if they are a bit bigger or leave whole if really tiny. Roughly chop the stems of beets and chard. Roughly chop all the leaves as well.
In a large pan, heat the oil, add onion, the beet and chard stems, garlic, spices and half the parsley. Sautee for 2 minutes, then lower the heat to medium and cook until the onion is soft, about 12 minutes. Add tomatoes and chickpeas, season with salt and pepper, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Uncover, add all the leaves and cook until they wilt, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with more salt and pepper. Serve in pasta bowls with a spoonful of mayonnaise added to each and garnished with the remaining parsley.
We served the dish with slices of sourdough bread, but grains such as bulgur or rice are other possibilieties.