This meal wasn’t going to be a post. It was just meant to be dinner. But suddenly, the kitchen was smelling heavenly (assuming there’s cumin in heaven, and I certainly hope so). And when I served the chops and spooned the chickpea spinach mixture next to them, the plates looked really inviting. So before cutting into my chop, I had Marion taste hers. She smiled and nodded, and here we are.
This particular dish came together because we’ve been eating too much chicken. We love chicken, but even for us, there’s been a lot of it. So when I saw a nice looking pair of pork chops in the grocery store, I grabbed them. My first thought for sides were mashed potatoes and a salad, quick and easy. But we’ve been doing those a lot lately too.
So I asked myself what we hadn’t been doing lately. Chickpeas immediately came to mind. These delicious, nutty-tasting beans are packed with proteins and other nutrients. No wonder they’ve spread from their Middle Eastern beginnings to tables all over the world.
I love cooking like this, by the way, making up the dish as I shop. After picking up a can of chickpeas, I headed back to the produce department for some spinach, another nutrient powerhouse. Onion and garlic would round out the produce for this meal. For the spices, I would go with salt, pepper, lots of cumin, a little chili powder and, to heat things up on a winter night, some cayenne pepper. Heading for the checkout, I could already smell and taste everything coming together.
Pork Chops with Chickpeas, Spinach and Cumin
Serves 2 (can easily be doubled)
2 bone-in pork chops, about 1-inch thick and 8 ounces each
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 to 5 cups loosely packed baby spinach (about 3 ounces)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 15-1/2-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup reduced sodium chicken broth (or water)
About 1/2 hour before cooking, let chops come to room temperature on a plate on the kitchen counter. (Don’t leave them in their package, especially if they’re on a Styrofoam tray – its insulating properties will keep them too chilled.)
Mix the cumin, chili powder and cayenne pepper in a small bowl. Set aside. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, lidded skillet over medium flame. When the oil is shimmering, add the spinach in handfuls, tossing to coat with oil. When all the spinach is incorporated, remove the pan from heat and cover. Let stand for 3 to 5 minutes; the spinach will wilt and condense greatly in volume.
Meanwhile, pat chops dry with paper towel and season on both sides with salt, pepper and half of the cumin mixture. Gently press the seasonings into the chops. Transfer the wilted spinach to a bowl with a slotted spoon and set aside. Wipe the pan clean with paper towels and heat 2 more tablespoons of oil over medium flame. Sauté chops for 5 minutes on one side, tilting the pan occasionally to make sure they stay in contact with oil and don’t scorch. Turn chops and cook for another 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
Add onion to pan, drizzling in more oil, if needed. Cook for about 4 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid burning or browning too much; reduce heat slightly, if necessary. When onions are just softening and turning translucent, add garlic to pan and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Add chickpeas to pan, sprinkle with remaining cumin mixture and stir to combine. Add chicken broth or water to pan. Nestle chops among chickpeas, adding any accumulated juices, cover pan and reduce heat to low. Cook until chops are just cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes. An instant read thermometer should read 145 degrees F when inserted in the thickest part of the chop (avoid touching bone with the thermometer).
Transfer chops to a plate and tent with foil. Add spinach to skillet and toss to combine. Cook until spinach is just heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Adjust seasonings. Plate chops and spoon chickpea spinach mixture alongside. Serve.
Related post: Turkish Style Red Lentil Soup with Chard