Chickpea Stew, Complex and Colorful, From Meager Beginnings

Chickpea stew with orzo and mustard greens.

What’s for Dinner? answers that universal question, offering recipes for simple, relatively quick dishes that use ingredients you can pick up on the way home.

A can of chickpeas in the pantry means a hearty dinner on the table, no matter what else is in your refrigerator. Simmer the peas with some olive oil, crushed red pepper and a bit of garlic and you’ve got a satisfying stew that belies its meager beginnings.

While I’ve made this bare-bones braise many times, when there are vegetables in the house, I add them. It makes for a lighter and more complex stew that’s prettier, too. You can vary the vegetables; just use what you’ve got. Here I keep to the basics, adding carrots for sweetness, fennel or celery for depth, cherry tomatoes for looks. Tender greens, wilted into the bubbling mixture at the end, are optional, but they do add a bright, almost herbal note. I particularly love using baby mustard greens, which are pleasantly peppery. But spinach, arugula and kale work well, too.

Simmered altogether, this dish ends up being one of those warming, one-pot meals that falls somewhere between a stew and a soup. You can even bring it around in one direction or another by adjusting the amount of water. Less water equals something thick enough to eat with a fork. Add a little more water and/or stock and it will be just right for spooning up. Or split the difference and serve it with a spork.

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