This article was originally featured in The 30 Second Wine Advisor's FoodLetter on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2005.

A foodie in Portugal

INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)

20-ounce (567g) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
2 small baking or boiling potatoes
2 cups (480ml) water
1/2 medium yellow or white onion
2 cloves garlic
Bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon salt 1 bunch fresh spinach
1 tablespoon good quality olive oil


1. Open the can of chickpeas and rinse to remove the canning liquid. (If you prefer, you can use dried chickpeas, soaking and cooking them before use, but for this dish I find the canned version tastes fine and is a lot less effort.) Peel the potatoes and cut them into cubes. Put the chickpeas and potatoes in a soup pot with the water. (Optionally, substitute chicken broth for water to make a richer soup. I decided to go with the option that harms no animals in the production of this dinner.)

2. Peel the onion and cut it into chunks. Peel and smash the garlic. Put the onions and garlic in the soup pot, add the bay leaf and the salt, and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat to very low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes or so or until the potatoes are cooked through.

3. Take out and discard the bay leaf and, using a slotted spoon, lift out and reserve about a dozen of the chickpeas. Using a stick or stand blender, blend the rest into a smooth puree and return it to low heat. Put in the fresh, carefully washed spinach and the olive oil, cover, and cook just until the spinach wilts down. Add back the reserved chickpeas as garnish, and serve with crusty bread. (VARIATIONS: In the Portuguese restaurant, the spinach had been cooked much longer than I prefer, and this seemed to be consistent with cooked greens in Portugal. I love my spinach fresh and green and barely wilted, but if authenticity is important to you, feel free to cook it until that beautiful dark green color is gone. Also, it might be easier to eat if you chop or tear the spinach into bite-size pieces before putting it in the soup, but I experienced it as whole leaves with stems, and I enjoyed it like that, eating the soup as the Portuguese do, with fork in left hand and spoon in right, using the two utensils to coax the spinach onto the spoon in tidy bites.)

WINE MATCH: Intuitively, I would have gone for a rich, herbal white wine with this dish. But we were served it with a simple regional Alentejo red in Portugal, and I just happened to have a nice dry Douro red on hand. Sure enough, the rich, "meaty" nature of the bean puree came right up to red wine and made a fetching match with Quinta do Portal 1999 Douro Reserva, a ripe and appropriately oaky blend of 70 percent Touriga Nacional with other Port varieties.