janet @ the taste space

Greek Lemon-Dill Chickpeas with Spinach (& a Mediterranean Vegan Diet)

In Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) on March 3, 2013 at 7:37 AM

Greek Lemon-Dill Chickpeas with Spinach

Did you catch the news about the Mediterranean diet preventing heart disease? I won’t rehash the study, but it compared a Mediterranean diet (either with supplemental olive oil or nuts) with a supposedly “low-fat” diet (which was not low-fat due to poor adherence) in over 7000 people at high risk for heart disease. In short, the study intervention (in addition to medication) was to eat high levels of vegetables, fruits, nuts (almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts), legumes, fish, and olive oil.

The full dietary recommendations are listed in their appendix here: a) lots of olive oil (at least 4 tbsp if in the olive oil arm of the study), b) at least 2 daily servings of vegetables, c) at least 2 daily servings of fruits, d) at least 3 weekly servings of legumes, e) at least 3 weekly servings of fish, f) at least 1 weekly servings of nuts or seeds (at least an oz of nuts a day if in the nuts arm of the study), g) white meat only, h) olive oil-simmered tomato-onion-garlic sauce at least 2 times a week. Raw and unsalted nuts, eggs, fish, seafood, low-fat cheese, dark chocolate (with at least 50% cocoa) and whole grain cereals were encouraged. A switch to red wine as a primary source of alcohol was encouraged in people who normally consumed alcohol. Other sweets, pastries, red meat, fatty cheese, cream, butter, potato chips, and French fries were discouraged. Their suggested recipes are posted online, however in Spanish.

Turns out there was a benefit in reduced myocardial infarctions, strokes and deaths in both arms of the study group compared to the controls. So much so (a whopping 30% reduction) that they stopped the study earlier than anticipated due to a reduction in heart disease. It would be unethical to allow people to continue with the control diet when the intervention was so much better. Not that all heart disease was eliminated entirely, it was reduced. Most remarkably, the dietary changes improved outcomes in addition to their medications.

Sounds like a radical diet? Cut out the crap and eat the good food?

Sometimes I feel like most of the benefits from so-called diets, whether it be plant-based vegan, Paleo or the Mediterranean diet, are mostly from removing the processed foods and replacing them with wholesome whole foods. Start cooking your food at home. As both the oil and nut arms of the study improved outcomes, it is difficult to pinpoint the important parts of the diet.  That’s the hard part of nutrition research. Do you need fish (unlikely) or the omega 3 fatty acids? Do you need to drink red wine? Which fats are important? Interestingly enough, despite improved heart health, no one lost weight on this diet.

Following a plant-based whole foods approach is what makes most sense to me. As mentioned in the New York Times article, others support a no-oil vegan diet for reducing heart disease. Instead of oil, fat comes from nuts and avocados. I don’t plan on changing my focus (BEANS and GREENS!) but for some reason I seem to have a hankering for more Mediterranean-inspired meals recently. I may go find myself some olives, too.

Ever since I really enjoyed my Spanish Chickpeas and Spinach with Roasted Garlic, and munching on my very freezer-friendly Greek Stewed Swiss Chard with Tomatoes, Mint and Lima Beans, I have been on the look-out for more ways to cook down my greens in a skillet.

Enter this super easy Greek chickpea and spinach skillet with lemon and dill. It looks deceivingly simple. It does not deceive you: it is simple. It deceives you because it tastes a lot better than you might think. You can taste each component of the meal and the lemony-dill aspect complements the nutty chickpeas and silky spinach. The chickpeas ended up creamy, too, with the brief cooking in the pan…. and the spinach, well, its wilts away, allowing you to eat a lot more greens than you may have thought possible.

Any thoughts on the diet du jour? Any recommended Mediterranean recipes?

Greek Lemon-Dill Chickpeas with Spinach

Need more Mediterranean inspiration?

Fasoulia (Carrots and Green Beans Simmered in a Tomato Sauce)

Mediterranean Crustless Vegetable Chickpea Flour Quiche

Chickpeas Romesco

Lemon Mediterranean Lentil Salad

Warm Mediterranean Chickpea and Spinach Salad

Warm Chickpea and Artichoke Salad

Mediterranean Collard Wrap with Hummus, Artichoke Hearts and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Spanish Lentil and Squash Stew with Roasted Garlic

Greek Baked Beans (Gigantes Plaki)

Moroccan Tagine of Lima Beans, Cherry Tomatoes and Black Olives

Greek Lemon and Quinoa Soup (Vegan Avgolemono)

Spanish Green Bean and Lima Bean Stew

Spanish Lentil and Mushroom Stew

Spanish Chickpea and Squash Stew with Pears (Olla Gitana)

Spanish Chickpea Salad with Capers and Roasted Red Peppers

Spanish Baked Eggs on a Red Pepper Ragout

This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Elena, and to this month‘s Herbs on Saturday.

Greek Lemon-Dill Chickpeas with Spinach
Adapted from Supermarket Vegan

1 tbsp coconut oil (or olive oil)
1 small onion, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1.5 cups cooked chickpeas
2 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped (or 2 tsp dried dill)
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper, to taste
1 bunch of spinach, stemmed and coarsely chopped (300g prepped)

1. In a large skillet over medium heat, add oil. Once hot, add onion and saute until softened, around 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and saute for 1 minute more. Add chickpeas and dill and cook for an additional 2 minutes, until heated through. Deglaze with the lemon juice and season to taste. Stir in half of the spinach until it wilts and then add the remaining spinach. Cover and cook until wilted, 1-2 minutes tops. It can quickly overcook. Stir well and serve with rice or quinoa.

Serves 4 with a side (2 as a main).

  1. Looks mighty good and very healthy. I’ll give it a try tomorrow.

  2. Simple and delicious! Thank you for the recipe!

  3. Very nice….and good for you too~

  4. Yum! I love pretty much anything with lemon and dill and add in my favourite legume and you’ve got a winner there!

    I think I actually eat really close to the Mediterranean diet. I feel best when I eat lots of healthy fats from nuts, seeds and oils, tons of greens and veggies and some grains and legumes. I think there’s a lot to be said to just focusing on whole food ingredients and then finding what works for you within that. There’s not going to be one diet for everyone!

  5. That looks delicious and fairly easy. Thanks for entering in this month’s Herbs on Saturday!

  6. I love how people get so shocked over these studies, like they can’t believe eating non-processed healthy food makes you healthier…it’s so funny. I’d say I eat pretty close to a mediterranean diet…lots of beans, veggies, nuts, olive oil so I’m all for the idea that it will make me healthier! This dish look so delicious. simple and satisfying.

  7. […]  1) Greek Lemon-Dill Chickpeas with Spinach […]

  8. I think the point was that the people that took part in the study were all old aged and ripe for problems with their health. They were seeing if adhering to a med diet would help them reverse their existing health problems and minimise costs to the health care system but it does reinforce the fact that unprocessed food is gonna do it every single time compared to highly processed sugary fatty grub. I am flabergasted at how many “studies” are done on this…you would think that we would be past getting excited about the “latest greatest” fad ingredient to hit the markets but as marketing ploys it really does work to get someone to do a study and push your desired ingredients. Just eat unprocessed foods that you cook at home folks and 9 times out of 10 you will be better off 🙂

    • I am totally with you but it is sad that there is not that much rigorous research to support such intuitive thinking! Basically this tells me, anything better than eating processed crap is good for you. The actual components are less convincing. 😉

  9. Love when simple meals turn out so delicious, and when greens wilt down so a TON can fit into one meal. This looks great!

  10. I’ve also been wondering about how/if you can separate out some of the components of this diet by importance… I find it hard to believe that tomato sauce is as important as overall fat/fiber content, etc. Maybe also important is the fact that dairy was not an important part of this diet. So many people I talk to have been convinced by the dairy industry into thinking that dairy products are the ONLY source of calcium…

    I think people’s bodies vary so much, and that we are so adaptable, but personally I am a huge fan of fat. “Good” fats: avocados, nuts, olive oil, etc. If I don’t eat enough fat, I get hungry and cranky. In this respect, I think there was a tiny bit of wisdom in that Atkins diet craze, though of course those people were eating pretty much the worst food ever!

    So I guess, insofar as this study redeems a) not eating processed crap and b) eating a variety of foods and food groups (ie not low-fat, low-carb, etc)… wait. We already knew all this! 🙂

  11. Hi, the round up is on line…. thanks for your participation!!!

  12. Wow!! I am always looking for more chickpea recipes. This looks perfect!

  13. […] am loving the conversations from the last post about the evidence surrounding eating a Mediterranean diet. The New York Times wrote a follow-up […]

  14. I’ve been enjoying cooked greens more lately too. I love how this is a simple sounding dish but I can see how it would taste better than you expect with the lemon, garlic and dill!

  15. Yep, read about that article and come to think of it, sure, why not, specially when you go vegetarian greek, it sounds like the least calories and with great taste. I am all for it 🙂

    Love your recipe and it looks super healthy. Please do send it to my “Healthy Me & Healthy Us” event. Please do read the event rules 🙂

  16. Mediterranean cooking sing spices! Thats why for the pepper to taste, I dont hesitate and choose Kampot pepper. This pepper for gourmet is very fragrant, an amazing taste compare black peppers from supermarket.

  17. […] Greek Lemon-Dill Chickpeas with Spinach – by The Taste Space […]

  18. Thanks for the recipes !

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