Grocery shopping in new countries is always an experience and it takes time to adjust to. Like any foreigner, at first all you see is what is different and finding foods from home is like finding gold. People always whine about the foods I take with me or devour when I return home because they aren’t typically the healthiest foods. I love my maple syrup from Canada, my cream soda flavoured energy juice from South Africa (it’s delicious!), Speculoos from Holland, and a few other unmentionables but, as I remind everyone, you can get apples everywhere. Yes, the fresh produce may differ slightly in the countries I have lived in but the basics are usually available, like spinach.
France being known for food, I figured the grocery stores would be the best I had ever stepped into. Well, they are pretty normal. Except for the cheese. There are endless varieties of cheese. Brie and camembert seem to be the losers surrounded by odd looking types with intriguing names. There are different sections too. There is the normal cheese in the dairy section by the yogurt and milk but the cheese takes up an entire row, not just a portion of the aisle. Then there is the deli cheese counter which is also huge. Oh, and even the cheap cheese is stinky here.
However, apparently spinach is hard to come by in France. Usually when I grocery shop, I leave the fresh and refrigerated items until the end but lately I make a bee line for the spinach as soon as I step in the store. Desperately seeking spinach after almost 2 weeks without, I ventured to the big town down the highway to the big posh grocery store. It was late afternoon and the after work rush was just starting but I had my fight face on. I went straight to the fresh produce to find it was very crowded. Almost ready to elbow some fellow shoppers out of the way, I finally wiggled through the French ladies and grabbed the last bag. Score!
In honour of spinach, I came up with this quick noodle bowl that is also full of protein. Although you’ll need a hand or stick blender, it only takes 15-20 min. You can use other greens, like kale, if you are also spinach-challenged.
Spinach Protein Noodle Bowl
Makes 2 large mains.
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 thumb ginger, minced
- 1 tbl olive oil
- 1 cup stock
- 1 tbl lemon juice
- ¾ cup chickpeas, cooked
- ¼ tsp chilli (optional)
- 125g rice noodles
- ¾ cup chickpeas
- 4 handfuls spinach
- ¼ cashews
- 1 tbl sesame seeds
- Saute garlic and ginger in olive oil on medium high heat until edges begin to brown. Remove from heat, set aside.
- Using a hand blender, combine stock, ¾ cup chickpeas, garlic and ginger mix, lemon juice, and chilli if using until smooth. Set aside.
- Prepare rice noodles according to package instructions.
- Meanwhile, wash and prepare spinach, removing any long stems and pat leaves dry.
- Sauté spinach on medium heat with remaining chickpeas until spinach is warm and soft, not wilted.
- Strain noodles.
- To serve: Divide noodles between two bowls, forming a “nest” shape. Pile half of the spinach leaves in the middle of each bowl. Spoon half the sautéed chickpeas into each bowl. Pour or spoon sauce around the spinach in each bowl, approx. ½ cup each or as desired. Top with cashews and sesame seeds. Serve immediately.