It’s a common theme this time of year in my favorite food blogs and magazines: the final lap through the end of winter and into the growing season. It is a relief to hear others say that they too, cannot deal with the last three turnips in their vegetable drawer, or hear the words “stew” or “braise” without kicking their oven door. For myself, I have been inundating the Washington Post’s food chat each week with questions tantamount to “I’m booooooooored! What can I cook noooooow?” Spring is so, so close! But while we wait for ramps and asparagus, I am not opposed to the occasional clamshell of mini heirloom tomatoes from Trader Joe’s, particularly in a recipe calling for them to be charred, an effective technique for glossing over any out-of-season wimpiness in vegetables.
When I saw this pasta dish in February’s Bon Appétit, I was not enthused. I generally hate prepared hummus. It has never made sense to me, when homemade is so easy and so much better- yes, I realize this is true of many foods, but hummus is my particular bugbear. But when it’s raining and you’re consumed with culinary ennui, sometimes you just want a dinner that will have you on the couch in time for Glee. Here, the hummus provides texture rather than the predominant flavor, while the smoked paprika (fact: the best spice ever) elevates the dish above your average meal of pantry staples.
Pasta with Chickpeas and Charred Tomatoes
From Bon Appétit, February 2011
8 ounces penne pasta
1 small container purchased plain hummus
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large container cherry or mini heirloom tomatoes
1 15-ounce can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid. Whisk hummus into liquid.
Meanwhile, heat oil in large heavy skillet (preferably cast iron) over high heat. Add tomatoes; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until blackened in spots, shaking skillet occasionally, about 8 minutes. Mix in chickpeas, garlic, and smoked paprika. Crush some of the tomatoes to release juices. Add pasta and enough hummus mixture to coat. Toss to combine, add cilantro, and season with salt and pepper.