Working With What You Have: The Saddest Pantry in the World

Posted by on Monday Jun 22nd, 2009 | Print

DISH: Middle Eastern Pasta Salad

MAIN INGREDIENT: Whole Wheat Pasta

Between weekends away and long days at work, I hadn’t had time to food shop in a while. I had been eating lunches out, mainly, and dinners too, and when I was home, I reverted to good old stables of pasta, eggs, and toast. (Cereal, even, was out, since I was too lazy to buy milk.) I tried to get my veggies in at lunch, with salads, and that way I felt less guilty about not having anything terribly nutritious if I did wind up needing to eat at home.
Still, a girl can grow homesick for her own tiny kitchen. She can also grow sick of eating out, and her wallet can become weak and flimsy from forking out so much cash. That’s when it’s time to revert to good old habits of eating at home, even when it appears that there is nothing really to work with.
Though the ingredients in this pasta salad, which I brought in for lunch a couple days running, may seem peculiar, I promise this dish is not only the result of bare cabinets: I really was also thinking about what would taste good together. In fact, if the cooking gods would will it, I’d make this pasta again, nearly as is – only perhaps with the addition of a little something green.
From my kitchen, where the pantry sometimes suffers from depression, to yours,
Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
**Recipe**
Middle-Eastern Pasta Salad With Dates
Serves 2-3

If adding spinach sounds like a good idea to you, put in about 2 cups of washed leaves when you add the dates and the reserved pasta water. Cook until wilted. A tablespoon or two of chopped parsley would also work well as an accent.

Ingredients
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cumin
pinch each of: cayenne pepper, cinnamon, and turmeric
4 ounces whole wheat pasta—not spaghetti
5 dates, diced
1 cup chickpeas, drained
1/2 ounce aged cheese—gouda, if you have it, or Parmesan, about 1/3 cup grated
1/4 teaspoon salt
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions, then drain, reserving about a cup of pasta water.
Meanwhile, warm the oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is golden and fragrant, adjusting the heat as necessary so it doesn’t burn. Add the coriander and other spices, plus the salt, then add the chickpeas. Let them cook about 5 minutes, being careful still not to burn the garlic, until firmed and covered in spices. Add the dates and about 1/4 cup of the pasta water, and cook until thickened. Put as much of the drained pasta into the saucepan as will fit, stir to mix, and then dump the whole thing into a large bowl. Add a bit more pasta water as necessary to distribute the spices, dates, and chickpeas evenly, and then mix in the cheese. Taste for salt. Serve warm, room temp, or cold.
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  • Sarah L

    your pantry isnt sad! its so happy and always has ingredients for carrot cookies in case i come over!