Orecchiette with chickpeas, tomatoes, feta, and mint (6 servings)

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It's so hot outside that I can't even think about cooking right now.  I'm already planning to make a lunch of crackers, an apple, and whatever leftovers I can find in the fridge.  Dinner may be cereal or peanut butter and jelly, as we're running out of groceries and can't justify stocking up when we're moving at the end of next week.  It's too hot to cook anyway.

Last week, we had our friends Jess and Matt over for dinner to get caught up on their wedding preparations.  (This is the first wedding I'll be in besides my own!)  I wanted to make them something unique and hearty, and although it was cooler last week than it is this week, I still wasn't willing to heat up the kitchen too much. 

This recipe from Epicurious turned out to be a perfect compromise.

You will need:

  • 1 lb dried orecchiette (I've also used medium shell pasta, as in the photo)
  • 2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 7 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1/3 cup sliced scallions
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 8 oz feta cheese, crumbled (I used whole milk feta and would recommend the same)
  • salt and pepper

Steps:

  1. Start heating up a stockpot of water for the pasta.  Meanwhile, cut the cherry tomatoes in half and place them in a large bowl.  To this bowl, add 6 Tbsp of the olive oil, along with the mint, scallions, parsley, and garlic.  Add a pinch of salt and pepper and set the bowl aside.
  2. Cook the pasta according to package directions, being careful to not overcook it.  Drain.
  3. As soon as you start cooking the pasta, warm the remaining Tbsp of oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the drained chickpeas to the skillet and cook them for about 5 minutes, or until they're lightly browned.  (Their sizzling and popping made me giggle.)
  4. Add the drained pasta and the browned chickpeas to the tomato mixture and toss to coat.  Add the crumbled feta and toss briefly.  You can serve this warm or let it cool to room temperature.

This recipe features several lovely pairings: tomatoes and pasta, chickpeas and parsley, feta and mint.  The dish was filling and refreshing, and it gave me a great opportunity to use up some local tomatoes and some of the mint that's quickly taking over our back porch.  I made this dish about half an hour before our guests arrived and then let it sit in a warm oven under tented foil until we were ready to eat.  I imagine it would make a nice cold summer side dish, actually!  I could see bringing this to a cookout, especially because it's so colorful.

If you don't want to heat up two burners, I think you could skip browning the chickpeas.  It gave them a crunchier texture, and I'm glad that I did do that step, but I really don't think you'd miss much by skipping it.  I'm sure you could just drain them and add them to the tomatoes if you're pressed for time.