Lemony Broccoli and Chickpea Pasta

There’s nothing like a busted refrigerator to make you appreciate technology, even the relatively low-tech variety. On Friday morning I went to prepare a big ol’ iced de-haf and discovered that instead of actual cubes, the ice trays held tiny slivers floating in individual baths of cold water. The frozen meat still had ice crystals—good sign—but the popsicles were feeling decidedly gooey. Clearly, our freezer had gone kaput hours ago, maybe even days ago. I couldn’t tell if the fridge section was dead too—the light came on so it wasn’t an electricity issue, but I didn’t hear a motor running or anything. A quick call to the landlady put the ball back in our court: She wanted us to call Sears (it’s an ancient Kenmore) and have them send a repairman. Which I did, even though I’m pretty sure the guy’s going to shrug and pronounce the patient DOA. First available appointment: TUESDAY.

Stephen made another quick call, this time to our upstairs neighbors—they’re moving out so their fridge is practically empty, and they kindly let us transfer our perishables. Not wanting to be a hog (and somehow slightly embarrassed by just how much food we keep around), I only sent up the items that cost more than a couple bucks each—the frozen meat, the leftover herb-marinated chicken from the night before, the parmigiano reggiano. I left behind the ground turkey and we had burgers for dinner that night, made with a slightly weird combo of chili sauce, hoisin, mustard, and Worcestershire (pretty much any open condiment that seemed like it might possibly work). They weren’t bad! Even though I knew we were in for days without refrigeration, I also left behind most of the convenience food—veggie burgers, frozen burritos, facon. Yeah, I chose to flush money down the toilet. I realized that yesterday, when I gave up on the fantasy that we’d somehow eat all of it before it went bad.

So now we’re living the way our ancestors lived—buying enough fresh food to last us a day or maybe two, but no more. Three five-pound bags of ice a day, two for the freezer (which we keep in a giant salad bowl, along with a quart of milk) and one for the fridge. A couple nectarines, some cherries, some strawberries. I miss ice cream. I miss smoothies. And did I mention that it’s really hot here now? Even with the bags of ice, the water in the fridge never gets truly cold (and I’m an ice snob—the smell from the storebought cubes totally turns me off). Who knew how important it was to have fresh, clean ice whenever you felt like it? The things we take for granted…

Last night’s dinner was a big salad, using up some of that leftover chicken and the veggies that hadn’t turned putrid. And this afternoon I went to the store and bought a bunch of broccoli for a fantastic pasta recipe I’d ripped out of Food & Wine not long ago—Marc Meyer’s Lemony Broccoli and Chickpea Rigatoni. Meyer is the chef/owner at Five Points, one of my favorite NYC restaurants (as I’ve mentioned before), and this recipe is perfect for a night like tonight: It doesn’t take long, which is good considering the heat; it’s full of humble, fiberiffic stuff like beans and broccoli (and I use Barilla Plus pasta to make it even more nutritious), but his technique takes the flavor up several notches; and the result is so yummy and satisfying that we have almost no leftovers. OK: just to be sure I made less than a full recipe. (And I added a chopped tomato, since it was about to turn to mush.) But we still ate just about every drop. Only a tiny bit to stow in the “freezer”!

Marc Meyer’s Lemony Broccoli and Chickpea Rigatoni
Serves 4 to 6

One 19-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 ½ pounds broccoli, cut into florets
1 pound rigatoni [I used Barilla Plus rotini]
5 large garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
½ t. crushed red pepper
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a medium bowl, toss the chickpeas with the lemon juice and ½ cup of the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the broccoli until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the broccoli to a colander and rinse under cold water until cool. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente.

Meanwhile, in a large, deep skillet, heat the remaining ¼ cup of olive oil. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and cook over moderate heat until the garlic is golden, about 3 minutes. Add the broccoli and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the chickpea mixture and cook until warmed through, about 1 minute.

Drain the pasta, reserving ¼ cup of the cooking water. Add it to the broccoli and chickpeas along with the reserved cooking water and season with salt and pepper. Cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the rigatoni is coated with sauce. Remove from the heat and stir in ½ cup of the Parmesan cheese. Transfer the pasta to a bowl, sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan and serve.