Tunisian Chickpea Soup (Lablabi)

I am a big fan of toppings, so this creamy, earthy, and hearty vegetarian soup caught my eye. It is served over toasted chunks of bread and then garnished with crunchy, spiced chickpeas, lemon zest, parsley, a sprinkle of cumin, and a drizzle of olive oil. I also loved that the soup incorporated a little spice from harissa.

This recipe was adapted from Cool Beans by Joe Yonan, via The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I used a stove top pressure cooker to cook the beans which significantly expedited the cooking process. I also served the soup over toasted sourdough boule chunks in lieu of rustic bread. Great.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

For the Crispy Chickpeas:

  • 1 3/4 cup cooked chickpeas, or 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon za’atar, plus more to taste

For the Soup:

  • 1 1/2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and drained
  • 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 loaf hearty rustic bread (about 6 to 8 ounces)(I used 1/2 of a sourdough boule)
  • 1 cup chopped onion, from 1 medium onion
  • 6 to 8 large garlic cloves, minced or finely grated
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin, plus more for serving
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon harissa paste, plus more for serving
  • freshly squeezed lemon juice from 1 large lemon (about 3 T)
  • finely grated zest of 1 large lemon (about 1 T), for serving
  • 1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, for serving

To Prepare the Crispy Chickpeas:

  1. Transfer the rinsed and drained canned chickpeas to a rimmed baking sheet lined with a clean dish towel or paper towels.
  2. Cover with another towel (or paper towels) on top, rubbing gently to dry.
  3. Remove top towel and let air-dry for at least 30 minutes and preferably 1 hour. (I let them dry for 2+ hours.)

To Prepare the Soup:

  1. In a pressure cooker (I used a stove-top pressure cooker), combine soaked chickpeas, 5 cups water, 1 tablespoon olive oil, bay leaves and 1/2 teaspoon salt over high heat. (Alternatively, use a Dutch oven or heavy stockpot.)
  2. Place the pot over high heat, until the pressure cooker reaches the second ring (high). Adjust the heat to maintain the pressure for 35 minutes. (If using a stockpot, bring to a boil for 2 to 3 minutes, then reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until chickpeas are tender, about 1 to 2 hours.)
  3. Remove from the heat and let the pressure release naturally.
  4. Heat oven to 400 degrees. (I set my oven to convection roast.)
  5. While chickpeas are cooking, cut bread into thick slices, then tear or cut slices into bite-size pieces.
  6. Place bread in one layer on large rimmed baking sheet and toast until crisp and light brown, about 10 minutes. Let cool on pan and set aside.
  7. Finish the crunchy chickpeas: Raise oven temperature to 425 degrees. (I set my oven to convection roast.)
  8. Remove the towels from baking sheet with the chickpeas, and toss the chickpeas with 2 teaspoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and za’atar until well coated.
  9. Roast until golden and crispy, about 13 to 18 minutes, tossing halfway through. When chickpeas are still hot, sprinkle lightly with more salt. Taste and add more salt or za’atar, or both, as desired.
  10. When the chickpeas for the soup are tender, discard bay leaves.
  11. Using a slotted spoon, transfer 2 cups of chickpeas, 1/2 cup of chickpea cooking liquid and 1/4 cup olive oil to a blender or food processor, and purée until smooth. (I used a Vitamix.)
  12. In a large skillet over medium-high, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil until shimmering.
  13. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
  14. Add garlic and cook until golden, about 2 minutes.
  15. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon cumin and tomato paste and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1 minute. Add a splash of the chickpea cooking liquid to the pan, and bring to a simmer to deglaze, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Turn off heat.
  16. Add chickpea purée and onion mixture to soup, along with harissa and lemon juice, and stir well. Add a little water if soup seems too thick, and more salt, if needed.
  17. To serve, divide toasted bread pieces among soup bowls, then ladle in soup.
  18. Garnish with lemon zest, parsley, olive oil, more cumin and some of the crispy chickpeas — you’ll have leftovers. Serve hot, with more harissa on the side, as desired.

North African Bean Stew with Winter Squash

This is a healthy and hearty vegetarian stew. We ate it over brown Basmati rice with steamed spinach on the side. I loved that it was loaded with warm spices.

The recipe was adapted from Brooklyn’s Kos Kaffe via The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I used farro instead of barley, used canned beans, and increased the amount of garlic. I also reduced the amount water to achieve a thicker consistency. Nice.

Yield: Serves 8 to 10

For the Baharat Spice Blend:

  • 1 T sweet paprika
  • 1/2 T ground coriander
  • 1/2 T ground cumin
  • 1/2 T ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice

For the Stew:

  • 5 T extra-virgin olive oil, more for serving
  • 2 leeks, white and green parts, diced
  • 1 bunch cilantro, leaves and stems separated
  • 1 cup finely diced fennel, fronds reserved (1 medium or 1/2 large fennel bulb)
  • 4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons baharat spice blend
  • 1 small (or 1/2 large) cinnamon stick
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup pearled barley or farro (I used Trader Joe’s 10 minute farro)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, more as needed
  •  large pinch saffron, crumbled
  • 4 cups cooked beans or chickpeas (I used 2 15-oz cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed)
  • 2 cups peeled and diced butternut squash (1/2 large or 1 small squash)
  • 3/4 cup peeled and diced turnip (1 medium)
  • 1/2 cup red lentils
  • plain yogurt, for serving (I used Greek yogurt)
  • aleppo pepper or hot paprika, for serving
  • brown Basmati rice, for serving, optional
  1. Make the baharat spice blend. Set aside.
  2. Cut leeks in half, slice into half moons, and soak in a bowl of water. Drain and finely chop in a food processor.
  3. In a large pot over medium heat, heat oil and cook leeks until they begin to brown, 10 to 12 minutes. (I used a large enameled cast iron Dutch oven.)
  4. While the leeks cook, finely chop the cilantro stems, fennel and garlic in a food processor.
  5. Stir the cilantro stems into the pot, along with diced fennel and garlic. Cook for 2 minutes.
  6. Stir in baharat, cinnamon and tomato paste, and cook until paste begins to caramelize, about 2 minutes.
  7. Stir in broth, 1 cup water (water can be omitted for a thicker consistency), the barley/farro, and the salt. Bring to a gentle boil, stir in saffron, if using, and reduce heat to medium. (The original recipe uses 3 cups of water- increase for a more soup-like consistency, as desired.)
  8. Simmer uncovered for 40 minutes. (I simmered the stew for 20 minutes because I used par-cooked farro.)
  9. Stir in beans, squash, turnip and lentils; cook until barley/farro and vegetables are tender, about another 30 minutes.
  10. Taste and adjust seasonings, if desired. Remove cinnamon stick.
  11. Ladle stew into bowls. (I served it over rice.)
  12. Spoon a dollop of yogurt on top and drizzle with olive oil. Garnish with cilantro leaves, fennel fronds and Aleppo pepper or paprika, as desired.

North African Meatballs

This ultra-flavorful dish is based upon a version of North African meatballs served in France, where they are called boulettes. Both the sauce and the meatballs are loaded with spices. SO fragrant and delicious.

This recipe was adapted from the New York Times, contributed by David Tanis. I used ground turkey instead of beef or lamb and increased the garlic. I also forgot to include the raisins in my couscous! We ate it with steamed spinach on the side but it would also be incredible served with roasted tomatoes or roasted cauliflower- or all of the above. Next time!

I’m sharing this dish (belatedly, again) at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #111 this week, co-hosted by Naina @ Spice in the City and Julianna @ Foodie on Board. Enjoy!

Yield: Serves 6

For the Saffron Tomato Sauce:

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 and 1/2 cups finely diced onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 1 inch piece cinnamon stick
  • large pinch saffron, crumbled
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups chicken stock, vegetable broth, or water

For the Meatballs:

  • 1 1/2 cups cubed day-old firm white bread
  • 1 cup milk (I used 1 percent)
  • 1 1/4 pound ground beef, lamb, or turkey
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • ⅛ tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp cayenne
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • 3 T chopped parsley
  • 3 T chopped cilantro
  • 3 T finely chopped scallion
  • all-purpose flour, for dusting
  • olive oil or vegetable oil

For the Couscous:

  • 1 cup giant couscous, m’hamsa, or medium couscous
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • ½ cup golden raisins, soaked in hot water to soften, then drained
  • coarse salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Make the Sauce:

  1. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a wide, heavy bottomed saucepan. Add onion and cook without browning until softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add garlic, tomato paste, cinnamon and saffron, and stir well to incorporate.
  3. Season generously with salt and pepper, and allow to sizzle for 1 minute more.
  4. Add stock and simmer gently for 5 minutes. May be made several hours in advance, up to a day.

Make the Meatballs:

  1. Put bread cubes and milk in a small bowl. Leave bread to soak until softened, about 5 minutes, then squeeze dry.
  2. In a mixing bowl, put squeezed-out bread, ground meat and egg.
  3. Add salt, pepper, garlic, nutmeg, ginger, turmeric, paprika, cayenne, cloves, coriander and cumin. Mix well with hands to distribute seasoning.
  4. Add 2 tablespoons each of parsley, cilantro and scallion, and knead for a minute. May be prepared several hours in advance, up to a day.
  5. With hands or a cookie scoop, roll mixture into small round balls about the size of a quarter.
  6. Dust meatballs lightly with flour. (I gently rolled the meatballs in the flour as I lifted them up to place in the pan.)
  7. Heat a few tablespoons of oil, or a quarter-inch depth, over medium-high heat and fry meatballs until barely browned, about 2 minutes per side. Drain and blot on paper towel.
  8. Simmer meatballs in saffron-tomato sauce, covered, over medium heat for about 20 minutes, until tender.

Meanwhile, Make the Couscous:

  1. Cook according to package directions, fluff gently and stir in butter and raisins.
  2. Season with salt and cinnamon, and toss well.

To Serve:

  1. Garnish meatballs with remaining parsley, cilantro and scallion. Serve with couscous and roasted tomatoes, roasted cauliflower, or steamed greens, as desired.

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