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.

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