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.

Shrimp Creole

I served this tasty dish for our Mardi Gras dinner followed by our essential celebratory King Cake for dessert. It was festive and delicious.

I admittedly used Cajun seasoning instead of Creole Seasoning- gasp! After making the dish, I read about the similarities and differences between the Cajun and Creole cuisines. Both cuisines use a roux, the “holy trinity” composed of onions, bell peppers, and celery sautéed in oil, and both are from Southern Louisiana. Cajun food incorporates more smoked meats and rice, such as jambalaya, and is from more rural parts of the region whereas Creole cuisine, such as étouffée, is from New Orleans. I included the recipe for the homemade Creole seasoning below. (for next time!)

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Vallery Lomas. I modified the cooking times and doubled the garlic. I also used store-bought seasoning and omitted the dried basil. The shrimp was cooked perfectly.

Yield: Serves 4

For the Creole Seasoning: (Optional)

  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or less, if desired)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

For the Shrimp:

  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined (I used large tail-on shrimp)
  • 2 teaspoons homemade or store-bought Creole seasoning, divided (I used Slap ya Mama)
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 stick / 4 T)
  • 1/3 cup (5 T) all-purpose flour
  • 1 medium or large yellow onion, finely chopped (I used a food processor)
  • 2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 4 to 8 garlic cloves, minced (I used a food processor)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce (no salt added)
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons hot sauce, to taste (optional) (I used Frank’s Red Hot)
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1/2 T fresh thyme)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (or 1/2 T fresh oregano)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil (or 1/2 T fresh basil)
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves and tender stems
  • steamed rice, for serving (I used white Basmati rice)
  1. Make the optional Creole seasoning: Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and stir together. The seasoning makes about 1/4 cup; store it in a closed container in a cool, dry place. (Only 2 teaspoons are used in this dish.)
  2. Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels. Then toss the raw shrimp with 1 teaspoon Creole seasoning and set aside.
  3. In a Dutch oven or large, heavy skillet with a lid, melt the butter over medium-low heat. (I used a low and wide enameled cast iron pot.)
  4. Sprinkle the flour on top and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until a roux the color of peanut butter forms, about 5 to 10 minutes. Watch carefully- if the roux burns it cannot be saved.
  5. Add the onion, celery, and bell pepper, increase the heat to medium and cook until softened, stirring occasionally, about 5 to 8 minutes.
  6. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute.
  7. Stir in 1/3 cup water, then the tomato sauce, hot sauce (if using), sugar, thyme, oregano, basil (if using), bay leaves, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and the remaining 1 teaspoon Creole seasoning. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low.
  8. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes until thickened, stirring occasionally to make sure that the bottom doesn’t burn. (If needed, add more water.)
  9. Once the stew has thickened, add the seasoned shrimp and simmer until opaque and cooked through, about 5 minutes, turning each piece halfway through the cooking time. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  10. Remove from the heat and let stand for 10 minutes, uncovered.
  11. Serve over steamed rice sprinkled with sliced scallions and chopped parsley.

Khoresh Bademjan (Persian Tomato & Eggplant Stew)

This is an absolutely incredible vegetarian stew. Traditionally, this dish is made with lamb or beef, but the author described this version as just as savory without the meat. I absolutely loved it. ❤

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Andy Baraghani. I substituted American globe eggplant for the smaller Japanese eggplant and incorporated Campari tomatoes. I also used fresh lime juice instead of dried black limes. We ate the stew over brown Basmati rice with warm naan on the side. Wow. 🙂

Yield: Serves 4

  • 8–9+ T vegetable oil, divided (I used canola oil)
  • 2 globe eggplants (about 2 lbs), peeled, cut into 1-inch rounds OR 6 small Japanese eggplants (about 2 lbs), peeled, halved lengthwise
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 T double-concentrated tomato paste
  • 10 Campari tomatoes, cut into eighths OR 3 medium tomatoes (about 1 lb), seeds removed, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups stock (can substitute water)
  • 3 to 4 cups water
  • 3 lemon omani (dried black limes) or 2 T fresh lime juice (see Note)
  • cooked basmati rice, parsley leaves, plain yogurt, and flatbread, for serving (I served brown Basmati rice, Greek yogurt & warm naan)
  1. Heat 6 tablespoons of oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium-high.
  2. Working in batches, cook eggplant in a single layer, adding another tablespoon of oil if pan looks dry, until deeply browned, about 3 minutes per side.
  3. Transfer to a paper towel-lined rimmed baking sheet; season with coarse salt. (I added an additional 4 tablespoons of oil to cook the second batch of globe eggplant slices.)
  4. Add 2 tablespoons of oil to same pot and cook onion over medium to medium-high, stirring occasionally, until softened and browned around the edges, 8 to10 minutes.
  5. Sprinkle turmeric and cinnamon over and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  6. Stir in tomato paste and cook, stirring, until slightly darkened in color, about 2 minutes.
  7. Add tomatoes; cook, still stirring, until tomatoes have burst and mixture is very thick, 5 to 9 minutes.
  8. Nestle eggplant into sauce and season lightly with salt.
  9. Pour in stock and 3 cups of water; bring to a simmer.
  10. Pierce dried lemon omani with a paring knife and add to pot. (If using lime juice instead, add when dish is finished cooking.)
  11. Cook, gently stirring occasionally, until thickened and eggplant is almost creamy in texture, 40–50+ minutes. (I cooked mine significantly longer to achieve my desired thickness.)
  12. Divide rice among bowls; ladle stew over. (I served the stew over brown Basmati rice.)
  13. Top with parsley and yogurt and serve with flatbread. (I served it with warm naan.)

White Borscht

Before I was introduced to this recipe, I thought that borscht was always a deep red, beet-based soup. I now know that borscht means “sour.” The sour tang in this soup comes from soaking sourdough bread in the broth, puréeing it, and incorporating it into the finished soup, along with crème fraiche which is stirred in just prior to serving.

I made my first homemade borscht (the beet-based version) for Christmas Eve, and my husband purchased pierogies at a Polish store for the same meal. Luckily, I saw this recipe and he was also able to buy house-made garlic kielbasa for this soup. The quality of the kielbasa is very important because it is used to create the broth for the base of this soup.

This recipe is from The New York Times, contributed by Gabrielle Hamilton.  I followed the recipe closely, but may decrease the amount of butter next time- I’m not sure it was necessary! (but it was quite delicious 😉 ) It was a creamy, indulgent, and delicious upgrade of potato-leek soup. Fabulous cold-weather comfort food.

Yield: 5 quarts, Serves 10 to 12

  • 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 pounds full horseshoe link of high-quality smoked kielbasa
  • 5 fresh bay leaves
  • 3 pounds leeks (6 long, lively leeks)
  • 3 pounds russet potatoes (about 4)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
  • 1 large yellow onion, small-diced (about 2 cups)
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 (4-ounce) hunk of dense, very sour sourdough bread, crusts removed
  • 1 full tablespoon finely ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche
  • 1 bunch fresh dill, woody stems removed, fronds minced

Shortcut Chicken & Dumplings

More weeknight comfort food! This dish uses rotisserie chicken meat and store-bought gnocchi as shortcuts to create a close match to traditional chicken and dumplings. It was quick to prepare and very tasty.

The recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Alexa Weibel. I incorporated my CSA parsley, leeks, carrots, and collard greens. In addition, this soup could easily gobble up many other vegetables such as frozen peas, fennel, squash, parsnips, or mushrooms. We ate it with a green salad. Great.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 to 5 cups 1/2-inch ribbons of collard greens or kale, ribs removed (optional)
  • 2 medium carrots or 8 ounces butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
  • 1 medium leek, trimmed, white and pale green portion halved lengthwise and thinly sliced (about 1 cup) (can substitute 1 large shallot, if desired)
  • 2 medium celery stalks, peeled and sliced 1/2-inch thick (about 2/3 cup)
  • additional vegetables such as frozen peas, or diced parsnips, fennel, or mushrooms, optional
  • 3 to 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning (optional)(I omitted it)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 (16 to 18-ounce) package fresh or shelf-stable store-bought gnocchi (I used Trader Joe’s 17.6-ounce gnocchi)
  • 1/2 store-bought rotisserie chicken, skin and bones discarded, meat torn into bite-size pieces (about 2 to 3 cups shredded meat)
  • fresh tarragon, parsley or dill, for garnish

Coconut Chicken Curry

This dish was a home run in my house. Everyone really enjoyed it. I served it over brown Basmati rice with warm naan and steamed spinach on the side. Perfect weeknight comfort food! It does take a while to cook but it is mostly unattended. Letting the finished dish sit for 20 minutes after cooking allows the flavors to soak into the chicken- perfect.

This recipe is from Desmond Tan and Kate Leahy of Burma Superstar in the San Francisco Bay Area and their book “Burma Superstar,” via The New York Times, adapted by Genevieve Ko. I used Maharajah curry powder and additional garlic. I also had Greek yogurt available to temper the spice.

Yield: 8 servings

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.

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