The best part about living in my neighborhood is the monster variety of fantastic international foods. Within a few blocks of my apartment are Colombian, Italian, Australian, Ethiopian, Japanese, and Mexican restaurants, not to mention scads of Arab grocers. If you've ever craved a fava bean and meatball enchilada with a pint of Guinness, my part of Brooklyn is the place to be.
One of my favorite local joints is a Middle Eastern pita shop serving the best hummus and merguez this side of the Atlantic. They do a few stews, as well, including a lovely Harira soup. Packed with chickpeas and lentils, it's a Moroccan dish traditionally served during Ramadan, though I would eat it any holiday.
I was craving that particular fare recently, and wanted to see if a quick, reasonable facsimile could be created at home. Fortunately, Cook's Illustrated Best 30-Minute Recipe includes a recipe for Moroccan-Style Chickpea soup that seemed to fit the bill. Bonus: all the ingredients were already in my pantry.
A half-hour later, dinner was served. Lacking both meat and lentils, the result wasn't an authentic Harira soup, but it was close enough. Bowls received thumbs-up all around, thanks to the saffron-infused broth and bursts of fresh lemon and cilantro. It's even better paired with fresh-baked pita bread.
- 3 cups low-sodium chicken or veggie broth
- 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
- Salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 medium onion, diced small
- 4 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
- 5 or 6 ounces spinach, cooked (optional, but highly suggested)
- A few lemon wedges
In a large pot, combine broth, chickpeas, tomatoes, saffron, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, kill heat and set aside.
While that's happening, in a large saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add onion and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook about 5 minutes, until onion is a little soft and translucent. Add garlic, ginger, and cumin. Cook for another 30 to 60 seconds, until fragrant.
Pour chickpea broth mixture into saucepan. Simmer uncovered about 10 minutes.
Kill heat. Stir in cilantro. If using spinach, stir that in, as well. Salt and pepper to taste. Spoon into bowls and serve with lemon wedges.