Lablabi (Tunisian Chickpea Soup) From 'The Heart of the Plate'

A quick and easy vegetarian Tunisian chickpea soup flavored with onion, cumin, garlic, and lemon juice. [Photograph: Mollie Katzen]

In her new cookbook, The Heart of the Plate, Mollie Katzen shares many recipes for vegetarian soups and stews. None are as beguilingly simple as her version of Tunisian lablabi, a straightforward chickpea soup. Mostly chickpeas and their cooking liquid, the soup is accented by a sautéed onion, a bit of ground cumin, minced garlic, and a few squeezes of lemon juice. You won't even need a shopping list.

Why I picked this recipe: Bean soups are some of my favorite fall dishes, and the ease of this particular soup was too tempting to pass up.

What worked: Cumin, chickpeas, and lemon are seen together for a reason—each brings out the best in the other.

What didn't: I ended up needing to thin out the soup with extra water once the chickpeas were cooked. As written, it bordered on a stew, or even saucy beans.

Suggested tweaks: Dress the soup up as much as you'd like. A poached egg is delightful, as is a squeeze of harissa.
Reprinted with permission from The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation by Mollie Katzen. Copyright 2013. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.

Lablabi (Tunisian Chickpea Soup) From 'The Heart of the Plate'

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About This Recipe

Yield:Serves 5 to 6
Active time:20 minutes
Total time:1 1/2 hours, plus time to soak chickpeas
This recipe appears in: Lablabi (Tunisian Chickpea Soup) From 'The Heart of the Plate'
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Ingredients

  • 2 cups (1 pound) dried chickpeas, soaked for at least 4 hours or up to overnight
  • 8 cups water
  • 3–4 large garlic cloves, peeled and halved
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups minced onion (1 large)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon minced or crushed garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Black pepper

Procedures

  1. 1

    Drain and rinse the soaked chickpeas, then transfer them to a soup pot, large saucepan, or Dutch oven, along with the water and garlic cloves. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, partially cover, and cook until the chickpeas are completely tender, an hour or longer. (You want to err on the soft side.)

  2. 2

    Meanwhile, place a medium skillet over medium heat for about a minute, then add the olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the onion and cumin, and cook, stirring, for 5 to 8 minutes, until the onion becomes soft. Add the minced garlic and 1 teaspoon of the salt, reduce the heat to low, and continue to cook for another 10 minutes. Cover and cook over the lowest possible heat for 10 minutes longer, then remove from the heat.

  3. 3

    When the chickpeas are very tender, add the onion-garlic mixture, scraping in as much as you can of whatever adhered to the pan. Collect the remaining parts (this is flavor!) by adding the lemon juice to the skillet and stirring it around, scraping the sides and bottom (deglazing), then pouring all of this onto the chickpeas as well. Taste to adjust the salt (you will likely want to add up to another 1/2 teaspoon) and grind in a generous amount of black pepper to taste. At this point, if you choose, you can puree some of the chickpeas with an immersion blender.

  4. 4

    Cover and let the soup simmer for another 10 minutes or so before serving.

  5. 5

    Optional Enhancements:
    A few strands of saffron added to the cooking water in step 1
    A spoonful of harissa
    Touches of torn fresh flat-leaf parsley, cilantro, or mint
    Crushed red pepper
    A poached or fried egg added to each serving
    A drizzle of high-quality extra-virgin olive oil (or a citrus-spiked olive oil)
    Cooked diced carrot mixed in
    A spoonful of thick yogurt on top
    A sprinkling of capers on top
    A spoonful or two of cooked brown basmati rice or couscous stirred in
    Chopped, pitted olives on top—or a bowl of assorted olives on the side
    Crisp, cold radishes on the side—whole or sliced
    Chopped or slivered Marcona almonds
    Sliced ripe tomatoes on the side

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