Lablabi (Tunisian Chickpea Soup)

March 6, 2014

I've spent the past week poring over Mollie Katzen's The Heart of the Plate.  Although technically a vegetarian cookbook, labeling it as such seems unnecessarily limiting--since many of the recipes are for small plates and side dishes, they could also serve as healthy, fruit and vegetable-packed complements to a meat entree.  The first recipe I attempted was blueberry rice, a shockingly vivid concoction that fell into the "interesting, but not something I would make again" category.  The next recipe I tried is a keeper: lablabi, a Tunisian chickpea soup with a deceptively simple ingredient list.  The only seasonings are salt, pepper, cumin, garlic, and a bit of lemon juice, and the chickpeas are cooked in water.  However, the finished soup has a complex, almost meaty flavor (Mike thought that I had added chicken broth) that I suspect is due to charring the onions and then deglazing the pan with lemon juice.  Although the longish cooking time makes this is more of a weekend than a weeknight recipe, the most hands-on parts of the preparation are remembering to start soaking the chickpeas the night before and chopping up onions.

I served this soup with pita chips, but it would also be lovely with fresh pitas or another type of flatbread.

Adapted from The Heart of the Plate by Mollie Katzen

Serves 6


Lablabi Ingredients  
  • 1 pound dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and drained
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups minced onions
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • crushed red pepper

Place chickpeas in a Dutch oven and add 8 cups of water.  Bring to a boil, partially cover, and reduce heat to a simmer.  Cook until chickpeas are tender, 60-90 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat medium skillet over medium heat.  Add oil and tilt pan to evenly coat with oil.  Add onion and cumin and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and 1 teaspoon of salt, reduce heat to low, and cook for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Cover pan and cook for 10 more minutes, until onions are slightly blackened.

Add the prepared onions to the cooked chickpeas.  Add the lemon juice to the skillet used to cook the onions and stir, scraping the sides and bottom of the skillet to remove any cooked-on bits (deglazing).  Add the lemon juice mixture to the chickpeas.

Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and black pepper to taste to the chickpeas.  Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Serve soup garnished with fresh parsley and crushed red pepper.


Share your thoughts

Hi Stacy,
Molly Katzen's first cookbook, "Moosewood Restaurant" was one of my first vegetarian cookbooks. I bought it soon after visiting the restaurant in Ithaca, NY around 1979, when I was finishing up physical therapy school. I've also acquired, "Sunday's at Mosseewood", a sequal that has several ethnic veggie recipes from around the world--a good resource. You can't go too far wrong with Molly--She knows her stuff! Anne

Hi Anne,
Mollie's intro to "The Heart of the Plate" is about how her cooking style over the years has shifted from when she wrote her first Moosewood cookbook. She talks about how she initially focused on very hearty, casserole-style dishes with lots of dairy products, so that people felt satisfied without meat. Now, she feels that people are more used to vegetarian fare, so the vegetables can be "the heart of the plate" (hence the title). I definitely will have to check more of her cookbooks out from the library!