Sunday, March 9, 2008

CSA week 15 - leblebi-esque escarole and chikpea soup

I was looking at the escarole and cannellini bean recipe in this week's newsletter and thinking that the chickpeas I had handy would substitute well for the beans I didn't. A quick search turned up this recipe for an escarole and chickpea stew that seemed promising. The author said it was based on leblebi, a traditional Moroccan breakfast soup. Well, it turns out there are a few different dishes that go by that name but when I came across this recipe I was hooked.

It hasn't really come out in the dishes I've talked about on the blog but I'm a huge fan of garnishes. My favorite presentation is a simple dish surrounded by a dozen bowls so everyone can personalize their serving. So this list of leblebi garnishes:
Lemon wedges
Coarse sea salt
Chopped fresh tomatoes
Chopped green and red bell peppers
2 hardboiled eggs, chopped
Rinsed capers
Sliced pickled turnips
Flaked canned tuna fish (oil- or water-packed)
Freshly ground cumin
Finely chopped fresh parsley
Finely chopped cilantro
Sliced preserved lemons
Croutons or sliced stale bread
Thinly sliced scallions, both white and green parts
Olive oil

called out to me.

There's nothing to the soup itself: four cups of chicken soup (I used half my stock and half from a can), one can of chickpeas, one head of escarole. Simmer until tender (around five minutes I found). It's everything else that makes the dish.

The most important garnishes are the stale bread underneath and the loosely poached egg and harissa on top. Harissa, if you didn't read my previous post on it, is a North African chili oil. The particular bottle I've got has the other ubiquitous North African condiment, preserved lemons, mixed in. I also added tomatoes, green pepper, capers, scallion, cilantro and parsley, black olives (which weren't on this particular list but they're also typical for North Africa), sea salt and olive oil. I probably wasn't suppose to use all of that at once, but I liked having a different combination of flavors and textures in every spoonful. Five minutes cooking didn't give time for the soup's flavors to blend. The escarole and chickpeas retain their character in the crowd. This is simple (sort of) hearty comfort food. You can tell that even if the flavors are unfamiliar. My only advice is to go easy on the harissa and preserved lemons or they'll walk all over the other flavors.

One final thing just so Googlers with different terminology can still find this recipe: garbanzo, garbanzo, garbanzo, garbanzo. There, that should do it.

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