January 8, 2011

Lablabi is a traditional street food of Tunisia. According to my (Heli’s) friend Sarah, it is available at all times of the day and night. This version of the recipe comes from the Mahjoub family, who produce all of the Tunisian products that we carry in the store.

The base of the soup is made of chickpeas cooked with garlic.

I find that lots of garlic is especially good this time of year. It warms me up.

The chickpeas are best cooked slowly. I soaked them overnight and then put them in a pot with minced garlic and brought everything to a boil. Then I placed the hot pot on the woodstove to simmer slowly, until finished. I was thinking that they would take hours and hours, but the heat of the stove kept them at a tidy low boil and they were finished quickly (maybe about an hour, or a little longer??).

The fun of this stew is in the condiments. Basic chickpeas, and then little dishes of toppings.

Pickled lemons are preserved in salt, and set out in the sun for 6 months to cure. They are packed in brine with a hot pepper for a little extra zing.

Harissa is a paste made from sun dried peppers and tomatoes, mixed with garlic, cumin and olive oil. It is my favorite condiment, delicious with so many things. Its spicy-ness adds flavor and depth! Heli taught me to mix the harissa with water and olive oil, “to open up the smoky flavors,” and to ensure that it mixes into the soup thoroughly.

Meski olives are packed in olive oil and Harissa. A few are fun floating in the soup.

Capers are salted and dried. Gathered from the wild in the mountains. I chopped them up a little bit.

The sundried tomatoes, which come in sheets (an entire tomato) packed in olive oil, are chopped up.

To top off the soup, add a little bit toasted and ground cumin.

The soup is traditionally served over stale bread, but I didn’t have any, so I served it with a loaf of fresh bread. And a side of cucumber feta salad that my mom made. And a beautiful black pepper, poblano pepper, parmesan cheese cornbread that my dad brought over.

And endive and fennel with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. My favorite winter vegetable combination-something to remind me that plants are still green and growing somewhere…


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