This exciting mix of flavors is a simplified version of the famous Tunisian dish leblebi. In Tunisia it is most often enjoyed for breakfast, served at small sidewalk stalls with the hustle and bustle of street life all around. I do think that this is a dish that benefits from homemade stock, since the cooking time is so quick. One thing is for sure: don’t skip the olives, capers, eggs, and harissa—it’s the mingling of all these flavors that makes this dish something special.
The chickpeas cook in a mere 15 to 20 minutes after soaking overnight—how is that for a time-saver?
1 pound dried chickpeas
Pinch of baking soda
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1½ quarts homemade beef stock or packaged low-sodium beef broth
3 tablespoons tomato paste
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2½ teaspoons kosher salt
1½ teaspoons ground cumin
8 large eggs
3 cups bite-size pieces day-old crusty peasant bread (toast in the oven if fresh)
2 red bell peppers , roasted and finely diced
½ cup sliced pitted black olives, such as Kalamata
2 tablespoons nonpareil capers, drained
½ cup harissa, preferably homemade (recipe follows), thinned with water to drizzling consistency
Extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Ground cumin 8 lemon wedges
1. Place the chickpeas in a large bowl, add water to cover and the pinch of baking soda, and soak overnight.
2. Drain the chickpeas, discarding the soaking liquid, and add them to a pressure cooker along with the onion, garlic, and beef stock. Close and lock the lid, and set to “high pressure” for 15 minutes.
3. Open the pressure release valve and allow the steam to escape. Unlock and carefully open the lid. The chickpeas should be tender. If not, continue to cook under pressure in 2-minute increments until they are tender.
4. Set the pressure cooker to the “simmer” program. Add the tomato paste, olive oil, salt, and cumin and stir to combine. Cook, uncovered, until the flavors come together, about 20 minutes.
5. When ready to serve, fry the eggs according to your liking and season them with salt to taste. Place a few pieces of bread in the bottom of each soup bowl and ladle some of the chickpeas and broth over the bread. Sprinkle each serving with some of the roasted pepper, olives, and capers.
6. Top each bowl with a fried egg and drizzle with harissa to taste. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkling of black pepper and cumin, and a lemon wedge.
Homemade Harissa about 1/2 cup Though you can certainly purchase prepared harissa, we love the fresh, forward flavor of homemade.
1 tablespoon cumin seeds (see Notes)
1 tablespoon caraway seeds (see Notes)
4 ounces fresh red chiles, such as cayenne or red jalapeños, stemmed and seeded (see Notes)
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon salt
3 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for storing the harissa
1. Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cumin seeds and cook, stirring or tossing frequently, until aromatic, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Remove from the skillet and set aside in a small bowl to cool. Repeat with the caraway seeds, and set them aside to cool separately.
2. When the cumin seeds have cooled slightly, transfer them to a spice mill or a clean coffee grinder and process until finely ground. Return them to the small bowl and set aside. Repeat with the caraway seeds. Measure out 1½ teaspoons of the ground cumin and 1 teaspoon of the ground caraway, and transfer the ground spices to a mortar. (The remaining ground cumin and caraway can be used for other purposes.)
3. Place the chiles in a food processor and pulse until chopped.
4. Add the chopped chiles, garlic, salt, and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to the mortar, and using a pestle, mash repeatedly to form a chunky paste, adding more oil as needed to form a uniform texture. Taste, and adjust the seasoning if necessary by adding more salt or oil. Transfer to an airtight container and top with a thin film of olive oil. Refrigerate until ready to serve, up to several weeks, or freeze, topped with olive oil, in small containers for up to 6 months.