- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Here’s a great way to turn some of those late-season tomatoes into a terrific light meal. This recipe works equally well with very ripe tomatoes and with tart, not-quite-ripe ones.

The remaining ingredients seem like an ordinary list, but when they are combined in this very satisfying thick soup, the flavors taste quite unusual. You’ll want to make this one often.

Serve it with any green salad and a good, dense whole-grain bread. A pinot noir will go perfectly. Try one from Oregon — they’re a revelation.

Peeling and seeding the tomatoes are optional tasks.

To peel, drop the tomato into a potful of simmering water for a slow count of 10 (slightly longer if the tomato is less ripe). Retrieve the tomato, pull off the peel and cut the tomato in half. Squeeze out and discard the seeds, then chop the remaining pulp.

You can use dried or canned chickpeas. If using dried, soak them for at least 4 hours ahead of time. (Overnight is fine.) Streamline the preparation time by chopping the onions, mincing the garlic and sauteeing them with the seasonings while the legumes cook.

This soup freezes well if stored in an airtight container.

Tunisian tomato soup with chickpeas and lentils

1 cup uncooked chickpeas, soaked overnight (or 1 to 2, 15-ounce cans chickpeas)

Water

1 cup uncooked lentils, rinsed and picked over

1 cinnamon stick

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 cups minced onion

2 tablespoons minced garlic

2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon turmeric

1½ teaspoons cumin seeds

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 or 3 bay leaves

6 cups chopped tomatoes, peeling and seeding optional

Black pepper and cayenne to taste

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (or to taste)

OPTIONAL TOPPINGS:

Yogurt

Minced fresh parsley

A few currants

Place the soaked, uncooked chickpeas in a large pot and cover with water by 3 inches. Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer, partially cover, and cook for 1 hour. (If you’re using canned chickpeas, rinse and drain them, and set them aside.)

Add the lentils and cinnamon stick, partially cover again, and cook for another 30 minutes, or until the chickpeas and lentils are perfectly tender, but not mushy. (If you’re using canned chickpeas, just cook the lentils with the cinnamon stick in 7 cups water until tender about 30 minutes.) Remove and discard the cinnamon stick, and drain the legumes, saving the water.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a soup pot or Dutch oven. Add the onion, garlic, salt, turmeric, cumin seeds, ground cumin and bay leaves, and saute over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the onions are very soft.

Add 6 cups of the reserved cooking water from the lentils (supplement with fresh water if there’s not enough) and the tomatoes, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, partially cover, and cook for another 15 minutes or so. (The timing does not need to be exact.) Fish out and discard the bay leaves.

Stir in the chickpeas and lentils, and cook for about 5 minutes longer (but not too much longer because you don’t want the legumes to become mushy). Season to taste with black pepper, cayenne and lemon juice.

Serve hot, topped with some yogurt and a sprinkling of parsley, if desired, and pass a small bowl of currants. Makes 6 servings (maybe a little more).

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

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