Smooth Chickpea Soup

MAKES: 4 servings

TIME: 3 to 4 hours, largely unattended

Starting with dried chickpeas is important here, because their cooking water becomes an essential ingredient. The basic idea is to extract as much flavor as possible from the beans, strain them, then enrich the thick broth with tahini, the smooth paste made from sesame seeds. Finely ground almond, cashew, or peanut butter can easily be substituted, with terrific results.

2 cups dried chickpeas, washed and picked over

1/4 to 1/2 cup tahini or smooth almond, cashew, or peanut butter (including a bit of the accompanying oil if there is any)

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, or more to taste

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons ground cumin or minced fresh oregano leaves for garnish (optional)

4 thin lemon slices for garnish (optional)

01 If time allows, soak the chickpeas according to the directions. Drain and discard the soaking water before proceeding. Put the chickpeas in a pot with about 2 quarts of water and turn the heat to medium-high. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down so that the water bubbles gently. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chickpeas are very tender, 1 to 2 hours.

02 Reserving the liquid, pure the chickpeas in a food processor (add a little of the liquid if necessary for the machine to do its work) or force through a strainer with a big spoon or a potato masher. Incorporate the pure back into the strained cooking liquid. (If you used a strainer, discard the solids remaining in it.)

03 Adjust the heat so that the soup bubbles gently, adding a little water if necessary (or turn the heat to high and boil the liquid down a bit to reduce it). Stir in the tahini and lemon juice and use a whisk to stir until the soup is smooth. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 3 to 5 minutes more. Taste and sprinkle with salt and pepper. (The soup may be made ahead to this point, cooled, and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Serve cold or gently reheated. Taste again and adjust the seasoning or add more lemon.) If you like, serve garnished with a sprinkle of cumin or float a slice of lemon on top.