For the stew:
1 pound chickpeas, washed, picked over and soaked in 2 quarts water for six hours or overnight
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, green shoots removed, minced
1 tablespoon cumin seeds, lightly toasted and ground
2 tablespoons harissa (or if harissa is not available, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper ? more to taste)
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (more to taste)
For the garnishes, choice of:
Lemon wedges or preserved lemon wedges
Coarse sea salt or kosher salt
Chopped fresh tomatoes
Diced green and red bell peppers
Chopped hard-boiled eggs
Ground lightly toasted cumin
Finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Finely chopped cilantro
Thinly sliced scallions, both white and green parts
Extra virgin olive oil
Drain the chickpeas, and combine with 2 quarts water in a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer one hour.
Meanwhile, heat the oil over medium heat in a medium-size, heavy nonstick skillet. Add the onion. Cook, stirring, until tender, about five minutes. Stir in the garlic and cumin, and stir together for 30 seconds to a minute, until the garlic smells fragrant. Remove from the heat, and stir into the beans.
After the beans have cooked for an hour, stir in the harissa and salt to taste. Cover and continue to cook for another 30 minutes to an hour, until the beans are very tender and the broth fragrant. Add lemon juice, and taste and adjust salt.
Serve the soup. Passing your choice of condiments on a large tray, or have them laid out on a buffet to stir into the soup.
Advance preparation: The finished soup will taste great for another three to four days. Keep in the refrigerator. You will want to refresh the condiments each time you serve. You can make a salad with the leftover beans.