Indian Spiced Cream of Tomato Soup with Couscous

Indian tomato soup

After a few unseasonably warm days, we had a bit of a cold spell. What is better than soup for dinner on a cold day? We love tomato soup, and we've made several different varieties in the past, so adding yet another variety to our repertoire was right up our alley. I came across this one from An Edible Mosaic. Something about the blend of spices that was used in the recipe made it stand out. I had never cooked with garam masala before, but I knew that it would add a spectacular flavor to the soup. This soup tasted excellent, and like many other things, it seemed to taste even better the next day for lunch, after the flavors had time to meld together. The beans and couscous made this soup more substantial than other soups, and one bowl was just enough to make us pleasantly full. Now that the weather is supposed to be getting warmer, I don't foresee us making this soup any time soon, but as soon as the cold weather hits us again, I know that this will be a recipe we keep coming back to!

3/4 cup Whole Wheat Israeli Couscous (I used plain white)
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
1 medium Red Bell Pepper, diced
1 medium Onion, diced
3 Garlic Cloves
1-inch piece Fresh Ginger, grated on a microplane
1 (14 ounce) can Petit Diced Tomatoes, with juices
2 tablespoons Tomato Paste
3 cups Vegetable Stock
1 Bay Leaf
2 Dried Red Chili Peppers, optional (I just put in a pinch of red pepper flakes)
2 teaspoons Garam Masala
1 1/2 teaspoons Sugar
1/4 teaspoon Black Pepper
1 (16 ounce) can Chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
3 tablespoons Coconut Milk or Heavy Cream
Fresh Cilantro or Parsley, for garnish--optional

 Fill a medium pot 2/3 of the way full with water and bring to a boil. Add the couscous and a pinch of salt and cook until the couscous is al dente, about 7-9 minutes. Drain and set aside. In another medium pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the bell pepper and onion and cook until softened, about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 2 more minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste, stock, bay leaf, chili peppers, garam masala, sugar, salt, and black pepper. Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil, then cover the pot, turn the heat down to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn the heat off, cool slightly, and remove and discard the bay leaf and chili peppers. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth (alternately, you can place the soup in a blender and puree it). Add the chickpeas and lemon juice to the pot of pureed soup. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then turn off the heat and stir in the couscous and coconut milk. Taste and season with additional salt, pepper, or lemon juice, as desired. Serve garnished with cilantro or parsley, if desired.