Some meals satisfy our appetites. Others fill our souls. This is one of those soul-filling meals for me because of the backstory.
Growing up, eating out was a rarity. These days restaurants – fast food, sit downs, food trucks, etc – are a way of life; a food group of its own, if you will. But not so 20 and 30 years ago.
So on the very rare day my mom said, “Let’s go out!” I was so excited. One restaurant was very special to me because it was special to my mom.
Enter Cafe Pepe’s in Tampa, Florida.
I was fortunate to grow up in a melting pot city with so many diverse flavors – Southern, Coastal, Latino, Asian, and Soul food to name a few. An authentic Cuban sandwich is still my favorite sandwich in the entire world (no mayo or hoagie rolls allowed!).
Cafe Pepe’s is where my mom went when she needed a pick-me-up. She hardly ever did anything for herself, so if we were going there then it was because it met not just a physical need for food, but an emotional need for comfort. Watching her do this for her selfless self meant the world to me and I wasn’t going to miss it!
Funny thing about this restaurant…I never knew they had menus. Seriously! When we went, we got the same thing every single time. Complimentary dark bread (like a pumpernickel), garbanzo bean soup, and flan (her favorite dessert, and even that was a splurge).
It wasn’t until I was dating my then husband and offered up Cafe Pepe’s for a walk down memory lane, and on a dinner date did I see my first menu with paella and all kinds of yummy dishes.
Visiting Tampa years later, I was so excited to take my kids to this favorite spot, only to find it gone. No! Right then, I promised myself I would recreate their garbanzo bean soup so even though the restaurant may not be there, I can enjoy this comfort food anytime, as well as keep its legacy alive for my mom’s legacy, the grandchildren she sadly never got to meet.
Cafe Pepe’s may be gone, but its memory lives on. I’m not sure what I miss most about this magical restaurant; the incredible food, the dimly lit atmosphere illuminated only by glowing candles, or that this place will always remind me to take time for a little self-care that my mom modeled for us.
After much tweaking, this recipe replicates the taste exactly how I remember it. I tell my kids, “If you want a taste of my childhood, this soup is on point.”
I hope this soup warms your heart and stomachs as much as it does ours.
6 cans Unsalted chickpeas/garbanzo beans
1 ½ large White or sweet onion; diced, I used frozen
4 Mixed fresh peppers (red, orange, green & yellow); diced
2 pkgs Polish Kielbasa or smoked sausage links, fully cooked; sliced into bite-sized pieces (I use skinless, no MSG) * Turkey sausage does not work well in this recipe. Use beef, pork or a combination of both.
2, 32oz boxes Reduced sodium chicken broth
1, 32oz box Reduced sodium beef broth
4 cloves Garlic; minced
1t Salt, to taste
1/4t Cayenne pepper (a.k.a. crushed red pepper)
1t Herbs de Provence
- Drain & rinse beans.
- Add everything to crock pot and cook for 5 hours on low then 2 hours on high or until peppers are soft.
Add everything to large stock pot on stove and heat until boiling and peppers are soft. Simmer until ready to serve..