Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I don't know the last time I was this excited, but I'm sure it was about food then, too

Have you ever wanted to make falafel? No? Me neither. I don't really do deep frying in my own kitchen, and I figured any good falafel recipe would require a list of ingredients I don't have. But last week, I was, as most of my good stories go, having a serious craving. I wanted little falafel patties stuffed into a soft pita. I wanted there to be a whoosh of hummus and slices of fresh veggies, a drizzle of sharp tahini dressing. And, I wanted it to be mostly healthy (as in, not deep fried). Falafel King was not going to work this time; I wanted the falafel from my days as a barista in Seattle, and I was going to have to take matters into my own hands.

And now I want to shout the recipe from the rooftops. So easy! So good! It all just goes into the food processor and then you make little patties with your hands and cook them in a pan with oil! That's it!

Let me back up a little.

When I was 24, I worked at a coffee shop in Seattle called Cherry Street. It was a little shop on the side of the hill that slopes through downtown to the edge of the water. It's a longer story to explain how I got there, and I'm sure we'll get to that at some point, but the reason I am telling you this is because the owner was from Iran, and so we served a smattering of Middle-Eastern style dishes - gyros, tabbouleh, spinach and feta in flaky pastry, and this falafel pita. Most of the food items were prepped in a kitchen down the street and delivered to our shop in the morning, so I never did get my hands on the recipes.

At my days in the coffee shop, I learned to pour a perfect foamed-milk rosetta onto a latte. I became friends with a guy at the print shop next door who would barrel in and call me "CarleyAnne Sue!", and the bus driver who would stop by in the late afternoon and slip bus transfers to us over the counter for our ride home that night. In the quiet afternoons, I would sit on the edge of the counter with an endless mug of coffee, talking with the other girls who worked there about relationships and looking for "real" jobs, or plotting my backpacking adventure in Europe. I could pick up and go if I wanted, just like that.

I sometimes dream about that simple year at the coffee shop. I had less of everything then: less money, less responsibility; fewer plans, no clear path back into the professional career world. There was anxiety, for sure, but the days passed much more slowly than they do now.

Anyway, there was also this falafel pita.

It's been almost four years (!) since I left Seattle, and I was craving that falafel pita from Cherry Street. I chose this recipe from The New Moosewood Cookbook because it fit the bill: no deep frying, and no long list of spices for me to buy.

When I started to work on the recipe, I realized that all it calls for is whirring a few items together in the food processor, forming the mixture into little patties, and cooking them in a pan with a little oil. I mean, seriously, the batter came together in about 5 minutes. This increased my skepticism, and I warned Adam that he might want to start drumming up some backup dinner options. I set to work on the tahini sauce while the first batch of falafel cooked on the stove; here, I tweaked the recipe, with a little less lemon and a touch less water. When everything was ready, I heated up my pitas and stuffed them just the way I knew how: with a slather of hummus, a leaf of romaine, and a few slices of cucumber and tomato. I smashed the falafel in and topped it all with the tahini dressing. As you can see in the photo above, I massacred the pita in my haste to find out if this falafal recipe was the one.

People. It's the one!

Falafel with Tahini Sauce
Adapted from The New Moosewood Cookbook

For the falafel: 

2 cans chickpeas, drained
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup onion, roughly chopped
1/4 cup (packed) parsley
1/4 cup water
1 Tbsp lemon juice
dash of cayenne
1/3 cup flour
olive oil for frying

Combine all ingredients except flour in food processor. Process until combined. (I tried to leave my batter a bit chunky for texture, but by the time the ingredients were mostly combined, it was mostly smooth - either way is fine.) Add flour, and stir until thoroughly combined.

To make the patties: scoop rounded tablespoons of the batter; form it into a round, flat patty, about 1 inch thick.

Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat; add enough oil to coat the bottom. When the oil is hot, set the falafel patties in the skillet. Cook until nicely browned on the first side, about 5 minutes. Flip and cook the other side 4-5 minutes, adding oil if the pan gets dry. When patties are crispy on both sides and heated through, remove and place on a plate lined with a paper towel.

For the tahini sauce:

1/3 cup tahini
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp garlic
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp water
1/2-1 tsp salt, to taste

In food processor, add all ingredients except salt; process to combine. Pour into bowl and add salt to taste.

To assemble the pita:

Pita bread
Cucumber slices
Tomato slices
Slice of romaine lettuce
Prepared falafel and tahini sauce
Salt and pepper

Toast the pita in the oven at 350 degrees for 5 minutes to warm it up. Cut pita in half. In the pockets of the bread, spread hummus, then stuff with the remaining ingredients. I prefer to salt and pepper the tomato and cucumber slices before adding them to the pita to brighten the flavors.

1 comment:

  1. Just an hour ago I was watching a tv show where they were making falafel and thinking i wanted to make them at home. And it had to be now! I´m so glad you found the right recipe. Less work for me!