We had some company today, so I decided to make falafel. In case you’re not familiar with falafel, it’s ground chickpeas, onions and parsley, and depending on nationality and personal preference, there might be eggs, other herbs, garlic, and any number of other ingredients, but I like the simple approach. The ingredients are all ground together, similar to making sausage, then shaped like walnuts and fried. The result is a crispy fritter that’s moist and tender in the middle (pictured at the bottom of the plate below with Greek salad, roasted potatoes, pita bread, feta/hummus and pickled turnips, clockwise from bottom) .
It’s been awhile since I made falafel because last time I tried a from-scratch approach that was less than successful… Think chick pea confetti floating in my frying oil. I’ve had varying levels of success with falafel, both boxed and scratch recipes, but today was by far my best effort.
I used the Ziyad Falafil Mix from our local Mediterranean food shop. I love shopping at the Mediterranean Mart, and wish I knew more about the food, so I could spend more of my grocery dollars there. Yesterday, when Naren and I went in with falafel on the brain, the owner’s dad, who doesn’t speak English, followed Naren around the store trying to suggest items he might need using sign language and hearty pats on the back. Thankfully, this left me free to gather what we really did need, and Papa Med Mart sent us on our way with some fresh raw almonds and mastic chewing gum. If you’ve never had raw almonds, they’re sort of a cross between a green bean just out of the garden and the freshness of a cucumber. I’m sold, and will be stopping in later this week to grab some more to munch on.
So, falafel. This mix is awesome; you just add water, and it’s ready to fry in 30 minutes. They turn out kind of dense, but are still tasty. When I’ve made them from scratch, the flavor and texture are much lighter, but it’s a huge mess, and I do not enjoy doing dishes. I also hate not knowing how something’s going to turn out after I’ve put in a lot of effort, so until someone’s grandmother shows me how to make real falafel (like the lady at the Holyland Diner in Springfield, IL, who makes these delightfully light and herbaceous falafel), I’ll be sticking with the mix.
This time I added a big handful of chopped parsley I had left from my “Greek” salad and a small bunch of chopped green onions, whites and a couple inches of greens. I tossed the fresh veg with the dry mix and then added the water, and the resulting batter was a little thinner than it’s turned out in the past (one whole 12 0z. box with 1 1/2 c. water). The box just says to fry them in hot oil until they float, so I set the Fry Daddy to 375 F, and got down to business. The parsley and onions did exactly what I hoped, lightening up the falafel and lending the fresh note I wanted.
We recommend buying fresh pita bread (although it’s apparently easy to make at home if you’re so inclined) from your local Mediterranean store, but pita or tortilla chips would work if you just want to dip. We like the big flat pitas for making wraps, rather than the smaller pocketed variety. Top with hummus, a creamy feta cheese and tzatziki sauce or dill dip, some fresh veggies and pickled turnips (or sour dill pickles if you can’t find turnips), and wrap up some love. Yes, I did say pickled turnips, and yes, I’m serious. They’re slightly sour and a little crisp, and you’ll be glad I talked you into trying them. If you can’t find them already cut into strips, just chop up the bigger chunks, ’cause a little goes a long way.
Every time I make falafel, Naren takes the leftovers to work the next day, and his friends descend like vultures. I must be doing something right! Now, break out the fryer, and make some yourself!
Of course I forgot that I bought baklava at the Med Mart until I’d already made strawberry shortcake. From scratch. Including fresh whipped cream. Yeah, I should probably check the fridge before I start cooking. I didn’t like the shortcake recipe, it was too wet, almost sticky. I’ll look for another recipe, so I can devote a whole post to making homemade whipped cream!
P.S. For the gorgeous roasted potatoes, pictured at the beginning of this post: Peel and cut 1 medium Yukon Gold per person into about 2 inch chunks (whatever size you do, just be consistent). Toss potatoes with equal parts melted butter and olive oil (I used 5 potatoes and 2 Tbsp. each butter/oil), then sprinkle generously with salt. Spread out on a large rimmed baking sheet. They need a little room, so don’t crowd the pan. Bake in a preheated 350 F oven about 40 minutes. Give them a stir about half way through, so they don’t stick too much. They’re done when the outside starts to blister and turn brown, and the inside is soft and creamy. Toss hot potatoes with the juice of half a lemon, pepper and salt to taste. Serve hot.