Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Ahhh Falafel

Tonight I had friends coming over for dinner. They have taken care of my dog on a regular basis and refuse any sort of payment, so when I cook for them, I like to do it up right. But the way the last 2 days have gone, I wasn't feeling up for much of anything, let along cooking a big meal. I toyed mostly with the idea of steak but wasn't enthused about that. So I called my sister, the chef extraordinaire, to see what suggestions she might have. She offered up a whole host of ideas and I hemmed and hawed over several. Then it hit me--Greek food! I could make falafel and couscous and we could have Greek food! I thanked my sister for her ideas and for stirring my imagination and off I went to the store to collect the necessary ingredients. Only when I got there, the package for "falafel" I had hoped to find (not knowing for sure it existed) was nowhere to be found, so I redialed my sis and asked for a recipe...super simple. I gathered the ingredients and headed home. This is easily one of the best meals I've had in awhile and it was SO simple, so I thought I'd share the fun for anyone who is lacking inspiration on their nightly cooking.

1) Pita
2) Dip/Sauce: 1 cup sour cream, 1 tsp dill, 1/2 tsp salt, 3/4 cup chopped cucumber
3) Chicken: heat 2 tbsp EVOO in a medium/large skillet. Add chopped chicken (I used about a pound for 3 people, and there was enough plus left overs for one meal) and brown. Once chicken is browned, add 4 cloves chopped garlic and cook for 2-4 more minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4) Tomato chopped
5) Couscous: Near East brand....follow the directions, but basically it takes all of 8 minutes, boil the water, add couscous. Remove from heat, cover and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork--it's ready to go!
6) Falafel (follow the recipe below). Found here.

We ate the falafel and couscous on the side and piled everything else into the pita bread! Super simple, maybe 20 minutes prep if you need something quick....the falafels take the most time because of frying them (and there is a recommended *refrigerated sit time* that I didn't have time for and it all turned out alright.

1 cup dried chickpeas (or one can)
1/2 large onion, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon salt
1/2-1 teaspoon dried hot red pepper
4 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon baking powder
4-6 tablespoons flour
Soybean or vegetable oil for frying
Chopped tomato for garnish
Diced onion for garnish
Diced green bell pepper for garnish
Tahina sauce
Pita bread

1. Put the chickpeas in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover them by at least 2 inches. Let soak overnight, then drain. Or use canned chickpeas, drained.

2. Place the drained, uncooked chickpeas and the onions in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the parsley, cilantro, salt, hot pepper, garlic, and cumin. Process until blended but not pureed.

3. Sprinkle in the baking powder and 4 tablespoons of the flour, and pulse. You want to add enough bulgur or flour so that the dough forms a small ball and no longer sticks to your hands. Turn into a bowl and refrigerate, covered, for several hours.

4. Form the chickpea mixture into balls about the size of walnuts, or use a falafel scoop, available in Middle-Eastern markets.

5. Heat 3 inches of oil to 375 degrees in a deep pot or wok and fry 1 ball to test. If it falls apart, add a little flour. Then fry about 6 balls at once for a few minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Stuff half a pita with falafel balls, chopped tomatoes, onion, green pepper, and pickled turnips. Drizzle with tahina thinned with water.

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