Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Falafel and Baba Ghanoush

Pita with Falafel and Baba Ghanoush

How often do you cook dinner? Lately I've been finding cooking an entire meal more and more daunting. It's summer and far too nice out to spend unnecessary amounts of time in the kitchen. I also don't have the time to put extra energy into meal planning these days. And never mind trying to make more than one meal if I want non-vegetarian fare. However, much as I'd often like to, we can't have pasta every night!

So I've started, slowly, moving out of my comfort zone and explore foods from other cultures -- cultures that are naturally more bent towards vegetarian-friendly foods than Jewish and French cuisines (where the majority of my cooking experience lies). My first stop on this voyage is Middle Eastern, a cuisine the vegetarian and I frequently indulge in when eating out but, other than a few examples, one I never cook at home. But no more!

Lettuce, Tomatoes, Cucumbers and Onions 
First up was falafel, a ball or patty traditionally made from ground chickpeas and/or fava beans. We opted for chickpeas and, rather than relying on various hot sauces for flavoring, we added lots of spices right in with the beans. The flavor was delicious. The texture, unfortunately, left something to be desired. The falafel patties never quite stayed together so we ended up with fried crumbles more than we did patties. Inside a pita, all was soon forgiven. But any suggestions to improve the texture are much appreciated!

Falafel is traditionally served with tahini, a paste of ground sesame seeds, but, always looking for an excuse to sneak extra vegetables into our diet, I took that a step further and served it with baba ghanoush, a spread made of roasted eggplant with tahini. Enjoy! 

adapted from How to Cook Everything and One Perfect Bite

Put chickpeas in a large bowl and cover with water. Let soak for 24 hours. They will double/triple in volume. Drain the beans well and transfer to a food processor along with all other ingredients through the lemon juice. Pulse until very finely minced but not pureed. Heat a large skillet over a medium-high flame and pour in safflower oil until it coats the pan by at least 2 inches. Heat oil until it flows like water in the pan and a pinch of batter sizzles immediately. Take heaping tablespoons of batter and shape into small patties, using a spoon to shape them as tightly as possible to give them the greatest chance of staying together. Fry in oil, until nicely browned, about 2 minutes on each side. Stuff pita with lettuce, falafel, tomatoes, onion and cucumbers. Drizzle with baba ghanoush. Serve immediately.

Baba Ghanoush
Baba Ghanoush
adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone and One Perfect Bite
Preheat oven to 425F. Slash eggplant in several places so it won't explode in the
oven. Place on a baking pan and bake 40 minutes. Let rest until cool enough to handle. Peel off eggplant skin and discard. Squeeze flesh a bit if very watery. Transfer to food processor and puree with rocambole, sesame paste and water. With motor running, drizzle in lemon juice. Add salt. Transfer puree to a bowl. Drizzle olive oil on top and garnish with parsley.

The Whole Spread
Make It a Meal: This is really a meal in itself. I'd recommend it with a rose or sauvignon blanc. Perhaps some yogurt for dessert. Bon appetit!

Leftovers: Make some big couscous and mix in the baba ghanoush and falafel. Yum!

Links to other falafel noshes:


Mary said...

Lady A., You asked me for assistance in keeping your falafel from falling apart. This site might help youhttp://mideastfood.about.com/b/2010/01/26/help-my-falafel-is-falling-apart.htmJ

I hope this will help. Have a good day. Blessings...Mary

Lady Amalthea said...

Mary, thanks very much for this! I did use flour (1 tablespoon) but apparently I should have used more. I'll know for next time!