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middle eastern cooking

It was a night of indulgences. The last night of the passing year; anything goes. I asked Mr.S what he’d eat if it were his last meal in this lifetime, and he asked for a plate of my falafel with tzatziki sauce. Me, oddly riding the same chickpea vegetarian wavelength, asked him to make me a large batch of his chana masala. What was happening to us? Had the new year’s resolution bug hit us a few days early? And so it came to pass that on the last night of 2007, we each cooked the other a dish-of-choice, to fully satisfy our cravings before the arrival of the new year with all its health kicks (not that it’s ever stopped me…). What manifested on the table was a reflection of how our tastes have developed and changed over the past year, like a culinary journey that ends in discovering something altogether familiar and comforting. We both possess a strong inclination for heavily spiced, ethnically Eastern flavors.

I could’t have asked for a better way to call it a year. What a satisfying way to enjoy dinner that’s both oddly selfish and generous all at the same time. We both got the meal we each wanted and we were able to do the same for the other. Our varied dinner menu consisted of:

chana masala
falafel over mixed greens
tzatziki sauce
whole wheat pita
lychee martinis

Instead of using a boxed falafel mix like I did last time, I made these from scratch. They turned out beautifully, all tender and creamy soft on the inside, scented with cumin, coriander, and fresh cilantro. (The boxed mix usually yields hard little nuggets of lead weight chickpeas.) Though a bit more involved, this recipe still remains straightforward and simple. You’d be surprised at how many of the ingredients you already have in your pantry and fridge. I like my falafel pan-fried, but you can also shape these and bake them for a lower fat version.

In college, I’d always get the best falafel sandwiches from a small deli on St. Paul. It was a hoagie roll, stuffed with these falafel, lettuce, tomato, onion and mayo, grilled and pressed. Aladdin’s Cafe in Locust Point also does a nice job with their falafel platter, well-spiced, and really affordable. But I believe the best version comes from your own kitchen. Whip up a quick batch of these, clear off the coffee table, throw some pillows on the floor, and light some candles.

makes 10 medium patties

1 15-oz. can of garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1 medium onion, rough chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 egg
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
3/4 cup bread crumbs, plus extra for coating (I use Panko)

1. In a food processor, blend together cilantro, parsley, garlic, onion, and lemon juice. Strain to remove most of the liquid and spoon out into a large mixing bowl. Roughly puree the chickpeas and add to the herb/onion paste.

2. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until blended. The mixture should be sticky. Let sit for about 30 minutes.

3. Shape into small to medium size patties, and lightly roll in bread crumbs.

4. Heat 3-4 Tbsp oil in a skillet and fry the falafel 4-5 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towels.

One thought on “falafel”

  1. That looks so yummy but also healthy and light enough after a weekend of gorging (which is what I did!). I recently taught my bf to make chana masala (we call it Chole in South India)…one day he will master it and make it for me!

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