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Lebanese Falafel

Lebanese Falafel served with Cucumber Tomato salad and Lemon Tahini dressing

Lebanese Falafel served with Cucumber Tomato salad and Lemon Tahini dressing

I am addicted to falafel. I judge a city by it’s falafel offerings, and can be quite picky. I have lived in two cities with sub-standard falafel, and during that time I honed in on the craft of making my own and demanded that my first meal back in my hometown was falafel. I am a walking example of the Canadian fusion girl: craving Middle Eastern cuisine with the physique of a Scandinavian.

I have tried many versions of this staple, making an effort to write down every tweak and change. Some batches were fit only for the garbage; some made me yearn for the sub-standard offerings. But through dedication and perseverance, I found The Falafel Recipe. The trick: do not cook the beans. This is true throughout the Middle East: In Lebanon and Israel, chickpeas are used. In Egypt, the chickpeas are replaced with fava beans or a combination of fava beans and chick peas (I call this garfava, because it’s fun to say). To make the falafel more Egyptian, the amount of fresh herbs should be doubled, to the point where the falafel looks green. Of course, you could also use a green such as spinach or Swiss chard to get the same effect. Lebanese falafel is the “Canadian” version of Egyptian and Israeli: enough fresh herbs for significant speckles of green, but enough cumin and spice to remind you of Israeli falafel. The uncooked beans give you the classic falafel texture. Not smooth, but grainy (about the size of uncooked quinoa seeds), with a firm bite. For a true classic version, these should be deep fried or pan fried, but I am well aware of my kitchen limitations, and know that hot oil and a stove is a recipe for disaster. Baking is much safer 🙂

To serve these falafels, I have made the traditional falafel pita, made a deconstructed pita including a cucumber-tomato salad and tahini-lemon dressing (1:1 for tahini to lemon juice, mixed well. Add water for consistency as necessary, and some cayenne for spice) and pickled red onions, and eat them plain as snacks. These are by far the best falafels I have ever tasted, and well worth the cravings! (Note: I have not travelled to Israel, Lebanon, or Egypt. But when I do, one of my first stops will be a falafel stand!) Simple, easy, minimal dishes, freezer-friendly, and delicious, these falafels are worth their exalted status in my kitchen.

 

Lebanese Falafel

2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in water

1 small onion, chopped OR ½ cup chives, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped

½ cup fresh parsley, chopped

2 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. ground coriander

½ tsp. paprika

¼ tsp. black pepper

4 tbsp. lemon juice

½ tsp. salt, or to taste

 

Directions:

1)      Drain soaked chickpeas. Rinse well and set aside.

2)      In food processor, add all ingredients. Process until reaches a consistency between couscous and hummus. *Note: Depending on the size of the food processor, may have to do this in batches

3)      Place 2 tbsp. of mixture in your hand, and roll into a ball. Place falafel on a parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat until no mixture left.

4)      Bake at 350oF for 20min. Carefully flip over falafel and bake an additional 10-15min, until falafel golden brown.

5)      Serve as a deconstructed falafel pita, as a topping for a salad, or plain!

 


Mixed Grain Beet Pesto Risotto

Mixed Grain Beet Pesto Risotto

Sometimes I wonder if too much of the Food Network is a bad thing. And then creativity inspires me to create this dish, which on paper looks odd and disjointed at best, but in the mouth is creamy and delicious and bursting with “Summer is Here!” flavour. My first CSA share was a bit of a mishmash, and came with lots of bits and bobs – enough to not want to eat them all raw in salads, but not enough to make a dish highlighting the ingredients. As this summer I am addicted to re-runs of Top Chef and Chopped, I thought that I’d host my own little culinary challenge with my basket. The ingredients:

– Beets (3 small)

– Garlic Scrapes

– Basil

– Cilantro

– Beans

– Radish

– Kale

Granted, all of them could work well together in a myriad of ways – the challenge was the quantity! Tasters of each, I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.

I adore mixed grains in a risotto/pilaf dish. Because each grain has a slightly different cooking time, the result is a chewy, creamy mouthful of goodness. This dish started out as a pilaf, but when I added the pesto mixture there was too much liquid, so it became a risotto. Quite possibly the easiest risotto ever – no stirring required! (Take that, Tom Colicchio). To the CSA offerings I added cauliflower and red onion – that’s it! The radishes were going to be incorporated, but I ate them all before the dish was born. For good measure, the radish greens made it in though. Radish greens are like dandelion greens, and quite bitter – I am addicted.

I had pre-roasted the beets as an experiment, but I don’t know if it’s worth it. By all means – go ahead if it’s cool enough to turn the oven on. I thought that the roasting quality got lost in the bright risotto, and the pre-cooked beets turned the risotto purple quite quickly. I think next time what I’ll do is leave the beets raw, and grate them on top for garnish. This would make the beet flavour more prominent, add another crunch level, and *hopefully* decrease the beet stain of the risotto!

Regardless, this dish is exceptional. Fancy enough to serve to company, delicious and decadent, I give myself a score of 10! Now where’s the Chopped auditions …

 

Mixed Grain Beet Pesto Risotto

¼ cup barley

½ cup buckwheat

½ cup rice

½ cup wild rice

½ cup red onion, sliced into quarters

¼ tsp. dried thyme

1 small head cauliflower, cut into small florets (approx. 4½ cups)

1 cup loosely packed fresh basil (if short, make up difference with fresh cilantro)

1½ tsp. garlic, minced (or 3 garlic scrapes, chopped)

1¼ cup green beans, cut in 1” pieces

½ cup roasted beets, cut into wedges*

1½ cup fresh kale

salt, pepper to taste

*To roast beets, wash beets and place whole in tinfoil packet. Roast at 375dF for 40min-1h, or until just tender.

 

Directions:

1) In large pot, sauté onion in ¼ cup water until translucent, approx. 5min.

2) Add barley, buckwheat, rice, wild rice, and 6 cups water. Cover, and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and simmer approx. 25min., stirring occasionally.

3) In large pot, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add thyme and cauliflower. Cover and cook until cauliflower tender, approx. 10min.

4) Remove cauliflower from heat and let cool slightly. Puree contents of cauliflower pot with basil and garlic until silky smooth.

5) Add cauliflower mixture to grains. Stir.

6) Add beans to mixture. Stir, cover, and let simmer approx. 5min., or until beans just tender.

7) Add beets, kale. Stir.

8) Adjust for seasonings. Turn off heat and let sit 10min.

9) Stir and serve!

 


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