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Falafel – crispy fried nuggets of ground chickpeas, flavored with herbs and spices – are an essential Middle Eastern dish. Serve them as a meze appetizer with Lemon-Garlic Tahini Sauce, or stuff them into warm, home-made Pita Bread with a veggie salad.
All right, we’ll admit it: we’re unapologetically carnivorous. I mean, we’ll try anything, more or less, but when it comes down to “what to make for dinner”, at least a few times a week our protein of choice will be some kind of meat, hopefully raised and butchered responsibly, but still animal. And those of you who’ve been following us for a while know our shtick: we’re not adherents to any one particular diet or another, we don’t do paleo or Atkins or South Beach or whatever, we’re just home cooks who swear a lot and occasionally drop whole dishes of cauliflower cheese on the floor. But we do love vegetables, and the environment, and we also have friends who are vegan, or gluten free, or both, and who will squint and poke us in the ribs from time to time and say “What about me, bud? What about me?” These falafels, my friend, go out to you.
I don’t know why it took us so long to blog a falafel recipe. Emily grew up going to Mamoun’s (the best falafel joint in NYC), and her college years were spent bunked up with vegetarians, Moosewood cookbooks and, frankly, a severe lack of funds. This gave her a pretty good foundation in the dishes that could be put together with varieties of grains, beans and rice. And Matt rarely meets a bean he doesn’t like, but is frequently disappointed by boring veggie burgers. But these spicy deep fried delights? Yeah, these tick all our boxes. While the dried chickpeas require an overnight soak, and the mixture has to chill for a couple of hours, the rest is easy and actually a lot of fun to make. And the good thing is, you don’t even need a deep fryer.
Silky smooth and packed with flavor, Tahini Sauce with Lemon and Garlic is absolutely essential on falafel but delicious on so much else. It’s bright and tangy and as creamy as sauce with no cream (or any dairy) can be.
Pretty much now considered an essential recipe, our Tahini Sauce is based on the version in Michael Solomonov’s wonderful cookbook, Zahav. Don’t be alarmed by the whole head of garlic used in the sauce; like some kind of magic trick, blending the whole, unpeeled cloves with lemon juice neutralizes the formation of allicin, which is the chemical responsible for garlic’s harsher flavors. The resulting sauce is delicately garlicky, with almost no pungency.
Perfect pita pockets served fresh out of the oven, using a combination of white and wholewheat flour to create just the right chewy texture. Use them in a Greek sandwich, or tear them up for dipping.
When putting together recipes for falafels and tahini sauce, we realized that using store-bought pita as an accompaniment would be a bit of a cheat. Certainly when the process for making it at home is as easy as David Tanis makes it in this New York Times recipe, it’s almost more effort to actually go to the store. Pita is leavened, so it does need a rising stage, but it’s nowhere near as time-consuming as for more substantial breads. In fact, the whole process can be completed in less than two hours. And it’s a lot of fun!