Monday, January 10, 2011

Pita Bread... and flying saucers


Homemade pitas are, to put it plainly, fun to make. Yes, there is yeast involved and yes, there is some hands-on time needed—but the reward is watching them puff up in the oven so that they look like flying saucers. This makes me think of X-Files and old sci-fi movies. Now, how many foods can accomplish that?

I used this recipe, and made just one change in using 1/2 white flour and 1/2 whole wheat. The eight resulting pitas were so delicious, it’s worth the effort. We ate these with falafel, but of course they are also excellent for scooping hummus or loading up with other sandwich fixings.

The most amazing part (besides puffing up like flying saucers) was that the pocket sort of makes itself. There is no special technique to make a “pita pocket”—it just happens. Incredible.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Baked Falafel


Ah, falafel... for some reason, the cafes I have tried in the past year either serve it with a) dill pickle slices or b) sweet corn kernels tucked inside the pita. Needless to say, I’m confused by both and sort of don’t quite know what’s going on.

And so I’ve reacted by making falafel—baked falafel, that is. I had no desire to deep fry anything in our current kitchen, and baking seemed like a good option. Served with homemade pitas (stay tuned for that post... lots of fun to make) and tzatziki sauce they were a delight. Small confession: I truly thought I had purchased a couple lemons for this venture during yesterday’s grocery shopping excursion. The lemons did not make it home with us. Perhaps I was hallucinating when I imagined buying them. So I’m pretending there was lemon juice in the food where it ought to be.

Some things I noticed:
• The recipe I used was to produce 20 falafel, but I think I must have made them too big because I only got 10. But they looked like those J and I used to devour at Sultan’s Market back in Chicago so I’m moving forward with thinking falafel must live in a variety of sizes.

• The falafel brown only where they touch the baking sheet. I didn’t flatten them enough, so browning on the first side was sort of mediocre. They were well squashed when it came time to bake the second side.

• They don’t have quite as much flavor as traditionally fried falafel, but they make a perfectly acceptable healthy variation.

I modified the recipe ever so slightly, here it is.

1-1/2 c cooked chickpeas
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro
1 tsp lemon juice
1 T olive oil
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried red pepper flakes (adjust to your liking)
2 T flour
1 tsp baking powder
sea salt & pepper to season

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whirl everything in a food processor so that it’s blended but still a little chunky (or mash the chickpeas with a fork, and finely chop everything else). Form into small balls, about 1 1/2″ in diameter and slightly flatten. Place onto baking sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes on each side, until browned. Serve with falafel-friendly things such as pitas, hummus, tzatziki sauce, hot sauce, Jerusalem salad, tomatoes, lettuce and/or cucumber.