‘Peas and ‘Plants: Falafels and Baba Ganoush

Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there. You are all Wonder Women, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.  Hopefully you get to kick back a little, relax, be treated like the queens you all are and not have to make your clan dinner. And, if you do, hopefully someone else will be cleaning the kitchen afterwards, and in a manner where you don’t’ have to go back and redo it.

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As for me, I have no kids, but my plants seem to be doing well, so there’s that.

In other news, it’s crunch time. I leave for Nepal in less than a week (4 days, to be precise) and while I got a lot checked off my to-do list yesterday, there is still a lot left. The biggest challenge is how to get a sleeping bag, 15 days’ worth of clothing and hiking snacks stuffed into my duffle. Oy.

That’s a worry for later this week. Today is Sunday. No worrying allowed.

Eating good food, however, is allowed. Necessary, really. There’s a reason Sunday Dinner is sacrosanct.

The good food I’m bringing to your table today are two somewhat generic middle eastern favorites:  falafels and baba ganoush.

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Just because they’re generic doesn’t mean they are blah. Quite the contrary.

I don’t think I had my first falafel until I was in high school. As worldly as our table was, I can’t remember mom ever really making Middle Eastern food, or us really going out for it. That was until we moved to Flint-town and discovered Badawest, and our lives were forever changed. If you’re in the Flint, Michigan area, you HAVE to go. It’s the best ever and even though it’s totally no-frills, my family and I had more than one special occasion dinner there.  When the food is that good, the lack of white tablecloths doesn’t matter.

I digress. In case you have never had them, falafels are basically fried chickpea fritters. They take about 5 minutes to throw together and about as many ingredients. Despite being this easy, I don’t eat them or make them often. Two reasons: 1) they’re fried and 2) I don’t fry things.  No falafels for me.

A few weeks ago I started paging through some of the cookbooks collecting dust on my shelves when I saw that Top Chef got all fancy with it and made a “deconstructed falafel” with the falafel patty serving as the “bun” encasing a zucchini salad.  I don’t really see the point of deconstructing food since I usually just reconstruct it before I eat it. So, by deconstructing it, you’re really just making more work for me.  Thanks.  However, this recipe differed in that it wasn’t so much a chickpea fritter as a chickpea patty, and they were pan-fried rather than deep fried. I could get on board with both of these things.

Falafels are usually served with tzatziki sauce but, since I already made tzatziki for ya’ll, I figured I’d serve mine alongside some baba ganoush, all wrapped up nicely in a pita.   Baba ganoush is a popular vegetarian dip and spread, and countries from Turkey all the way to Bangladesh, actually, have a version.

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According to Wikipedia (take that how you will), the Arabic term means “pampered papa” or “coy daddy”, perhaps with reference to its supposed invention by a member of a royal harem.  Interesting.  To be honest, I like baba ganoush better than the more-popular appetizer of hummus.  I definitely do not make either enough.

While roasting the eggplant means this takes a little more time than the falafels, it’s still easy…requiring little more work than pressing “pulse” on your food processor (or blender, I suppose).

I served mine with these awesome sweet potato wedges I discovered at PaleOMG. I’m obsessed, and am pretty sure I eat them once a week. To serve with my middle eastern spread, I seasoned mine with smoked paprika and cumin.

I will disclaim that these are not as crispy as the falafels that you’d find at your neighborhood gyro stand. Duh– they’re not deep fried. However, the flavors were there and I liked them just fine. Easy, peasy, pleasy veg dish, and no doubt healthier than your neighborhood gyro stand.

Falafel recipe adapted from Top Chef: The Cookbook

Ingredients

1 15-oz can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained

2 TB flat-leaf parsley

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper, to taste

½ lemon, juiced

2 TB water

½ tsp baking soda

2 TB gluten-free flour mix (or all-purpose flour)

1/3 cup almond flour

Olive oil, for the pan

Directions

1.  In a food processor, combine the chickpeas, parsley, garlic, cumin, red pepper, salt and pepper and puree until smooth.  Add the gluten-free flour, baking soda, water and lemon juice and pulse to combine. Shape into 4-5 patties.

2.  Place the almond flour into a shallow dish. Dip eat patty into the flour, coating each side thoroughly. Set the coated patties aside for 15 minutes.

3.  In a large skillet, heat about ¼ inch of oil over medium heat until hot. Add the patties and pan-fry until cooked through, crispy and nicely browned, about 5-6 minutes per side. Use your best judgment. Transfer to paper towels to drain.

For the baba ganoush

Recipe adapted from Tastes of the Mediterranean

Makes about 1 cup

Ingredients

1 large eggplant

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

½ tsp chili powder

¼ tsp smoked paprika

1 lemon, juiced

2 TB tahini (sesame seed paste)

1 TB olive oil

2 TB (or more if you like) flat leaf parsley

Directions

1.  Preheat the oven to 400F.  Pierce the eggplant several times with a fork, then cook over an open flame for about 5 minutes, or until the skin is black and blistering (if you have a gas stove, you can do it directly over that).  Wrap in aluminum foil and bake for 40-45 minutes until the eggplant is soft and wrinkly.  Place in a colander over a bowl to drain off any juices, about 20 minutes.

2.  Peel the skin from the eggplant, chop coarsely  and place in a food processor with all the other ingredients. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with pitas. Or a spoon. Directly into your mouth.

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