Middle Eastern Fare

I was first introduced to falafel, hummus, and tahini in my college days in Minneapolis back in the 90’s.  The flavors were unlike anything I had ever tried before, and I fell in love with the new tastes and smells.  It seemed so “exotic” at the time, which is funny to me now that I’ve tried so many different cuisines and developed a true love for good food around the world.

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Homemade flatbread, falafel, hummus with grilled chicken & rice

For many years, I had a lovely neighbor who made the most wonderful Lebanese food – she would bring me fresh hummus, stuffed grape leaves, and baklava whenever she made some for her family.  And when she entertained, she always put out the most delicious spread.  I haven’t yet tried to make the grape leaves (which are my favorite) but I did make a batch of hummus this week, as well as homemade falafel, a tasty lemon tahini sauce, and some homemade flat bread.

I have made falafel from a mix before, but this was my first time making it 100% from scratch starting with dried chickpeas and I’m pleased overall with how they turned out.  The tahini sauce I made to drizzle on them is so good!  I think that may be something I just keep in the fridge to use as a dressing.  The flat bread recipe was easy, but it was time consuming to fry them all up.  I think next time I’ll use an electric griddle so I can do more than 1 or 2 at a time.

I have included links to the original recipes, as well as copied them below.  I made a half batch of the hummus, which is more than enough, and cooked the chickpeas in my slow cooker on high for 4 hours using Alton Brown’s recipe.  I don’t like a ton of garlic in my hummus, so if that’s your thing you may want to add more.

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Falafel

Falafel

Original recipe is posted on the Downshiftology blog, and copied below.  The only changes I made to the original recipe were to substitute an gluten-free flour blend for the chickpea flour and I used canola oil for pan frying:

  • 1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight (don’t use canned chickpeas)
  • 1/2 cup onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup parsley, roughly chopped (about a one large bunch)
  • 1 cup cilantro, roughly chopped (about a one large bunch)
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tbsp gluten-free flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • canola oil for frying
The night before, soak the dried chickpeas in water in a large mixing bowl for 8-12 hours. Make sure the water covers the chickpeas by 2-3 inches, as they’ll triple in size.
When you are ready to make the falafel, drain and rinse the chickpeas and add them to your food processor.  Add the onion, parsley, cilantro, pepper, garlic, cumin, salt, cardamom and black pepper to the food processor and pulse several times until it resembles the texture of coarse sand.
Transfer the falafel mixture to a bowl and add the flour and baking soda. Stir together, then cover and refrigerate the mixture for 30 minutes to one hour.
Use your hands, an ice cream scoop or falafel scoop to form the falafel into balls or patties (I made small, rounded patties).  If you find the mixture is too wet, you can add another tablespoon of chickpea flour. If it’s too dry and crumbly, you can add a teaspoon or two of water or lemon juice.
Once the falafel are formed, you can cook them by your preferred method:  either deep fry, pan fry, or bake:
Pan Frying (patties): *This is the method I used:  Add a couple tablespoons of oil to a large skillet and fry the patties for 2-3 minutes per side until golden brown.  Remove to a paper towel-lined plate.
Deep Frying (balls):  Add about 3 inches of oil to a pot on medium heat. Heat the oil to 350F.  Cook the falafel in batches (about 6-8 at a time) for 1-2 minutes or until golden. Use a skimmer to check the color of the falafel and make sure they don’t over cook. Then remove them to a paper towel-lined plate.
Baking:  Heat your oven to 425 degrees and line a large sheet pan with parchment paper.  Spritz the parchment with oil and place the patties in the pan, then spritz the tops of the patties with additional oil.  Bake for 15 minutes, flip, and bake another 15 minutes.
Serve the falafel immediately, while warm and crispy on the outside with Lemon Tahini Dressing.  They are delicious alone, on a salad, or on flatbread!  I sprinkled some Za’atar seasoning on mine.
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Falafel with Lemon Tahini Dressing and Za’atar seasoning

Lemon Tahini Dressing

Original recipe is from Cookie and Kate’s blog post for Best Tahini Sauce Recipe.  I have copied it below with the only modification being a little less garlic.  This is soooo yummy!

  • 3-4 small to medium cloves garlic, pressed or minced
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • ½ cup tahini
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Pinch of ground cumin
  • 6 tablespoons ice water, more as needed

In a medium bowl, combine the garlic and lemon juice. Let the mixture rest for 10 minutes, to give the garlic time to infuse the lemon juice with flavor.

Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into another medium bowl. Press the garlic solids with a spatula to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the garlic.

Add the tahini, salt and cumin to the bowl. Whisk until the mixture is thoroughly blended.

Add water 2 tablespoons at a time, whisking after each addition until smooth. (It may seize up, don’t worry.) After about 6 tablespoons, you will have a perfectly creamy and smooth, light-colored tahini sauce.

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Hummus – delicious on pita, chips, or cucumbers

Hummus

This is Alton Brown’s recipe, available in the Food Network app or on their website.  I made a half batch (which is what is shown below; the full batch version is available at the link above) because I used some of my chickpeas to make falafel so I didn’t have enough, but I’m glad because a half batch is plenty!

  • 3 1/2  cups water
  • 8 ounces dry chickpeas, sorted and rinsed
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup tahini, stirred well
  • 3 tablespoons cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
  • Powdered sumac, optional

Place the water, chickpeas, and baking soda in a slow cooker. Cover and cook on high heat for 4 hours, or on low heat for 8 to 9 hours, or until tender.  Drain and allow to cool at room temperature.

Place the chickpeas, garlic, and kosher salt in the bowl of a food processor. Process for 15 to 20 seconds. Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and process for another 15 to 20 seconds. Add the lemon juice and water. Process for 20 seconds. Add the tahini. Process for 20 seconds, then scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the processor running, drizzle in the olive oil.

To serve, transfer the hummus to a bowl and drizzle with additional olive oil and sprinkle with sumac, to taste, if desired.

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Ready to roll out the dough

Mediterranean Flat Bread

I found this super easy flat bread recipe on the All Our Way blog.  I made no modifications to the recipe, however I did *accidentally* let the dough balls rest a little too long, because I got stuck on a conference call for work.  So, then ended up rising a little bit, but they still rolled out easily and puffed up a little bit when I fried them.

  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 3/4 cup warm water (about 100 degrees, warm but not hot to the touch)
  • 1/2 cup warm milk (about 100 degrees, warm but not hot to the touch)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 6 cups flour — keep 1/2 cup out and use as necessary
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook mix the yeast, sugar, water, milk and 2 cups of the flour until well combined.
Add another cup of flour, the salt, and the oil. Continue to mix. When that’s mixed in gradually add the rest of the flour reserving the last 1/2 cup.
Continue mixing until a soft dough forms and the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. The dough will be soft to the touch. Knead the dough for 5-6 minutes until it is soft and smooth.
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise until doubled, about an hour.
Divide the dough in half, then from each half measure out 8 pieces. They will be about 3 oz. each. Form each piece into a tight ball. Cover with a cloth or plastic wrap and let the dough pieces rest for about 10 minutes — this helps the dough relax so that it’s easier to roll out.
Work with one piece at a time on a floured surface. With a rolling pin roll the dough from the center out. Turning the disc as you work. Roll the dough out to about 1/8-inch thick into a 6-inch circle, cover with a small piece of plastic wrap, and repeat until you have 16 pieces of round flat dough.
Heat a lightly oiled skillet to medium heat. When the skillet is hot, cook the flatbread for 2-3 minutes on the first side until it bubbles and puffs. Flip it over with tongs or spatula and cook on the second side until it is golden and spotty brown. Make sure the skillet is hot! If the bread cooks too long it won’t bend and can turn out dry. The right amount of heat is 2-3 minutes per side.  If you have a large electric griddle or flat top, you can cook more than one at a time and this will go much faster!  Transfer to large platter or cookie sheet and cover with a towel until ready to serve
The flatbread can be frozen with excellent results: Let the bread cool and wrap each flatbread with plastic wrap. Gently reheat in aluminum foil in a low oven. Our kids didn’t wait for the reheating process – they were too anxious to get to the bread.
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Hot, fresh flatbread:  delicious!

One comment

  1. Great job, I am working on my cookbook for my girls. I will send you the grapeleaves the way you remember them and also my hummus recipie. I have yet to make falafel but had a great one at Leons bakery in Atl. Also Medditeranean Bakery in Atlanta has the best bread and meat spinach pies.They have small and large sizes.

    Liked by 1 person

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