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Friday, August 16, 2013

Jaimie's Welcome Home Feast for Shelly

Since Shelly was gone overnight to a conference, I (Jaimie) decided to welcome her home with a nice felafel dinner.  I started with dried chick peas, which I soaked using the quick method - four cups of chick peas in a pot with water about three inches above the peas, bring to a boil, simmer for five minutes then soak for an hour.  Admittedly, I wasn't too careful about timing.  I think they were only at a full boil for about a minute, so I cut the heat back to simmer for four minutes.  Then I let them soak until I was ready for them, which was more like two hours later.
While the chick peas were soaking, I went out to the garden to do the day's harvest.  I spotted what I thought were three oddly shaped zucchini (they turned out to be unripe pumpkins - they tasted just like zucchini to me, though).  Thinking I had scored a coup (we thought our zukes were done), I picked them.  I also snagged some beans, peas, cukes and tomatoes.

When I came back in, I diced up one of the "zucchinis" and tossed it in a bowl with leftover quinoa, lemon juice, chopped fresh mint, chopped fresh parsley, salt, minced garlic, cucumber and tomatoes.  It's basically this recipe for tebbouleh, but I tripled the garlic and used one of my freshly picked cucumbers and two of my freshly picked tomatoes, and I put in the "zucchini" and left out the scallions.

 Next, I tackled the felafel.  I usually use this recipe, but I leave out the hot pepper.  I also serve it with tzatziki, because I hate tahini. When I don't have a food processor handy, I skin the chick peas.  With the food processor, I don't bother, and since I was doing this at home, I was able to use my food processor.  All of the ingredients listed in the recipe go into the food processor and get ground to a sandy consistency.  This is then turned out into a bowl and refrigerated so the flavors can marry.  Mine sat in the fridge for about two hours before I cooked it.

The felafel recipe took about two thirds of the chick peas, so I decided to make hummus with the rest.  Again, I used the food processor, and again it was really easy.  I started with this page as a starting point.  The page's author says to process your tahini for a minute before you add any other ingredients, but you have to remember that I really don't like tahini.  We have bought it for hummus and felafel in the past, but it goes rancid after a few years in the cupboard, so we stopped buying it.  Instead of tahini, I started with olive oil and lemon juice.  I put about 1/4 inch of olive oil in the bottom of the food processor bowl along with three or four generous squirts of lemon juice.  (All right, yes I used a squeezy lemon for this.  I did use the juice of a fresh lemon in the tebbouleh, but I wanted to be able to control the amount more easily in the hummus.  I didn't want to juice a whole lemon for a couple of squirts worth of juice.) 

I let this process for about a minute, until it looked like mayonnaise, then added the chick peas.  I processed this on high and added various other things until it tasted right.  I know I used four cloves of garlic (maybe five or even six - I didn't count), salt, a little more lemon juice, a pinch of adobo seasoning (Filipino, not Mexican adobo), about half a teaspoon of Ras al Hanout and a pinch of chipotle lime rub.

It doesn't really matter what you put in hummus, other than the chick peas.  Add stuff til it tastes good to you.  I did this and let it sit in the fridge until dinner time, an hour or so.

Next up was the pita dough.  Here is the recipe I used.  I did not change anything in this, and it came together surprisingly easily.  I did let the dough balls rise for closer to an hour, but that was because I was busy with other things.  It didn't seem to have any negative effect on the pitas.

Finally, I made tzatziki.  As I have said several times in this post, I don't like tahini.  Therefore, I don't serve it as a dressing for my felafels.  Instead, I make tzatziki, which is the simplest, yet yummiest sauce imaginable for any kind of Middle Eastern or Mediterranean food.  You need about a cup and a half to two cups of plain (UNSWEETENED - sweetened plain yogurt came as quite a shock to me when I accidentally used it in tzatziki once, let me tell you) yogurt, a cucumber and several cloves of garlic.  That's it.  Peel, seed and dice the cucumber, mince the garlic. then mix the ingredients together.  You may be tempted to add onion, but I wouldn't.  Don't overthink this sauce.  Just put it in the fridge, then load the dishwasher or something.  Maybe have a beer. 

By the time you're done with your beer (I loaded the dishwasher), it should be time to heat the oven and the oil.  I put my oven rack in the lowest position, per the pita recipe, but I used a pizza stone instead of a sheet pan.  I love our pizza stone.  I set the oven for 500f and put three inches of oil (okay, it's turkey fryer oil - it's what I had available) in my deep cast iron skillet and cranked the flame up to high.  For the felafels, you want the oil around 350f.  I find that I get there in a couple of minutes.  I put a test felafel ball in at the three minute mark, or thereabouts, and let it cook.  When it's golden brown, the oil is ready.

I made felafel balls the size of a walnut and then flattened them so I had 3/4 inch high disks.  I fried these six at a time and drained them on newspaper (we don't buy paper towels any more).

While the felafel was frying, I flattened four pita dough balls on my floured board and gently patted them out to five inch disks (right!) about 1/4 inch thick.  Once the oven was at temp, I put the well floured disks on my pizza peel and slid them onto the pizza stone.  (I love my pizza peel - I didn't get burned once tonight!) 

The recipe says to bake them for about eight minutes, but I found that six was just about perfect.  This is the first time that every one of my pitas puffed up and formed a pocket. 

The secret is to remember that pitas are not pizzas.  Don't stretch the dough or push it too flat in the middle.  The idea is to be very gentle and pat or, better yet, roll the circles to the desired size and thickness.

When everything was ready, I laid it out on the table and plated the girls'.  Here is Lily's. 

Shelly made her own, as did I.  Here's Shelly's felafel whopper:

Well, there you have it, a complete vegetarian feast from idea to plate in just over five hours and everything made from scratch.  This is what I do.  How about you?

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