Mediterranean Night- Hummus and Falafel

Hummus

I remember the first time I ever ate falafel. It was freshman orientation when I attended University of RI. An upperclassman took each orientation group for a tour of the campus and one of the obligatory stops was a shopping center, right next to- but not technically on- campus. As we were herded passed the coffee shops and pharmacy, we came upon Falafel Dave. Falafel Dave was standing outside his little stand with an enormous grin from ear to ear saying, “Come in, have a sample of my falafel.” We freshman dutifully lined up to receive our sample of falafel dipped in hummus.

“What is it?” people mumbled.

“It’s good,” said the upperclassman.

“Is it vegetarian?” I asked. At the time I was loosely vegetarian.

“Yup.”

“And it’s good?” I asked. I had had very little vegetarian food that most people would say tasted good. I didn’t like veggie burgers or anything in that whole classification of what I think of as vegetarian food- lentils, beans, stuff that comes out as a brown mush. That falafel changed my mind about classic vegetarian foods. Well maybe not entirely. I still don’t like lentils or brown mush. However, I did learn that if you look outside American vegetarian cuisine there’s all kinds of good things you can enjoy.

Another favorite of mine, that goes hand-in-hand with falafel is hummus. No party is complete without hummus. It goes great with veggies, it goes well on chips or bread. For years I’ve been buying tubs of hummus in the grocery store, never knowing that hummus is one of the easiest things in the world to make. You just dump all the ingredients into a food processor and blend. I started making

hummus a couple of months ago and now I’m amazed that I ever bought it in the store. And the great thing about making it yourself is you can balance the flavors yourself. I personally like lots of garlic. I’ve been buying my chickpeas in cans and using those for my hummus. While I do reuse the cans, in the interest in cutting down on waste (and cost) this last time I bought dried chickpeas.

Since I had all these chickpeas we decided to have a Mediterranean night, with falafel and hummus. I was going to try to make pita bread as well but the recipes we a bit daunting based on what time I started prepping for dinner. So instead I whipped up some flour tortillas which worked as a nice flat bread substitute. We topped it with some slices of tomatoes and cucumber (the cucumber came from our garden). It was so filling we had leftovers for the next day.

Falafel and Hummus

For this I used half a 14 oz bag of dried chick peas. I intended to soak them over night but forgot. So instead I boiled 4 cups of water and added the chick peas. I let them boil for about 2 minutes then set them aside covered to soak for one hour. Then I drained the remaining water off (into my garden) and used half the chickpeas for the hummus and half for the falafel.

Hummus  -yields about 8 oz

2 cups of chickpeas (you can 1 16 oz can as well)

1/4- 1/2 cup Olive Oil

1 TBSP Tahini (you can skip this if you don’t have it- but it adds to the flavor)

2 cloves of garlic

salt to taste

Add all ingredients to your food processor, blender or I used an immersion blender and blend until smooth.

Falafel- makes 4 falafel balls

2 cups of chickpeas (canned chickpeas may result in soggy falafel)

1/2 small onion

a few sprigs if parsely

1/4 tsp cumin

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1/2 TBSP Flour

Add all ingredients into your food processor (again I used my immersion blender, not the right tool) and blend until a coarse crumbly consistency.

Refrigerate for one hour.

Add 1/2 inch to 1 inch of oil to a cast iron skillet and heat up the oil.

Form small balls using about 2 TBSP of the falafel mixture.

My wonderful husband mans the fryer

My wonderful husband  mans the fryer

Add the falafal to the pan and fry for about 3-5 minutes per side.

Remove from oil and drain.

Serve with pita or flat bread, hummus, tomatoes, or whatever you fancy.

Enjoy!

That cucumber is from my garden

That cucumber is from my garden

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It’s not a cookie, it’s not a scone- it’s a BISCUIT

A couple of months ago I got a craving for one of my favorite Portland breakfast eateries- Pine State Biscuits. As I began talking about this with the international crowd I was hanging out with I realized biscuits are a uniquely American thing. That golden brown, warm, fluffy lump of buttery flakey goodness doesn’t exist. In England and Australia they use the word biscuit to refer to a type of cookie.  All they know of biscuits comes from watching American movies and TV. “You eat them with gravy, right?” I got asked. Yes, you can eat them with gravy, or jam. You can eat biscuits any number of other delightful ways, like using  them to make a  sandwich. Which is what Pine State Biscuits does. They put everything in the world on a sandwich. Check this photo out from brunch a couple of weeks ago that my sister-in-law Amber posted yesterday to my FB wall.

pinestate

Anyway, for several months now I have been experimenting with my biscuit recipe and I believe I have finally perfected it. The final ingredient- the cast iron skillet that was a gift from Amber as well. Let me say, I’ve fallen in love with cast iron, especially for baking. I used the same pan for pizza the other night and it was stellar. Everything browns on the bottom but does not burn. Perfection. In addition to my cast iron, I also received a number of other nifty kitchen toys that make life much easier in the kitchen. I was amazed at the difference I get just from using a proper size bowl. Now my dough forms easily into a ball whereas before I would be chasing ingredients around the edge. And I could go on and on about my pastry cutter. But this is not about kitchen devices- it’s about biscuits. In addition to my cast iron skillet I came back with baking powder from the states. I can get baking powder down here but I had noticed before they weren’t rising as tall as I thought they should. The difference in height I get with the stuff from the states is amazing. I made a batch in the states and noticed this as well. So quality ingredients and the right tools really do make a difference.

Biscuits1

Look at how tall they are

Look at how tall they are

Biscuit 3

Biscuits

2 1/4 c. flour

1 TBSP baking powder

1 tsp salt

1/3 c. ice cold butter

1 TBSP honey

1 c. milk

Pre-heat oven to 425 F

Whisk together dry ingredients in a medium bowl.

Cut in ice cold butter into it is pea sized balls.

Add honey and milk and stir in with a wooden spoon until it creates a ball.

Turn out the dough onto a floured counter top and knead 10 times. The dough should be moist but not sticky. If it’s sticky knead in more flour. This will vary depending on your climate. I use more flour because I live in the jungle.

Roll or pat out to 1/2 inch thick and cut with a cup or biscuit cutter.

Place on cookie sheet- or cast iron skillet

Cook on 425 for 13-15 minutes.

You can slather them in gravy, put butter or jam on them, or make them into sandwiches. The choice is yours. Enjoy!

I made a bacon and egg breakfast sandwich. I even got to use some of that homemade mayo I made the other night.

Bacon and Egg Breakfast Sandwich