Quick note before a visit to falafel land: Eat Drink Garden has been nominated for The Kitchn’s Homie Awards 2014. If you enjoy reading this blog I would appreciate your vote— it takes a village to keep a food blog going. Just click over here and and find Eat Drink Garden in the list. Thank you!!
My husband was out of town last week and I thought it would be fun to host an impromptu girls night. In typical Val fashion, cocktails and small bites with a few friends morphed into a sit-down dinner for nine — in the same way our humble little chicken coop has given way to a full chicken compound, complete with lighting fixtures.
Since I was flying solo without my wine-wingman, a family-style dinner was the best solution — fun, casual and easy. Trying to plate for nine in the kitchen would take a huge amount of time, too many trips back and forth to the table and cold food. It also meant I could sit down; enjoy time with guests, freeing them from that awkward guilt of the host being in the kitchen all night.
My menu inspiration came from two sources: the jars of homemade pickled turnips in the fridge that were relentlessly calling to me and the opportunity to make something that my husband doesn’t like to eat. Hence, it was falafel time — I mean, if items in your fridge start talking to you, it’s best to listen.
These falafels were a hit, served alongside my faithful farro salad (I used regular faro instead of the cracked farro — it was just as delish) and a simple citrus salad. My learning curve moment was that I should’ve doubled up on the falafel recipe, I thought it made around 20, but it was only 12 (details, details). It worked out fine and all had a girls’ time.
Joan Nathan’s Favorite Falafel Recipe
Adapted a tad
Note: Canned beans are not my favorite, but I’ll use them in a pinch. For this recipe, they work fine, but here’s a tip on how to combat that out of the can taste. Strain and rinse the beans, then soak for about five minutes in cool water with a pinch of salt. Strain again and use as needed.
1 can rinsed garbanzo beans, or 1 cup dried garbanzo beans, soaked overnight
1/2 large onions, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon salt
4 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp red chili flakes
1 teaspoon cumin, toasted
Zest of one lemon
1 teaspoon baking powder
4-6 tablespoons flour
Oil for frying
Pickled turnips (recipe below)
Cherry tomatoes halved and sprinkled with salt
Butter head or Romaine lettuce
Onions, sliced thin and soaked in water
Greek yogurt sauce (Normally, you serve falafel with tahini dressing, but I used this easy yogurt sauce instead.)
Flat bread or pita (toasted or warmed)
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, add the garbanzo beans, parsley, cilantro, salt, chili flakes, garlic cumin and lemon zest. Process until mealy and blended, but not to full puree.
Sprinkle the baking powder and 4 tablespoons of flour and pulse until incorporated adding more flour if needed. I used five tablespoons of flour. You want the dough to form into a small ball that is not sticky. Remove from processor and store in a clean bowl for several hours in the fridge.
Scoop out golf ball sized balls (about two tablespoons) – I used an ice cream scooper, it helps to insure that they’re all the same size and will cook in about the same amount of time.
Heat about 3-inches of oil to 350 degrees in a wok or large frying pan. Fry one ball to test — if it falls apart, add a little flour to the dough. Fry six balls at a time for a few minutes, turning occasionally until dark golden brown. Drain on paper towels and give a little sprinkle of salt.
Stuff half of a pita or flatbread with a few falafels and garnish away!
If you want to make the falafel in advance, keep them warm in a 200 degree oven until serving time, but I would recommend that you not make them more than one hour in advance.
Now for those pickled turnips…
Pickled Turnips with Garden Herbs
These refrigerator pickles add a delightful zip to a simple salad or sandwich. These are easy to make and the beets make for the most gorgeous color.
1 ¼ lbs turnips, peeled and sliced in batons
2 chile de arbol
3 thyme springs
1 beet, peeled and sliced in rounds (watch your digits)
3 cloves garlic
3 bay leaves
4 cups water
1 2/3 cup rice wine vinegar
4 tablespoons salt
Layer the beets and herbs and garlic between the turnip batons in clean glass jars. Mix the water and wine vinegar with the salt and pour over the prepared jars, covering the stacked goodies with liquid. Place in your fridge for one week – they will last several weeks in your fridge. Always use a clean fork to remove the pickles when you need them.
If you’re still with me, a little reminder to please add to my nomination over at the Kitchn. I hate asking for anything, but I would appreciate it so much! Thank you!