Fa la la la la…fel

No, this post isn’t about Christmas or winter. Though it was snowing Friday morning, April 1st. Get yourself in check, Mother Nature!

Anyway, the first time I had falafel was while working in my dad’s office at Rutgers University the summer before my senior year of college. My dad, the purveyor of hidden deliciousness, brought me to a little restaurant across from the Middlesex County Courthouse; G&P Lebanese Pastry & Fast Foods. I immediately fell in love, and have been meaning to try my own for awhile.

Thankfully, the recipe I wound up using didn’t require me to deep-fry the falafel. As we all know, I haven’t yet mastered the whole hot oil and frying thing just yet. I’m still trying though – I wont’ give up! Aside from the fact that hot oil isn’t my friend in the kitchen, this baked version also means they’re at least slightly healthier. The recipe comes from The Student’s Vegetarian Cookbook, which is seriously right up my alley. All of the recipes are quick, easy, and best of all, cheap. The falafels were no different, though I did have some trouble locating the tahini, but I didn’t give up and eventually found it in ShopRite (we really need to find a better grocery store).

I think these bad boys would be great on a bed of lettuce, as a Middle Eastern burger, or just how we had them – in a pita with lettuce, hummus, feta, and hot sauce. Yum!

Falafel via Student’s Vegetarian Cookbook
– makes about 8 patties –

1/2 medium red potato (I wound up throwing in a whole small red potato)
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 (15 1/2 oz.) can of garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
3 Tbsp lemon juice
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbsp tahini
1/2 tsp paprika (I did a full tsp)
1 Tbsp parsley (I omitted)

Optional ingredients:
Whole wheat pita
Feta cheese
shredded lettuce, tomato, and onion
Tsiziki sauce
Hot sauce

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Cut the potato into 1-inch chunks. Place the potatoes in a pot of water (enough to fully cover potatoes), and boil until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain.
3. While the potato cooks,  heat the oil in a small skillet and slowly sauté onion until soft, about 8-10 minutes.
4. In a medium bowl, mash the beans, potato, and lemon juice. Add the onion, garlic, tahini, paprika, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste; stir to combine. The mixture will have a consistency similar to cookie dough.
5.  Lightly oil a baking sheet with vegetable oil/spray. Spoon the mixture onto the baking sheet, forming 3-inch pancakes. Place in the oven and bake for 15-minutes.

A Stewy Kind of Day

Since we’ve been getting at least one snow storm a week, I’ve been on a stew kick. The definition of stew is “To cook (food) by simmering or boiling slowly,” which is exactly what these recipes have been. I live in New Jersey, and the past year of weather has been outrageous. Last winter wasn’t SO bad, but I do remember a few pretty solid snow storms. This past summer was unbearable with its sticky, humid days, and the only solace I found was in the fall. Enter winter 2010 – 2011, where as soon as we hit the end of December, the skies have been pouring snow and other wintery precipitation on us like no other. My mom, a school nurse, has already used all of her snow days. And we’re barely into February!

Last week, I went with an Indian stew, Dal. I think I used about 75% of my curry powder stock in one week, but it was well worth it. Since I had made some curry earlier in the week, I had left over sweet potato and cauliflower to add to the mix. I debated adding some chickpeas as well, but decided to save them for another rainy, or in this case snowy, day. The Dal recipe I went off of is from the Student’s Vegetarian Cookbook by Carole Raymond that I got for Christmas. Everything is quick, easy, and affordable. Aside from taking a few minutes to chop up the ingredients, sauté them, and cook the lentils, it’s a pretty no-fuss meal. It’s also really hearty. Just what you need on these cold winter nights!

Veggie Dal
-Serves 4-

1 cup dried lentils
3 cups water
2 Tbsp oil
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 cups onion, chopped
1/2 cup cauliflower
1 sweet potato, peeled and sliced
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp garam masala

1. In a medium saucepan, combine the lentils, water, and 1 cup of chopped onion. Bring the ingredients to a boil; reduce the heat, cover the pan, and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.
2. While the lentils are cooking, heat the oil in a medium skillet; add the remaining 1 cup onion, garlic, sweet potato, cauliflower, curry and garam masala. Sauté the vegetables on medium or medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until the onions are golden, and the veggies are soft, and just beginning to brown, 10-15 minutes.
3. Add the vegetable mixture to the cooked lentils, stirring to combine. Heat the lentil mixture for a few minutes longer. Salt to taste.