Everything tastes better when it is fried, which is among the problems that America has as a nation, food-wise. It has not, historically, been a big problem for me as long as I don’t eat out because I did not used to fry much at home but then I decided to make my own falafel and that might change.
It actually started when I had some pita left over from a takeout dinner and decided to try frying them to make them as delicious as the fare I have always enjoyed at Shawarma King (although probably not anymore since I loved their lunch buffet and those aren’t really for me these days). Anyway, I put some oil in my wok, heated it up and promptly burned the proverbial crap out of the very thin pita. So, I turned off the heat, set the oil aside, and when I went grocery shopping the next day, I picked up a package of pita bread that was a little thicker than the restaurant stuff. That fried up just fine.
I cut the pita into wedges with a pizza cutter then separated the two sides and fried them individually, netting 16 chips per pita loaf. I fried them a few at a time over medium-high heat, flipping each chip once and not leaving them in very long. I did not own any sort of slotted metal implement that would be appropriate for fishing out the finished chips, so I went with tongs, which was fiddly but worked. I did not eat too many myself but man, fried pita chips are delicious! I tried it again with whole wheat pita and could not really tell the difference.
To go with the chips, I made hummus. I am actually not snobby about the stuff, I like store-bought hummus just fine but when I make it myself, I can put in as much garlic as I want! I neglected to take any photos of the process but basically, I just mixed everything up in a food processor until smooth. The ingredients I use (noting that the quantities are approximate because I do not measure) are:
- 1 can chickpeas / garbanzo beans, drained & peeled (yes, peeling them is a pain in the ass but the finished product is so smooth and delicious, I think it is worth it. I generally do the work while watching something mindless on TV anyway.
- 1 head roasted garlic, cloves squeezed out
- 4 raw garlic cloves
- juice of 1 lemon
- zest of 1/2 lemon
- 1/4 cup tahini
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon pepper (I really don’t measure this, I always add it straight from the grinder)
- salt to taste (again, straight from the grinder, unless I am using truffle salt, which I have in a jar)
I also sprinkled a bit of paprika over the top for serving but I am not sure it makes a big difference, really. Anyway, my hummus is always full of garlic and lemony goodness, you usually don’t find those both used so heavily in the store-bought kind.
Not long after, I thought about my slightly used oil and decided to try to make falafel. I actually don’t always like falafel when I get it at a restaurant. This is weird because it is (a) chickpeas and (b) fried, which are two things I love. I think the problem is that I never have any that is as good as I get at Haifa Falafel. I have just been spoiled by deliciousness. Anyway, I decided to try making my own so I looked at some recipes online and they pretty much all say to start with dried chickpeas. Sure, those are inexpensive and not hard to make into the edible variety but I wanted falafel now (then)! So, I decided to try it with canned beans because I always have those on hand.
In my trusty food processor, I mixed a drained (not peeled) can of chickpeas with some garlic, onion, parsley, cumin, salt, pepper, and flour (not very much though). I processed it way less than hummus so that it was still kind of gritty and then formed it into balls, which I squished flat-ish before tossing them into the hot oil where they immediately disintegrated. Okay, maybe not immediately, but they definitely fell apart when I tried to turn them over so it was pretty clear that I had done something wrong. I think my mixture was just too moist.
So, instead of totally giving up, I grabbed some breadcrumbs and stirred them into the mix. It worked out okay and the end result was delicious but I really shouldn’t be adding carbs like that so next time I am going with dried chickpeas and no breadcrumbs. The tongs still did not really work well even when the falafel was not totally falling apart so I switched to a serving spoon with cutouts to let the oil drain. I have since purchased a holey paddle meant for frying but have not gotten around to actually using it yet.
Since I made the falafel after the hummus was gone, I needed something to eat with it. I decided to try making toum (Lebanese garlic sauce) which is something I have always failed at and this was no exception. It is a fluffy amazingly white emulsion of oil, lemon juice, and raw garlic, seasoned with salt. That’s it, just four ingredients. The way to screw it up though is to add the oil too quickly (or too slowly?) and let the emulsion “break” or separate, which always happens to me. It did this time too but I decided to eat it anyway by mixing my messed up sauce with some tahini, parsley, and sour cream to make a dip that was actually pretty good. The sour cream actually made it feel a little like eating latkes but the garlic and tahini made it decidedly more Mediterranean in flavor. Overall, I would call both of my improvised substitutions a success!
I have since bought dried chickpeas but have yet to reconstitute them, which I obviously will not even attempt until after I move this week.