Tag Archives: cooking

How to make a falafel dinner

RYMFB4ZQPTT6 Falafel, in the Middle East, is a stealth vegetarian meal. Everyone likes it (at least, everyone I’ve met), it’s the perfect street food, it’s so tasty that no one misses the meat, and it’s a great way to get extra vegetables into your diet.

There’s an ongoing argument about the provenance of falafel – a fried, seasoned ball of ground chickpeas – and who owns the original idea, but it’s a basic staple of the eastern Mediterranean. Some of the best falafel is found in grittier areas of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The concept is thus: you order a whole or a half sandwich, and choose from toppings to stuff precariously into your pita. Those toppings include a rainbow of shredded or chopped salads, fried eggplant, chips (in the British sense), tahini sauce, and a super-hot Yemeni condiment called zhug, which I think you have to be Yemeni to pronounce correctly.

Oh, the memories. No, I won’t tell you how old those memories are, but I did live in Israel for 10 months in my early 20s so you can do the math if you have the right additional info.

The international chain Maoz, now in big cities in Europe and North America, is very, very good, but it’s fun and possible to have a real falafel experience at home, from scratch. (That said, I tried making falafel recently when I was cooking for myself – I’ve done it before, I swear – and dangit! they fell apart. It is a bit of a stretch to try and nail fresh pita bread AND fresh falafel AND two or three toppings by one’s self in a few hours. The pics are from a more relaxed and successful attempt.)

Here are the elements:

Tahini sauce – tahini from a jar (the Lebanese kind is best), thinned with water and lemon juice and with some chopped garlic mixed in, like hummous without the chickpeas
‘Israeli salad’ – simply chopped cucumbers and tomatoes
Pitta or pita bread – Worth making yourself, I swear, and surprisingly easy. Try this recipe if you’re used to working with cup measurements, and this one if you prefer weights and have a gram scale; I’ve had good success with both. Whether or not you make them in advance, wrap them in a towel as they come out of the oven to keep them soft.
Chips or french fries – not a requirement, but I love them, and they are a traditional falafel stuffing in Israel
Falafel – ah. Here’s where I have to be a bit bashful and confess that I tend to use a mix, as falafel made thus are quick, tasty, and reliable. I promise that I will continue to work toward my own recipe for falafel from scratch. Watch this space! Update: Here is a post from Zeb Bakes full of super-useful tips on rolling your own, from dried fava beans. I think that means I’m next!
Zhug – it really does help set off the flavours to include something spicy. Here is a legit one from The Atlantic so as to avoid linking to one out there that seems to have been ripped off without permission.
Eggplant – thin, fried (or oven fried) slices are a very nice addition.

You can also look around for vinegary pickled cucumbers or other vegetables, and maybe throw together a salad of shredded carrots or beets.

Enjoy and let us know how it goes!

RYMFB4ZQPTT6

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This week’s veg box, at the very end of summer

Here’s what I got with this week’s veg box scheme. Every week I get portions of potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, and onions, plus a handful of other vegetables, though I can swap some of those if need be. So this week I swapped out potatoes and carrots – because I have accumulations of both I need to use up – and the sum total is three tomatoes, two leeks, yellow onions, fennel, a bag of ‘spring greens’ (? They look rather like collards, less wrinkly than kale), an ear of corn (just one? really?), two large portobello shrooms instead of one, and a zucchini/courgette. To the left (just out of sight, sorry) are a couple of pounds of plums I got from a vendor in the market square. And there’s half a large cabbage in the fridge, along with the remains of borscht from last week’s beetroot.

I shall apply my veggie kabbala meditation to this collection and see what I come up with. I think I could easily use a number of these items in one swoop. We’re having company for dinner on Monday – a Belgian gentleman with, I think, sophisticated taste – so there may be some kind of veggie and fish chowder in the offing. Andrew loves mushrooms so I may even delegate to him the mushrooms on toast recipe in today’s Guardian feature of student recipes by celebrity chefs (one of the few among the bunch that doesn’t have bacon in it!). And the plums? Well, still haven’t figured out what to do with those, because there are too many choices, frankly. But they’re going in the fridge pronto, as they’re starting to ooze juice (yum).

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Pushing the boat out for Passover

I’m sick of matzoh and boiled potatoes, and variations thereon, and so is Andrew. Plus, we’ve been watching Masterchef every night so I have schmancy food on the brain. As their hypercompetitive amateur chefs are fond of saying, I wanted to up my game a little. Yeah, so it’s not suffering, but this recipe sticks pretty close to the letter of the holiday.

I considered making fish or chicken, and decided on fish. In the end, I thought fish cakes with smoked haddock (I had some in the freezer) and salmon would be nice, and turns out it’s a traditional English dish; there are half a dozen different recipes for it out there on the Interwebs. I found the basics of this recipe at a http://www.hub-uk.com – a site I don’t really understand, but whatever; the recipe was apparently  contributed by Chef Anthony Worrall Thompson, via the North East of Scotland Fisheries Development Partnership. I managed to make it work, but to be honest it wasn’t entirely helpful, so I’ve rewritten it, also adapting it to be kosher for Passover. The savoy cabbage side is my invention.

Salmon and smoked haddock fish cakes

275g (9oz) smoked haddock fillets
175g (6oz) salmon fillet

Seasoned milk for poaching the fish:
2 cups milk
1 small onion, peeled
2 bay leaves
6 peppercorns
2 cloves
275g (9oz) dry mashed potatoes (about 2 large potatoes)
1 small onion, finely chopped and sweated in 50 g butter
2 teaspoons Thai fish sauce
2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped dill
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

For coating the fish cakes:
Beaten egg
1 cup matzo meal, seasoned with salt and pepper
50g (2oz) butter for frying

•    Bring the milk and seasoning ingredients to a simmer.
•    Poach the haddock and salmon until cooked, about 15 min.
•    Remove fish from the milk and, when cool enough to handle, flake the fish, discarding any skin or bone (the haddock will have some small bones). Reserve the milk.
•    Combine the haddock and salmon with the potato, onions sweated in butter, and fish sauce in a bowl, then fold in the salmon, egg, parsley, and dill by hand until well combined. Do not over-mix.
•    Add salt and pepper to taste. If the mixture is too dry at this point add some of the fish-poaching milk.
•    Divide the mixture up into 4 equal amounts, then shape into patties. Dip in the egg and finally breadcrumbs and reshape.
•    Refrigerate for 2 hours before use.
•    Pan-fry in butter for 5 minutes each side, and keep warm in the oven.

Orange-scented caramelized onion and savoy cabbage

3 medium onions, thinly sliced
100 g (5 Tbsp) butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
Half a savoy cabbage, chopped
Zest and juice from half a navel orange (preferably organic)
Salt and pepper to taste

In a heavy saucepan over low heat, combine half the butter and olive oil with the sliced onions. Stir the onions occasionally, making sure they don’t burn, until they start to turn color, and then cover and continue to heat for another 5-10 minutes, or until onions are golden and sweet. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large saucepan, melt the rest of the butter and olive oil together, add the chopped cabbage, and cook for about 7 minute, until it’s bright in color. Stir in caramelized onion, orange zest, and orange juice. Heat through, and season to taste.

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Jamie cried

on his new show because first graders didn’t know the difference between a tomato and a potato. (I can understand that, actually.) Jamie Oliver, that is, now bringing his food revolution to the US where, I’m sure, his victims will be just as defensive – if not more – than those here, like the mom I heard about who snuck her kid a chip buttie (i.e., a French fry sandwich) because she worried he wasn’t getting enough to eat in Jamie’s school program.

I’m curious; has anyone seen this show? Is it as bad as at least one of the commenters suggested?

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Curry Laksa – Malaysian revisited

From this, and a few other items:

to this.

I’m not one for hyperbole, but this was seriously one of the best things I ever ate, let alone made. But I really don’t mean to brag; it was also one of the easiest things I’ve ever made, practically no cooking skills required. The work was mostly in organizing a bunch of ingredients, getting them ready in sequence, and throwing them together. (Ingredient list: coconut milk, cooked prawns, cooked chicken – I browned some thighs and threw them in the microwave, cooked Chinese noodles, frozen peas, and boiled egg.)  It had Andrew and me happily slurping, sniffling, and glowing from the heat, and slopping the gravy everywhere – I even splashed some in my eye at one point.

Thanks to Hsien-Hsien Lei for suggesting the curry laksa paste!

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Odds and ends, 10 February 2010

Something spicy from Baozi Inn

I’m going to aim to post an odds-and-ends piece each Wednesday, to avoid nickeling and diming everyone with annoying short posts, and also to avoid feeling overwhelmed with having to keep up with everything food-related that enters my consciousness. Thoughts? If it’s too long, perhaps next time I could split them into a post for general food and eating items, and another for my own cooking efforts? Anyway, here goes.

Richard Lehmann’s Journal Watch: You don’t need to read everything in this post, but dig down halfway to find out why salt’s link to heart disease is still an open question, and then to the end to see why you shouldn’t order crab in a restaurant in England.

I’ll be writing more about my nascent gardening activities, but this article from the Guardian has gotten me jazzed about the idea of growing my own potatoes, in containers.

Someone on the BBC this past week – I’m afraid I can’t remember who – quipped that you can get someone from the North of England to eat anything if you wrap it in pastry. Or something like that. Anyway, Brits do like their pies, and have even gone to the trouble of surveying the quality of the pies in football stadiums. I’m actually fairly pleased with myself that I have not yet succumbed to the lure of the unctuous vapors emitted by West Cornwall Pasty Co. (warning: annoying pirate-themed Flash website), which has a kiosk in every London train station I’ve seen. (I confess that I have, however, eaten a chicken and mushroom turnover from Delice de France, which really amounts to the same thing.)

Having gotten word of a Tuscan supper club in London via my friend Hsien-Hsien Lei, I am intrigued to delve into the underground restaurant scene here. The London Foodie is a blog that focuses on this niche; Bellaphon, with his usual welcome cheek (and Asian food bent) visits quite a few as well, along with his many regular restaurant forays.

Speaking of Asian food, I’ve now walked past Baozi Inn in Chinatown three times, and am really looking forward to braving the spice at this Szechuan eatery. (Bao are buns but also, basically, Chinese pies.)

What I’ve cooked this week:

Raspberry rugelach (very nice, but a lot of work)

An Indian meal featuring chickpea and spinach curry (good) and Patak’s mini-naan (bad – I really need to try making my own)

Tagliatelle with blue cheese sauce, improvised from a couple of recipes. The only downside was the walnuts, which I bought at a health food store and which didn’t taste very nice.

Bagels. I need a new recipe, and based on my reading of a very helpful troubleshooting website, I also need to keep them from overproofing, which makes them swell up and take on too much water while boiling. They were marginally better than my first effort, though. Easily available smoked peppered mackerel and very good cream cheese – both from Tesco – made them worthwhile.

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Grannies baking

I love What’s Cooking Grandma?, a video site documenting, well, grannies cooking their signature dishes. At least 8 of the grannies are in the UK. Here’s a YouTube link to Gran Hilda, from Manchester, who’s making parkin…

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