It’s good to be back!
As I mentioned in my last post I’ve been gone for a while, but it’s given me time to think and brainstorm new ideas. Now that I’m working at Hen of the Wood I’m exposed to a lot of really great food, and the creative processes that work together to sculpt new menus daily. As we ease into the growing season in Vermont, we’re beginning to see some beautiful fresh produce rolling through the restaurant doors. I have to give Vermonters credit; this spring has been bitingly cold, but they’ve perfected the art of greenhouse growing and despite inhospitable conditions outside, it hasn’t stopped farmers from kicking off the season. It’ll be a little longer still before the farmer’s market starts up, so I’ll have a couple more weeks of winter foods, which is fine considering Wednesday’s high is supposed to be in the 30′s (This weather is seriously testing my patience).
A while back, Anden went through my cookbooks and marked recipes he liked so I could try something new when I was feeling uninspired, not an unusual occurrence these last few months. One recipe in particular from Vegetarian Everyday caught my eye: Pistachio Falafel. After scanning the recipe I decided to make a few modifications, and came up with this dish.
Pistachio Falafel with Avocado Tzatziki and Homemade Pita
The original recipe was a long list of ingredients, but the ratios were solid enough to hold up to simplification and still pack a lot of flavor. I opted to switch out the suggested cashew nut dressing for a creamy sauce of my own creation, and as much as I wanted to be healthy and use cabbage leaves, nothing beats fresh pita bread.
We’ll take this step by step, starting with the falafel.
2 cups shelled pistachios
1, 15oz can garbanzo beans, drained
1 small onion, peeled, root end cut off, and sliced in quarters
2 tbsp cooking oil (I used grapeseed, but feel free to use something milder, like canola)
1 tbsp quinoa flour (or other gluten free flour)
salt to taste
If you can, buy pre-shelled pistachios. It’s a little more expensive, but it certainly beats shelling for an hour to make dinner.
In a large food processor, pulse the pistachios until crumbled
Then add the chickpeas and the onion
and your cooking oil of choice. I love grapeseed oil for its mild taste, beautiful color, and high Omega-6 content.
Blend these together until they form a sticky paste. Check for seasoning and adjust if needed. Most pre-shelled pistachios come roasted and salted, so you may not need any extra salt. Add the quinoa flour blend until combined. The falafel dough should start forming into a solid mass as it goes around.
Test the dough by rolling a small bit in your hands to form a ball. It will be a little sticky, but should roll easily into a smooth, solid piece.
When your dough is ready, roll it into 1 1/2 inch balls, then flatten them slightly to make fat disks. Flattening the balls will ensure more even cooking.
At this point, you can either cook them off now, or store them between parchment paper in your fridge and cook them as needed. This is a great prepare-ahead meal and it heats up in a flash. You can bake or fry these and both methods will give a moist, flavorful falafel.
Pre-heat the oven to 375.
Place the falafel on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and bake for 10 minutes, flipping halfway.
Heat an oil with a high smoke point (like canola) to 350 degrees in a heavy bottomed pan (like stainless steel or cast iron). Use enough oil to fill the pan with about an inch. Test the oil with a small piece of dough. If it begins to bubble immediately when dropped, the oil is ready! Working in batches, fry the falafel until browned on both sides, about 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a dish lined with paper towel to absorb extra oil.
As I mentioned, both cooking methods work really well. There will be some color differences; the falafel on the right was baked, while those on the left were fried. The frying method is definitely much faster, but if storing these guys in the fridge before cooking, I would recommend the baking method, as the short frying time isn’t enough to heat the falafel all the way through.
For serving, I recommend this tasty sauce.
Tangy Avocado Tzatziki Sauce
Strictly speaking, this isn’t a tzatziki, but a simple creamy yogurt sauce. Either way, it pairs beautifully with the nutty falafel. You need only four ingredients.
1 ripe avocado
1 cup greek-style yogurt
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
I am a fan of low fat Greek yogurt, but I prefer 2% to fat free because that little extra bit of creaminess goes a long way. To make the sauce, score the avocado and scoop into a small food processor. Add the Greek yogurt and blend until smooth. The radishes add a nice speckle of color and a bit of spice (If in season! The winter versions can be a bit bland). Give these a slice before throwing them in the food processor to get a nice shred rather than awkward chunks. Add the salt and pulse until combined
Now for that pita bread. Of course, you are more than welcome to run to the grocery store and buy some pita bread, but if you’ve ever wanted to try making your own, I would recommend this recipe. I found it in a book given to me by Anden’s mom. It’s called Extending the Table, by Joetta Handrich Schlabach, and it’s got great dishes and stories from around the world. When looking for a recipe, I wanted to find one in my extensive cookbook collection, rather than consult the internet (as I am wont to do) and this one is a winner.
1/2 tbsp instant yeast
1 cup warm water
1/2 tbsp oil
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
Mix all ingredients in a bowl until well combined. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until satiny smooth, about 10 minutes.
Let rest in a lightly grease bowl covered in plastic wrap for 45 minutes. Turn out onto a clean surface, punch down the dough, and divide into 6 equal pieces. Round and flatten slightly. Cover with a layer of plastic wrap (reuse if you can!) and preheat the oven to 450 with a cookie sheet inside. This step is really important! You’ll place the dough directly onto the hot cookie sheet to bake. Let the dough rest for 20 minutes. Roll each round into 6 inch disks. Sprinkle the top of the dough with a little flour if you need to, to keep it from sticking to the rolling pin. Now for the fun part! Working two at a time, carefully lay the dough on the hot cookie sheets. Lay it down carefully, because once it hits the hot pan, there is no adjusting. Bake 3-4 minutes until puffed, then flip with a spatula and let brown on the other side for about 2 more minutes.
Enjoy with reckless abandon!
I loved including a few more pictures than usual, and my new camera makes it really easy to snap away. Please feel free to leave any questions or comments in the section below. I look forward to hearing from you!
Until next week, keep calm and cook on.