Thursday, February 14, 2008

Falafel in Pita with Red Cabbage Slaw and Tahini Sauce


I've wanted to make falafel and pita for a while, since I started reading cookbooks about various types of bread. As an advocate of eating less meat, I love getting falafel and pita from street vendors instead of chicken gyros, and I wanted to replicate it at home. I attempted this once a few weeks ago, but let the chickpeas soak out at room temperature for 36 hours, and they foamed and smelled bad, and after much innternet research, I decided I was scared of the bad chickpeas and thre them out. This time I let my chickpeas soak in the fridge for just 24 hours and was determined to make it happen. I even left early from hanging out with my friends on a lazy Sunday evening to get 'er done.


It was really making pitas that was the time consuming part of this meal. Look! My pita puffed! Not perfectly, though. I don't think I rolled my pitas out thinly enough. Or else I let them rest for too long before putting them in the oven. I've read that if you leave them too thick they will think they are supposed to be buns. These were like half buns/half pita - small in diameter but thick and fluffy on the inside, with pockets of air. Most importantly, they were delicious! Bread is bread and I'll always love it unless it tastes bad. I just sliced them down the middle to be able to stuff them pita-style.

I followed Jennie's pita recipe from Straight From the Farm almost exactly, with a few changes - I used half whole wheat flour and half white flour and replaced the 1 tsp sugar with 3/4 tbsp honey to up my crunchy factor, and then baked the pitas on personal squares of aluminum foil instead of a preheated bakingsheet. I got that idea from Susan from Farmgirl Fare. Dealing with a preheated baking sheet scares me so much. I have to take this huge scalding hot sheet out of the oven, lay things on it, and then put it back in the oven again. Me and hot baking sheets don't get along. That's how I've gotten so many burns, and why this blog is called The Wounded Chef. Anyway, so squares of aluminum foil was easy, and foil cools much more quickly than a baking pan. And it worked all the same.


I don't do deep frying. Instead I cooked each falafel ball in a thin layer of olive oil on one side for a few minutes till it browned, then flipped it over till the other side browned. I kind of squashed my falafel balls down in the pan so that as much as surface area browned as possible. Then I was paranoid that I didn't cook them enough, but I didn't get sick later that night, so I think they were cooked just fine.

Lettuce and tomato are typical accompaniments to pita, but since it's winter and they're not really seasonally available, I used a diced red cabbage slaw for the vegetable factor. I was amazed at how well the tastes of the pita, falafel, cruncy cabbage, and saucy tahini went together. It needed all four components to make it whole. Without the tahini it would have been try dry, and withought the cabbage it would have been too boring. I'm finding that cabbage is a great winter replacement for crunchy summer vegetables like lettuce, celery, or cucumbers. For example, shredded cabbage also worked well in place of celery in a chicken salad recently.

Falafel
1 cup dried chickpeas
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp fresh parsley
1 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp flour
olive oil

Soak chickpeas overnight in water. Rinse and drain chickpeas. Combine ingredients in a food processor until smooth. You want to be able to form small balls of dough without it sticking too much to your fingers.

Heat a thin layer of oil in a pan. Fry falafel balls several at a time in the pan until browned on each side, and then place on paper towel to cool and to absorb off some of the oil.

Makes more than enough falafels for 8 small to medium-sized pitas.

Tahini Sauce
This one's easy.

4 tbsp tahini paste (look for it near peanut butter in your grocery store)
3 tbsp water
ample salt, pepper, and paprika
squeeze of fresh lemon juice if you have it
1 or 2 cloves of garlic, minced

Whisk ingredients together, adding water slowly, until smooth creamy sauce forms. Use less water for a thinner sauce, or more water for thicker sauce.

Red Cabbage Slaw
1/3 head red cabbage
1/2 red onion
1/2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp salt

Chop cabbage into very thin slices, or even dice if desired. Dice red onion. Combine ingredients until thoroughly mixed. Voila.

Stuff a few falafels into a pita, top with slaw, and then spoon sauce over it to coat the top. Take a giant bite and enjoy.

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