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From the food editor: Making falafel at home, plus a pita pocket to put them in

Falafel with pita. [MICHELLE STARKE | Times]

I love falafel, but it's not something I eat very often. Maybe that's because the state and quality of falafel can vary widely depending on where you get it. Sometimes the crispy chickpea patties taste like nothing more than dense coating and oil.

Over a plate of very solid house-made falafel at St. Petersburg vegan restaurant Food Love Central the other day, I found myself thinking about whether I could re-create the little orbs at home.

The universe offered an additional nudge in the falafel direction a couple of days later.

I signed up for the food delivery service Blue Apron for a week, and on the menu was a falafel-in-pita dish served with greens and roasted sweet potatoes. With step-by-step help from the service, I ventured again to make my own version of the successful dish.

Falafel is now in my weeknight dinner rotation.

The beauty of the dish is that it's pretty customizable once you have the falafel part down. I retained the pita in the recipe below (more on that in a minute), but you could serve the falafel over spinach, topped with sliced red onion and a creamy dressing, or you could serve a big plate of them as a snack or appetizer. Eating them right out of the frying pan and seasoned generously with salt and pepper is most ideal.

The reason I kept the pita is that I have also recently fallen in love with making my own. As with most bread products you can make in your own kitchen, it was surprisingly straightforward. And the flavor is shockingly fresh compared to the processed kind you buy in the store. Make or prep these the day before you make the falafel to make dinnertime easy. If you stored cooked ones in the fridge, a quick reheat in the oven will get them back in good shape.

Pitas are made with a yeast dough, so start by adding 2 teaspoons active dry yeast to 1 cup lukewarm water in a large mixing bowl. Add about ½ teaspoon sugar and let that sit until frothing. This is a standard way to get yeast started for most bread products. Add 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, a teaspoon of salt and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Stir until you've got a shaggy ball of dough, then turn the dough out onto the counter and knead for about 2 minutes. At this point, it should be smooth.

Clean the mixing bowl, coat it with more olive oil, and put the dough back in it. Cover with plastic wrap and a damp towel, and let the bowl sit in a warm place for about an hour. (Room temperature is also fine, but heat helps the dough rise.) It should double in size.

After that time (you can also let the dough sit for much longer, if needed), punch down the dough, divide into 8 equal pieces, and form each piece into a ball. Place on a heavy-duty baking sheet covered in parchment paper and cover with the damp towel again. Let rise for 10 minutes, then form into flat, pitalike circles. Make them pretty thin. Place the circles on the baking sheet (as many as will fit; you will likely need to repeat the process more than once) and bake in a 500-degree oven for 5 minutes. Pitas should puff up and become slightly crispy. Serve immediately or let cool and refrigerate, then rewarm in a 350-degree oven before serving.

They work well as pockets for your homemade falafel, dabbed with a bit of Greek yogurt sauce and topped with onion.

medium

Falafel Pitas

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups cooked chickpeas
  • 1 shallot
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 pitas, homemade or storebought
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Dill, optional
  • Parsley, optional
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 1 tablespoon za'atar seasoning

Instructions

  1. Drain and rinse the chickpeas. Transfer to a large bowl. Using a fork, mash until smooth.
  2. Peel the shallot and mince to get 2 tablespoons; place in a bowl with ¼ of the vinegar to pickle them.
  3. Halve the pitas. Peel and mince the garlic; using the flat side of your knife, smash until it resembles a paste (or use a zester).
  4. In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt, half the remaining vinegar, up to half the garlic paste and a drizzle of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If you have it, a pinch of dill and some fresh parsley will help brighten things up.
  5. To the bowl of mashed chickpeas, add the za'atar seasoning, remaining garlic paste, the tahini and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Stir to thoroughly combine; season with salt and pepper. Using wet hands, gently form the mixture into eight ½-inch-thick rounds. Transfer to a plate.
  6. Heat a couple tablespoons olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot enough that a falafel sizzles immediately when added to the pan, add the remaining falafel. Cook 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until golden brown and crispy. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate; immediately season with salt and pepper. Set aside in a warm place.
  7. Carefully open the pockets of the warmed pitas. Divide cooked falafel, yogurt sauce and pickled shallots between the pitas. Serves 2.
Source: Adapted from Blue Apron

From the food editor: Making falafel at home, plus a pita pocket to put them in 03/06/17 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 8, 2017 3:29pm]
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