Tuesday, February 22, 2011

More Middle East Feast

A couple of Friday's ago we were craving middle eastern food, and we decided to make falafel from scratch. Honest to goodness falafel. So I did some reading in my Middle Eastern cookbooks, comparing recipes and conducting important falafel research, and discovered...real falafel is made with soaked, but NOT COOKED, garbanzos! Did you know that? I felt like I cracked some kind of secret code or something. And I'm ashamed I hadn't sat down and done the reading earlier in life!

Falafel is full of green. Green and bean. That's why I love it!

It's so very easy to whip this up, actually. It's basically soaked beans, parsley, cilantro, and various spices. I diverged from tradition though, in the cooking department.

Though they don't puff  up when fried this way, they are still delicious.
 I didn't deep fry my falafel - instead I opted for little patties that we sauteed in a spray of olive oil. I wanted to save my calories for the rest of the tahini-laden feast. And I'm afraid of deep frying....

Dear dolma, you are in my heart.

Tahini sauce, or tahini dressing, or tahini drink. I love tahini!
Tahini is made from sesame seed paste. Available both raw and roasted, I always opt for roasted tahini. I buy mine in gigantic jars from Barbur World Foods, because I find the quality of Lebanese tahini to be consistently tastier, and also much more affordable. Why pay $7.99 for a 16 oz. jar at Whole Foods when I can get a 48 oz. jar for $11.99? Right.

Tahini sauce is barely a recipe. Tahini, garlic, salt, lemon juice, water. Tahini is very bitter on it's own - it's not the kind of seed or nut butter you spread on toast by itself. It requires a few other ingredients to make it amazing. But once you get it in your rotation of sauces and dressings, you will be dipping or spreading everything in iron-packed tahini. Here's a rough guide to amounts for you:

Tahini Sauce
1/2 cup tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 large clove garlic
1-2 teaspoons salt
1/4 - 1/2 cup water

Mix all the ingredients in a food processor or blender, beginning with the lesser amounts of salt and water and adjusting to your taste. You can make this thinner or thicker as you like, depending on the amount of water you use. The sauce will thicken in the fridge, just thin it out with water!

Amazing Arabic bread!
Another fun thing about international markets...You won't find this amazing bread at your local Fred Meyer, eh? Plus, there are amazing delights in the deli to be had.....

Veggie Kibbeh from Barbur. Get it there or at Ya Hala!

Simple fava bean salad with bell peppers & olive oil
Every Middle East Feast had better be served with a garnish plate. Pink pickled turnips, olives, mint, tomato slices, pita bread, cucumbers, taboulleh, pickled jalapenos or carrots if you like it spicy. Plus, you can make hummus, baba ganouj, and be sure to have plenty of tahini sauce to dip or pour on everything. Dessert should be simple, some little oranges or maybe a date or two. If you have room in your belly, that is.


  1. Yummy! I love Barbur Foods! I lived on Taylors Ferry about five minutes from there before moving to SE Portland. Best store ever!

  2. Hey! How do you make that fava bean salad? I was about to buy some today, but then I realized I have no. idea. how to prepare them.

    Also did you make those dolmas yourself?!?! I LOVE Dolmas!

  3. Laura J! I bought the fava bean salad at Barbur. It was AMAZING. I am going to replicate it b/c the ingredient list was only 5 items long and the taste was out of this world. They are often used just like garbanzos, or made into a dish called "foul" (that's baby favas) or something like this one. These are giant favas. Not all are this big.

    I did not make the dolma, but I am going to make some soon. They're pretty easy, just tedious! You gotta have burrito wrappin' skillz.... gotta make a tight wrap before they steam. I'll let you know how it goes. But these are also from Barbur.