The weeknight shuffle. How to get dinner on the table with minimal hassle and maximum taste? Keep it seasonal. Make it vegetarian (often). Vary the offerings. Use what you have. These are my little mantras, the things I repeat to myself for focus and personal pep talking.
Having recently acquired a new cookbook, Jerusalem, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, I have been cooking my way through it. This is colorful, flavorful food with an emphasis on vegetables. Lots of spice and crunch. Excellent for people trying to eat less meat (garbanzo beans are your friends).
Last night, I made falafel for dinner. Stuffed in warmed whole wheat pita breads, smeared with tahini sauce with a side of chopped radishes and cucumbers mixed up with Greek yogurt, minced parsley and lemon juice. Even the picky teenager enjoyed it. This probably had more to do with the fact that falafel are fried. But that’s OK. We took a little trip to the mideast and had a tasty vegetarian dinner made in a little over an hour.
Serves 4 (about 20 balls)
1 1/4 cups dried chickpeas
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons water
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
about 3 cups sunflower oil, for deep-frying
1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds, for coating
Place the chickpeas in a large bowl and cover with cold water at least twice their volume. Set aside to soak overnight.
The next day, drain the chickpeas well and combine them with the onion, garlic, parsley, and cilantro. For best results, use a meat grinder for the next part. Put the chickpea mixture through the machine, set to its finest setting, then pass it through the machine a second time. You can also use a food processor (I did and it worked fine). Blitz the mixture, pulsing until it is finely chopped but not mushy or pasty. Once processed, add the spices, baking powder, 3/4 teaspoons of salt, flour and water. Mix well by hand until smooth and uniform. Cover the mixture and leave it in the fridge for at least an hour, or until ready to use. I made the mixture in the morning so it would be ready for dinner with minimal fuss.
Fill a deep, heavy-bottomed medium saucepan with enough oil to come 2 3/4 inches up the sides of the pan. Heat the oil to 350 F.
With wet hands, press 1 tablespoon of the mixture in the palm of your hand to form a patty or a ball the size of a small walnut, about a scant 1 ounce.
Sprinkle the balls evenly with sesame seeds and deep-fry them in batches for 4 minutes, until well-browned and cooked through. It is important they really dry out on the inside, so make sure they get enough time in the oil. Drain in a colander lined with paper towels and serve at once.