Baked Falafels Drizzled with Lemon-Tahini Sauce

My partner has been on a quest to find the best falafels in town.  She’ll compare the falafels to this little Greek restaurant on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland, CA, that she just loved.  But it all seems to disappoint in comparison.  I’ve found several recipes for homemade falafels, and all of them involve deep frying.  And although I know that’s how it should be done, I just can’t bring myself to deep fry at home.  I just don’t want the smell of fried oil lingering around our house for days, but also because I’m on a quest to continue keeping us on a healthy eating track.   So I was extremely happy when I came across this recipe, and had to give it a try!  Not only was it super easy to make, it was also a delicious healthy alternative.  My partner really enjoyed these baked falafels thoroughly, and said it was definitely a close second to the real thing :)

Baked Falafels Drizzled with Lemon-Tahini Sauce (adapted from Can You Stay For Dinner?)

2 15-ounce cans garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
4 tablespoons whole wheat flour
6 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 teaspoons ground cumin
3 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until well blended. Taste the falafel mixture, and adjust seasoning to your liking. Scoop the bean mixture into a bowl and shape into 16 equal sized patties. Place on a greased baking sheet, brush each with olive oil and bake for 25, or until browned and crispy on the outside.

Serve as an appetizer, over a salad, or in a pita wrap with the lemon tahini sauce drizzled over the falafels.

Makes 16 falafels.

Calories per falafel: 35

Lemon Tahini Sauce

3 tablespoon tahini
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons water
1 garlic clove, mashed into a paste

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, salt, water, and garlic paste. Adjust seasoning with salt and/or lemon juice.

Makes about a 1/3 cup.

Hummus

I laughed at my parents when they bought a small freezer for their garage.  In fact, I thought they were silly for needing extra freezer space.  I told them to just clean out their freezer and it’ll open up lots of space for them.  Well, I ate my words recently.  I seem to eat my words often :)

Our freezer in the house was filled to its capacity, from top to bottom.  I even cleaned out the freezer and tossed out foods that we were no longer going to eat.  But it was still full.  We were shoving things into every little nook and cranny that we could find.  So much so that one of our shelves toppled over because it was weighed down so heavily with meats/seafood.  It was also getting to a point where we would have to take out all the items from one of the shelves just to find one item we needed.  It was just ridiculous.  I finally broke down.  I, too, bought a small freezer for the garage.  We moved all of our meats and seafoods to the extra freezer.  It was liberating!  We can actually see what’s in our freezer in the house, and pull things out without everything tumbling onto our toes!

I was embarrassed to tell my parents about the purchase, but sucked it up and told them.  This time they laughed at me :)

Hummus

2 15-ounce cans garbanzo beans (chickpeas), no sodium added
1/2 cups tahini sauce
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, mashed
2 1/2 lemons, juiced
1/4 cup water, plus extra if needed
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Paprika (optional)
Toasted pine nuts (optional)
Parsley, finely chopped (optional)

Drain the chickpeas and rinse under cold water. Drain excess water.

In a food processor, combine the garlic, garbanzo beans, tahini, lemon juice, water, and olive oil. Process until smooth. Add salt, starting at a half a teaspoon. Process. Adjust seasoning again with a half teaspoon of salt. Repeat until the seasoning is to your liking.  [If you like it creamier, add a little more water. If you like it more citrusy, add a little more lemon juice.]

Spoon hummus into a serving dish. Drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil on top of the hummus, and sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and chopped parsley.

Makes 3 cups.

Cool and Creamy Greek Tzatziki

I’m turning 32 tomorrow.  Thirty-two.  This means I’ll be eight years from turning 40.  I had no qualms turning 30.  None whatsoever because the 30s are the new 20s, or so they say.  It was a piece of cake.  Well, aside from freaking out about waking up someday very soon with wrinkles.  The day of my 30th birthday, we made a trip to Origins to replenish our day cream.  I walked in with the intention of just purchasing the one item, but as soon as I hit the door I immediately asked for the skin care line for reducing wrinkles.  The woman who was assisting us looked at like I was crazy.  Well, maybe I am a little neurotic, but that’s besides the point.  I also think the salesperson that I was just joking about the restorative anti-wrinkle stuff.  So she instead took me over to the preventative anti-wrinkle creams.  My partner told her I was having an early mid-life crisis and the salesperson soon realized that I was serious.  So over one hundred dollars later, we walked out of the store with preventative AND restorative anti-wrinkle face and eye creams.  I’m just trying to be proactive rather than reactive about wrinkles.  And of course I would like to look as young as my Mom does at the age of 55.  Sorry.  I just totally went off topic.  Getting back to turning 32…

I think turning 30 was easy breezy because I felt very accomplished in my twenties… first to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in my immediate family, graduated with a doctorate degree from one of the best pharmacy schools in the Nation, completed a residency, scored the perfect job, and found my soulmate.  But as I start inching my way into my mid-30s, I’m feeling unaccomplished and unsatisfied with my life.  I need more.  I want more.  But I don’t know what it is yet.  I keep toying with the idea of something culinary.  I know this is going to sound really silly, absurd, and far-reaching, but I keep imagining myself owning and operating a food truck.  I have this romantic idea of leading a nomadic lifestyle with a food truck.  I have the concept already played out in my head, but just need more money and a food truck :)  Another idea that might be less expensive, but equally as fun is starting up a food catering business.  Something small, but fun.  I recently attended an event a few weeks ago that was catered by one of the local catering companies, and the food was just no bueno.  I spent my entire evening thinking about how *I* could have done a better catering job with the food and beverages.  Sigh.  All I know is that I need to start brainstorming soon, because I’m worried I’m going to turn 40 with no accomplishments in my 30s.

On a lighter note, I was craving a lulu burger with tzatziki sauce.  And so that is what I made.

Cool and Creamy Greek Tzatziki

2 cups low-fat plain Greek yogurt
2 garlic cloves, minced into a paste
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 large English cucumber, seeded
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

Strain the yogurt by pouring it into a colander containing a coffee filter for about an hour to drain out excess water from the yogurt.

While the Greek yogurt is straining, cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with a spoon. Slice cucumbers, place into a colander, and sprinkle 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt. Allow the cucumbers to sit for about 20 minutes to draw out excess water from the cucumbers. After 20 minutes, rinse cucumbers with water, and squeeze to get rid of any residual excess water. Drain well, and wipe dry with a paper towel.

Put cucumbers, garlic, lemon juice, and dill into a food processor, and pulse until everything is finely chopped. Pour this mixture into the yogurt, and mix well until everything has combined. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to your liking (I usually like it a little on the peppery side). Cover the bowl, and allow the flavors to marry in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight.

Serve as a dip with pita bread or chips, or with your favorite Mediterranean grilled meat. I spread (by the spoonfuls) the tzatziki into a pita pocket with lula patties, tomato, lettuce, and some feta cheese. It was the perfect pita pocket sandwich for lunch today!

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