Falafel, a new obsession

Episode 7 of Pantry Raid started with a very important question, one that has been plaguing me since I began to write an episode about chickpeas: why are we not all making falafel all the time?

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I mean, truly, all you need is one cup of dried chickpeas, some aromatics, a food processor and some oil and you can make sensationally good, crispy, crunchy, salty, restaurant-style falafel at home with lightening speed. I promise.

Here’s what you do: soak 1 cup dried chickpeas in filtered water overnight, 8 to 24 hours. Make sure they are covered by about 1 1/2” water and add a pinch- let’s say 1/2 teaspoon baking soda to the bowl.

Drain them. No, you don’t have to cook them AT ALL!!! Put half of them in a food processor, add your flavorings, then add the other half. You’ll need half of an onion- I used a red one and quick pickled the other half to use as a garnish. Use more herbs than you think is right- for me, 1/2 a bunch of cilantro stems and all + 3 whole green onions. 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt is plenty and you can add whatever other dried spices you like- I used a dash of cayenne, 1/2 teaspoon cumin and coriander. You’ll also need about 2T to 1/4 cup binder- all purpose flour, chickpea flour and rice flour all work. Finally, and don’t skip this- add another 1/2 teaspoon baking soda. Baking soda will help the falafel cook and brown in a flash!

Just pulse everything together until it kind of looks like…grits? medium or coarse grind cornmeal? It will hold together in balls when it’s ready. I like to cover it and pop it in the fridge while I get the oil ready.

Falafel is easiest to fry in 1/4 cup patties**- if you don’t already own a 1/4 cup springform scoop, get one! They’re great for making fritters and pancakes and cookies and two scoops is a nice hamburger. A 1/4 cup patty means you’ll need about 1/2” of neutral oil (grapeseed or peanut) heated over medium in a skillet. They don’t soak up much oil, but you want the oil to go halfway up the sides of the falafel so they cook evenly. They’ll need maybe two minutes on each side.

I’ve been eating them on salad with cucumber grated into Greek yogurt, the pickled red onions, extra cilantro leaves, a squeeze of lemon and some flaky salt. Please don’t send me hate mail for using cilantro. Just use parsley and mind your own business.

**Not pictured here because I have a weird habit of forming all small fried food into the classic egg-like croquetta shape. CROQUETTAS FOREVER.

Winter Endive Salad

Two weeks ago I was out for dinner on a Friday night with my friends from Boston, enjoying a fried fish taco and a margarita, when my body sent me a very strong message, marked urgent, respond ASAP or you’re fired: GIVE ME A FUCKING BREAK. I sat there, continuing our conversation, clutching my exploding heart like it was a Southern strand of pearls.

So now I understand why everyone over 30 is on a cleanse in January.

I’m not on a cleanse, per say, but I am giving my body a break for the time being by eating vegan at breakfast, vegetarian at lunch, drinking less (which is so fun! don’t knock it till you try it!), and having whatever I feel like for dinner. And I usually feel like pizza, but my body is gracefully accepting that in return for our breakfast and lunch compromise.

I’ll tell you about breakfast another day, but right now I can’t stop thinking about, making, or eating tahini cream for lunch. I became deeply obsessed with it because of a photo I saw on The First Mess back in November and have been making it almost every week since. If you find yourself with random handfuls of extra herbs, tahini cream is a great place to put them. For this recipe, which I made a fussy finger food version of for a party last weekend, I think it’s best to make the tahini cream a little sweet to contrast with the bitterness of the endive. If you can’t find endive, look for another bitter green such as radicchio, frisee, or young mustard greens.

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You can absolutely fill individual radicchio or endive leaves with the tahini cream, herbs and pomegranate. The easier and lazier thing to do is to spread the tahini cream across the plate and pile the rest of the ingredients, roughly chopped, on top of it. Or, you can put the tahini cream in a squeeze bottle and drizzle it over the top of the salad. Whatever you do, don’t skimp on the herbs!

Winter Endive Salad
-use about one whole endive and at least 1/4 cup tahini cream per person

For the tahini cream:
1/2 cup tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 of a small to medium shallot, roughly chopped
filtered water
a couple Tablespoons honey
salt to taste
4-5 scallions, green and light green parts only

For the salad:
endive
plenty of parsley leaves (do not chop)
plenty of mint leaves (also do not chop!)
toasted sesame oil
pomegranate arils
flaky salt

Place the tahini, lemon juice and shallot in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Stream in water until it has like a…natural peanut butter at room temperature consistency? Somewhere in the ballpark of 1/3 a cup. You want it to be smooth and creamy, but thick enough to stay in place on a plate. Add salt and honey to taste, then pulse in the scallions until they’re very finely chopped. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 10 days.

To make the salad: roughly chop the endive, then toss it with the herbs and just enough sesame oil to coat it. Place it on top of the tahini cream and top with pomegranate arils and flaky salt.

Brown Butter Togarashi Chex Mix

Shortly after Christmas my friend Rebekka Seale, my oldest friend in Nashville, the first friend I made when I moved here, told me she was doing a solo art show and asked me to make snacks for it.

Rebekka is unlike anyone else I know (except maybe myself) in that she has been a great many things and I know she will become many more, too. When we met we were both cake bakers and decorators. Then she was an illustrator, which morphed into a career painting the sweetest house portraits. After that, she bought a spinning wheel and began her hand-spun, hand-dyed yarn business, Camellia Fiber Company. She sold the business to our friend Silbia Ro and expanded her exploration of shape, color and texture into painting. Her works are studies in color, expressions of her own synesthesia and many of them include hand-dyed and sewn fabric scraps that come from Elizabeth Suzann’s production line. They’re earthy and etherial, decidedly feminine, so very like this person I know so well, spread across a canvas in shades of peach.

I made a spread of finger food that mimicked the earthy tones and soft shapes of her paintings, the most popular being tender and crunchy little endive leaves filled with honey sweet tahini cream, topped with toasted sesame oil, parsley, mint, pomegranate arils and flaky salt. My favorite and I think yours, judging by how many people asked for the recipe, was the brown butter togarashi chex mix. It’s nutty, intensely salty and spicy- perfect for a party if you are drinking anything light and fizzy, from Miller High Life to champagne to lime seltzer.

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Brown Butter Togarashi Chex Mix
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serves 16 as a snack

4 cups wheat chex
4 cups corn chex
1 1/2 cups mini pretzels
1 1/2 cups sesame sticks
1 cup nuts (I used walnuts, but mixed nuts is classic)
6T unsalted butter
2T soy sauce*
2-3T shichimi togarashi*

1. Mix together the chex, pretzels and nuts in a large bowl. Measure out your togarashi, sesame sticks and soy sauce in separate small bowls.
2. Brown the butter over medium heat- as soon as it browns, pull it from the heat fast! and add the soy sauce fast! Give it a stir and start folding it into the chex mix immediately.
3. When everything is coated as evenly as possible and still a little warm, sprinkle in the togarashi while you continue to stir gently. Add the sesame sticks and pour the mixture onto a large sheet pan to dry out for at least an hour.

*if you are sensitive to salt or spice, I recommend using 1T soy sauce and 1-2T togarashi.

12/19/18

A late entry today, after a morning of meetings and correspondence about the future of Pantry Raid! All good news, all to be made public in the new year.

Yesterday I had a late breakfast as well, one centered around my on-going craving for hot sauce. My buddy Jeff Orkin of Greener Roots Farm gave me a jar of homemade hot sauce, which he says is akin to Sriracha, but I say is so superior to Sriracha it shouldn’t be compared. I doused a cheese quesadilla in it before leaving the house.

At midday I found myself at the Nashville Farmers Market, which is where I go to clear my head. A walk through the International Market in the main market house always puts me right. I have learned about many ingredients and have been inspired by the smells, colors and textures of it more times than I can count. Now, there is the added bonus of the Bubble Love stand right in front of it. I ordered a taro bubble tea- not a proper lunch, but satisfying all the same.

I’m hungry again at 4pm and I’m grateful to have a few things prepped for a quick meal. Remember on Sunday I made some ginger/garlic/scallion oil? It’s a bit like this Healthyish recipe. You’ll notice that many of the reviews say the dish is too oily or not ginger-y enough. If there’s one thing I know about ginger, it’s that it takes its sweet time to work it’s magic. I’ve let it sit in oil in the fridge for three days, meaning the oil is now so strongly ginger flavored, I can use less of it. I toss it with mushrooms, some very sad snow peas, and Sun Noodles from the freezer. I had intended to make miso eggs to go on top, but hunger outweighed my patience to cook even a soft boiled egg. So I gave it a dash of togarashi and inhaled it.

There are so few Dream Drops left, I’m rationing them. Dark chocolate dipped peppermint Joe-Joe’s before bed for a change.