Posts Tagged ‘Falafel’

Fava Bean Falafel

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011 by virginia

Josh is currently in Israel, the lucky duck, so in honor of his trip I’m going to write about the time we made falafel using the fava beans from our CSA share. Falafel is pretty popular in Israel, although the version we made was actually Egyptian falafel, called ta’amiya. While falafel is more commonly made from chickpeas, we fell in love with the fava bean ta’amiya while we were on our honeymoon in Egypt.

The fava beans we got from the CSA were still in the pods, so first we had to split the pods open and remove the beans. The beans, however, were encased in a tough, thick skin that we needed to peel off before we could eat them. These were a pain in the butt to peel and took a long time. We basically had to carefully cut through the shell without cutting too deeply into the bean itself, and then use our fingers to break the skin off. If you can get shelled fava beans, I suggest going with those!

Fava beans still encased in a thick skin

We based our recipe from this one that we found on the Food Network site. We improvised a bit because we didn’t have everything on hand, but they still turned out really well. This is what we used, which made six falafel balls:

– 1 lb fava beans still in pods
– 2 small cloves garlic
– 1 large handful parsley (we actually ran out of parsley and used carrot greens instead, which worked great and had a similar grassy flavor)
– 1 small bunch chives (we didn’t have scallions)
– 1/2 teaspoon cumin
– 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
– 1/2 teaspoon salt

We ground up the beans, garlic, chives, and greens in the food processor, then mixed in the cumin, baking powder, and salt. It should have a paste-like consistency.

Fava beans, garlic, carrot greens, chives

Josh toasted up some sesame seeds in a pan, which we used to coat the falafel balls. We also ground up a handful of the seeds with some olive oil to make a sort of tahini sauce, though it wound up being slightly too bitter. Next time I’ll just buy pre-made tahini sauce.

Toasting sesame seeds

To make the balls, I wet my hands a little and then scooped up some of the falafel mixture and rolled it into a sphere using the palms of my hands. Then I flattened it a little to make a patty shape, and then rolled it in the toasted sesame seeds. I repeated the process until I used up all of the mixture.

Falafel balls ready for deep frying

We heated up some vegetable oil in our dutch oven to fry the falafel balls. We wanted to deep fry them so we probably had about 3-4 inches of oil in the pot. While the oil was heating up, I put the falafel balls in the fridge to firm up a bit. Then I carefully dropped them in one by one into the hot oil. Once they were nicely browned, I pulled them out and put them on paper towels to drain.

Deep fried falafel balls

I cut one of the balls in half to make sure they were cooked through, and it was beautifully green and creamy in the center.

Beautiful green innards

To serve, we heated up some pita bread in the oven, then cut them in half to expose the pockets. We filled each pocket with a few falafel balls, plus chopped lettuce and tomatoes. Then we drizzled some of the homemade tahini sauce on top. It was pretty freakin’ delicious, I have to say. The falafel was really flavorful and had great texture. They were crispy on the outside and moist in the middle. We could taste the fava beans and the herbiness of the carrot greens, while the cumin bound everything together. We were extremely pleased with how these turned out.

Falafel sandwich in all its glory

Since we had oil ready for deep frying, I couldn’t resist making a batch of homemade french fries. It was easy – just cut a few potatoes into french fry shapes. You can make them as thick or as thin as you want. Fry them up in batches so they have enough room to get crispy on the outside. Drain on paper towels and season with salt and pepper immediately. Eat while they’re warm and fresh out of the oil.

Homemade french fries

I would absolutely make this falafel again, though like I said, I would buy fava beans that are already shelled. Yes, the fresh favas tasted fantastic, but I don’t know if they were worth the work. It really was a huge pain to have to shell all of them, and I just don’t have the patience. If you’ve never tried ta’amiya, definitely give this recipe a shot. It’s really easy to make (once the favas are shelled), and it’s a nice change of pace from the standard chickpea falafels. I haven’t found any restaurant yet that serves our beloved Egyptian style falafels, so if anyone has any suggestions, please let me know! But for now, I can just make them on my own and be completely satisfied.

Galapagos Wrap Up and Return to Guayaquil

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009 by virginia

We left the Galapagos early on a Saturday morning and flew back to Guayaquil so we were able to spend the whole day in the city before our flight back to New York the next afternoon. Overall we had such an amazing time in the Galapagos, and I highly recommend taking a tour with Lindblad Expeditions. The entire staff was friendly and helpful, and they really take care of you the whole way through.

They had arranged for someone from the hotel to pick us up from the airport when we first arrived in Guayaquil, someone was at the check-in desk to greet us, and they took care of arranging our flights to the Galapagos and back, even picking up our boarding passes for us so we never had to wait in line to check in. Our luggage magically made its way to the ship and back, and even though our AeroGal seats were coach, we always had access to the VIP waiting lounge.

I’ve already raved about the naturalists on board that led all of our hikes and snorkeling adventures, but the crew members on the National Geographic Endeavour were also tremendous. The ship is small enough that we got to know a lot of the staff, like the crew that drove the zodiac boats back and forth from the landing sites. One person on our tour left his camera battery in his room on the ship and one of the crew members immediately retrieved it and brought it to him on the island. It’s little things like that act of kindness that made the trip such a great experience. Every time we entered the dining room someone greeted us by name – try to imagine that happening on one of those giant cruise ships like the one we took to Alaska.

Several people on our tour had taken other trips with Lindblad Expeditions and loved every single one. I wish we had taken our trip to Alaska with them, and even though I had the greatest time our honeymoon in Egypt, I can’t help but wonder if I might have enjoyed it even more had we gone with Lindblad instead. I sincerely hope that this trip to the Galapagos will not have been our first and last voyage with Lindblad Expeditions.

Back in Guayaquil, we headed to the Malecon again after dropping our stuff off at the hotel. We started on one end, where the artisan market is located.

Artisan market

Artisan market

There we picked up a few souvenirs and gifts then continued along the Malecon looking for a place to eat lunch. During our first visit to the city we had noticed a lot of middle eastern restaurants and food stalls. Josh asked one of our cab drivers about that and he said that middle eastern food was very popular in Guayaquil, so we decided to get lunch from a food stall that offered shawarma and falafel.

The falafel was shaped in a long log rather than individual balls, which was unusual but kind of smart as it made the sandwich easier to eat. However, it didn’t taste anything like falafel to me. There was very little seasoning, and it actually tasted really starchy, like fried green plantains rather than fried chickpeas.

Falafel log on pita bread

Falafel log on pita bread

The shawarma also didn’t taste like typical middle eastern food to me. The seasonings were very different, and the chicken had a strong lime flavor to it, which I found unusual. Neither of the sandwiches were bad, they just weren’t what I was expecting. We did top them off with squeeze bottles of garlic sauce and hot sauce, which helped boost up the flavor a bit.

Chicken shawarma on pita topped with garlic sauce and hot sauce

Chicken shawarma on pita with garlic sauce and hot sauce

I of course also wanted salchipapas with our lunch. We made the mistake of ordering them from the stand next to the shawarma stand, which was a pizza stand rather than one serving traditional Ecuadorian food.

Don't get salchipapas from a pizza stall

Don't get salchipapas from a pizza stall

The French fries were soggy and oily, and the hot dogs were just gross. I don’t think they were spoiled, they just had a bad taste to them. We kind of picked around the fries and left the hot dogs untouched on our plate. Bleh.

Really bad salchipapas

Really bad salchipapas

After lunch (which cost like $8 even with two beers), we stopped for some 75 cent ice cream cones from McDonalds. The cone itself was weird, kind of mix between a cake cone and a sugar cone, but the vanilla soft serve tastes the same at McDonalds everywhere. It was refreshing in the hot heat of the afternoon.

Soft serve vanilla ice cream

Soft serve vanilla ice cream

We walked all the way down the Malecon to the other end and then hiked up Santa Ana Hill to the lighthouse on top. It was quite a climb – 444 steps altogether, but it was worth it. We were able to see the beautiful Las Penas neighborhood with colorful houses, and the view from the top was spectacular, giving us a 360 degree panorama of the entire city.









Hummus Place

Friday, July 17th, 2009 by virginia


Josh and I tried to see a 7:10 showing of the new Harry Potter movie at the theatre in Lincoln Center but when we arrived at 6:45, the theatre was already packed and there were no good seats left. Since we didn’t want to watch the movie from the front row, we exchanged our tickets for a later show and headed off to find something to eat.

I wasn’t starving (unusual, I know) so we looked for something casual and light. We ended up at Hummus Place, a little place devoted to hummus, of course. There are several branches throughout the city and although the menu is limited, the food is fresh and good for sharing.

Josh and I started with a carafe of sangria, one of the more unusual versions that I’ve tasted. In addition to the standard chopped up pieces of fruit, they added dried spices to their sangria, which made it taste like Christmas potpourri to me.

Red sangria

Red sangria

There were visible pieces of star anise floating around but I’m not sure what else they put in there. I tasted more fruit juice and spices than wine, so I wasn’t a huge fan. Josh seemed to enjoy it though.

Floating fruit and spices

Floating fruit and spices

We decided to share some appetizers and a plate of hummus. We opted for an order of falafel, which were crispy on the outside and moist and green in the middle. These were nicely seasoned, although the accompanying tahini sauce didn’t have much flavor.

Crispy falafel

Crispy falafel

We also had stuffed grape leaves, which were surprisingly served warm. I’ve only had cold grape leaves before. These were soft though, and the rice stuffing had a nice texture to it. I enjoyed the minty green yogurt sauce that was doused over the top.

Stuffed grape leaves

Stuffed grape leaves

The tabule salad was chock full of fresh parsley and mint but lacked enough zing. An extra squeeze of lemon would have helped brighten up the flavors. I did enjoy the quinoa mixed throughout, as it provided a nice chew to the dish.

Tabule salad

Tabule salad

For our main course, we shared the hummus masabacha, which was hummus topped with whole chickpeas and olive oil. It came with two pieces of soft and fluffy pita bread that were warm and delicious.

Soft and fluffy pita bread

Soft and fluffy pita bread

The hummus had a nice creamy texture but lacked any sort of seasoning. I couldn’t taste any tahini, so it seemed like they just pureed chickpeas plain with olive oil. It really needed some garlic and lemon to boost up the flavor. I ended up dumping in a bunch of salt but it was still pretty bland.

Hummus masbacha

Hummus masabacha

Overall Hummus Place was a nice place to get a quick snack, but it wasn’t satisfying as a meal. I guess the carnivore in me can’t survive on just chickpeas. The food is light and healthful though, and the small appetizer plates give you the opportunity to try a lot of different dishes. The only thing they need to work on is their seasoning, but the freshness of their ingredients really shines through.

Hummus Place (multiple locations)
305 Amsterdam Ave. between 74th and 75th St.
New York, NY


Monday, May 18th, 2009 by virginia

When Josh’s coworkers suggested picking up lunch from Crisp I was excited. Not having fulfilled my falafel craving on Sunday, I was eager to try Crisp’s version after reading some good reviews on the Midtown Lunch blog. Midtown Lunch is one of my favorite sites and has steered me towards many great meals. I love the blog’s philosophy of finding cheap, delicious and satisfying lunches in the giant tourist trap that is midtown. Zach enjoyed Crisp’s Mexican falafel so of course I had to follow suit. Boy was I disappointed.

The falafel ball itself was standard, a fact that I was already warned about. It was comparable to the falafel balls from Moshe’s truck – good, not great. The Mexican is also supposed to contain cilantro pesto, avocado, corn, salsa and nachos with jalapeno dressing. My first impression was that the sandwich was extremely dry; the tiny container of salsa did nothing to rectify that issue. The cilantro pesto was not spread evenly throughout the sandwich so some bites would be surprisingly overwhelming in cilantro flavor. I tasted no avocado at all. And what the heck is “nachos with jalapeno dressing?” I found two slices pickled jalapenos on top, the kind that come from a jar and are standard on any plate of nachos, but there were no tortilla chips or cheese or anything resembling “nachos.” Am I missing something here? But the worst offender for me was the corn, which tasted like it was dumped straight from a can and had that chewy, tough quality to it. I guess for a place that touts how “fresh” its ingredients are, I was expecting fresh corn bursting with sweet goodness. I should have known better, especially since corn is such a seasonal ingredient and fresh corn isn’t available year round. I eventually tried to pick out as many of the kernals as I could but there were a lot of them and the tinny flavor of the canned corn had already permeated throughout the sandwich.

The Mexican

The Mexican

I did like the packaging of the sandwich though, as it was contained in a cardboard sleeve that prevented the sandwich from falling apart. Messiness is something I usually can’t avoid when eating falafel, and I was able to keep from spilling on myself this time. I kept the cardboard sleeve on the whole time and just pushed the sandwich up from the bottom, like one does with an apple pie from McDonalds.

Overall I was disappointed with the Mexican, but I did have a bite of Josh’s Parisian sandwich that I thought was much tastier. You really have to like goat cheese to enjoy that sandwich though, as it was completely smothered with it.

The Parisian

The Parisian

His coworkers tried the Athenian and the African, and both of them enjoyed theirs as well. I guess mine was a fluke? I’m not going to write this place off based on one bad sandwich experience, as I can see the potential in their different flavor combinations. And while the corn was bad, the whole wheat pita was soft and fluffy and the other ingredients were nicely seasoned. It is pretty pricey for a falafel sandwich, though the Mexican is one of the cheapest at $7.75; the Parisian is $9.75. It was a very filling lunch, however, so I think it could be worth the price. I’ll have to sample some of the other sandwiches before I pass final judgment on this place.

Crisp (multiple locations)
110 West 40th St. between 6th Ave. and Broadway
New York, NY