I had no idea that falafel balls were made with such healthy ingredients. Most falafel recipes start with chickpeas, garlic, onion, fresh cilantro and parsley. The deep fryer is what transforms these ingredients into delicious, crunchy, not-so-healthy fritters. So, I decided to experiment with baking rather than frying the batter. This recipe is adapted from a homemade falafel recipe from Mark Bittman’s Bitten Blog. Note: If you are looking for an authentic, deep-fried falafel experience, I recommend going to your favorite falafel joint or investing in a deep fryer.
Makes about 12 falafel patties
1 cup dried chickpeas (original recipe called for 1 3/4 cup)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (original recipe called for 2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed)
1 small onion, chopped
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 cup chopped parsley or cilantro leaves
a sprinkling of cayenne
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
juice of half a lemon
1 egg (added)
about 1 cup chickpea flour (added)
a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds (added)
a sprinkling of dried thyme (added)
a sprinkling of chopped walnuts (added)
olive oil cooking spray
1. Preheat the oven to 425F degrees.
2. Put the beans in a large bowl and cover with water by 3 or 4 inches; they will triple in volume. Soak for 24 hours, adding water if needed to keep beans submerged.
3. Drain beans well and transfer to a food processor. Add garlic, onion, cumin, coriander, cilantro, salt, pepper, cayenne, chickpea flour, the egg, and lemon juice.
4. Pulse until minced but not pureed, scraping sides of bowl down. Keep pulsing until mixture comes together. Taste, adding salt, pepper, cayenne or lemon juice to taste.
5. Make the mixture into falafel balls or patties and put them on an oiled tray. Sprinkle sesame seeds, thyme and chopped nuts on top and bake in the oven for around 15 minutes, until the patties are golden brown on both sides.
6. Serve warm in a toasted pita, with tahini sauce and/or hummus, and a simple Israeli salad made with chopped tomato, chopped cucumber and chopped onion, a sprinkling of cilantro, simply dressed with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste (pictured below).
In a world where “veggie burger” means a flattened block of soy protein, studded with carrots and peas whose flavor is thankfully masked with ketchup, mustard and lots of relish, it doesn’t take a lot to build a better burger. All you really need to make a delicious, homemade one is a can of beans, some eggs, and rolled oats or breadcrumbs. The good news is that you probably have most, if not all, of these ingredients at home. Add some different spices and fresh herbs, and the burgers can be flavored in a variety of ways. My favorite one starts with lentils, fresh cilantro and ginger, and is topped with melted Jarlsberg cheese. Check out my recipe featured on Good Bite! If you are looking for more ingredient and preparation ideas for burgers, check out a recent blog post in The New York Times “The Burger Experience Without Beef”.
Baked Lentil Cheese Burgers
MAKES: 4 to 6 servings
TIME: 20 minutes
One 14-ounce can of lentils, drained (feel free to use a different kind of cooked bean)
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon chile powder (less or more depending on how spicey you want it)
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon crushed fresh ginger
1 teaspoon chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon salt (less or more depending on how salty you want it)
1 teaspoon sugar in the raw or brown sugar
freshly ground black pepper
grapeseed oil spray (or any neutral oil)
1 tomato, sliced
black sesame seeds
regular or lite Jarlsberg cheese, sliced
onion sandwich rolls
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and spray a baking sheet with the oil.
2. Combine the lentils, onion, oats, ginger, cilantro, spices, salt, pepper and sugar in a food processor and pulse until chunky. You want a mixture that is moist but not wet.
3. Let the mixture rest for a few minutes, then shape into patties.
4. Bake the burgers until they are deeply brown, about 8 – 10 minutes. Then flip and bake for 8 – 10 more minutes.
5. Serve with melted Jarlsberg cheese and sliced tomato on a toasted onion roll.
This recipe for fusion flatbreads was inspired by a trip this weekend to visit my brother in Washington, DC. Knowing that I like good food, my brother tried to pack in as much eating as possible into the three days. After we finished our poached eggs and toast Sunday morning, we headed to ACKC Cocoa Bar Cafe for their dark chocolate bars with espresso nibs. Saturday night, I ate dinner for two and had dinner twice– First, dove into some spicy Thai dishes at Mai Thai and then enjoyed an unexpected late-night feast at his friend Angela’s place — she greeted us with warmed tortillas, homemade vegetarian chile and creamy guacamole. Friday night, we packed in Asian and Latin food at the tapas restaurant Masa 14. The menu ran the gamut from chipotle miso black cod to a fruity-spicy coconut tuna ceviche, and most of the dishes succeeded at fusing the ingredients. The wild mushroom flatbread with Oaxaca cheese and avocado, however, had nothing Japanese about it, except that I picked out some of the super hot chiles with my chopsticks. Back home in NYC, I decided to continue the weekend’s gastronomic delights with my own combination creation –Flatbreads with Fusion.
Latasian Flatbread Recipe
1 store-bought flatbread (options: Indian naan, store-bought pizza dough, flatbread crackers)
1/2 cup cooked and shelled edamame
2 habanero chiles, seeded and chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped
2 slices Monterey Jack Cheese
1 teaspoon black sesame seeds
1 teaspoon miso paste
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1.Place a pizza stone in the bottom of the oven and preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Allow at least 30 minutes for the pizza stone to heat.
2. In a food processor, puree the edamame, chiles, miso, soy sauce, and sesame oil until smooth.
3. Spread the mixture over the flatbread.
4. Top with chopped tomato and Monteray Jack cheese.
5. Slide the flatbread onto the stone and bake for about 6 -8 minutes, until puffed and golden. Transfer the flatbread to a cutting board and let cool for 10 minutes before slicing.
I own three cookbooks, that’s it. Most of the time I just try and recreate my favorite restaurant dishes. Even when the food doesn’t come out exactly right, I like knowing that it’s my creation. The only cookbook I use on a pretty regular basis is Mark Bittman’s ginormous vegetarian cookbook, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, and I’m not even a vegetarian! The part I love most about the book is that Bittman treats vegetarian food like a cuisine, rather than a series of substitutions. His cookbook presents ingredients that lend themselves to vegetarian cooking — everything from chickpeas to sushi rice and demonstrates how to use them in range of ways. Take nuts. Bittman devotes an entire section to the lexicon of nuts and seeds and then offers various ways of how to season and cook with them. See the recipe for Caramelized Spiced Nuts below or feel free to experiment and make your own nutty creation!
Caramelized Spiced Nuts
Makes: 4 to 6 servings
Time: 15 minutes
2 tablespoons peanut or neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn
2 cups of sugar (variation, sugar in the raw)
2 teaspoons garam masala
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups unsalted mixed shelled nuts (I just used almonds)
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet with the oil. Put a wide pot or deep skillet over high heat, and 2 cups of water and the sugar, and bring to boil. Stir in the spices, salt and nuts. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid is reduced to syrup, 5 to 10 minutes.
2. Turn the heat to low under the nuts and remove with a slotted spoon, letting the excess syrup drain off a bit and then spreading them on the baking sheet.
3. Roast the nuts for 10 minutes, tossing once or twice with a spatula. Remove from the oven and let cool; the sugar coating will harden as the nuts cool. Serve or store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2 or 3 days.
This smoothie is a great remedy for a New Year’s Eve hangover. There is really no formula. Inspired by the wonderful organic smoothies at Josie’s Restaurant, I decided to make my own tropical frozen treat with organic fat-free vanilla yogurt and fresh fruit. Enjoy!
Fresh Start Smoothie
1 frozen ripe banana, sliced
1 kiwi, sliced
1 mango, sliced
11/2 cups yogurt
1 teaspoon honey
Place all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Serve right away.
Chinese food and the movies– it’s sort of the unofficial Jewish tradition on Christmas. But typical fast-food Chinese takeout is too greasy and way too salty, so I decided to make a healthier version at home and serve it in Chinese takeout containers. Instead of fried wontons, I found a simple recipe on EatingWell.com for baked wonton chips. It was a real crowd pleaser– crispy, light, and really tasty. All three containers finished in less than five minutes. I will definitely make this appetizer again next year, Christmas Day, and many days in between.
Recipe adapted from EatingWell.com
1 package wonton skins (Note: You may have to go to a specialty market. I found them at an UWS greenmarket, in the freezer section.)
1/2 cup black sesame seeds
1/2 cup wasabi sesame seeds (variation, optional)
cayenne (variation, optional)
nonstick cooking spray
11/2 teaspoons sesame oil (variation, optional)
1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. Coat 2 baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray. Then drizzle the baking sheets with sesame oil for extra flavor.
3. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the black and wasabi sesame seeds, making sure to move the seeds around by shaking the skillet, heat for 2 to 3 minutes, or until lightly browned and fragrant. Let cool.
4. Defrost the wonton skins. Use a knife to cut the square-shaped wontons into thirds, each one should be about one inch wide. Use one as a guide to make sure the others are cut around the same size (variation).
5. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and carefully add the cut wonton pieces, one at a time.
6. After about 20 seconds, or when the skins look like cooked noodles, remove them with a slotted spoon.
7. Spread a large clean dish towel on the counter. Fill a medium bowl with cold water and immerse the noodles.
8. Immediately arrange in a single layer on the towel to drain.
9. When you have enough wonton skins to fill a baking sheet, arrange them in a single layer on a prepared baking sheet.
10. Sprinkle with salt, cayenne, and the toasted sesame seeds or herbs. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden and crisp. (Watch carefully toward the end to avoid burning.) Remove to a rack to cool. Repeat procedure with remaining wonton skins.
11. Place wonton chips in Chinese takeout containers (my variation)
As far as I know, there is no healthy substitute for chocolate (carob is good, but wouldn’t stand a chance in a taste test with chocolate). So I go for sheer enjoyment and look for the best quality that I can afford. I discovered that when I buy quality chocolate, I treasure it more, and actually eat less. With so many specialty markets and health food stores on NYC’s UWS, I never have a problem finding the “perfect” piece. A good rule of thumb for chocolate (for any food product) is to always read the label so you know exactly what you are getting. Make sure the chocolate contains real ingredients– no fillers, has a high cocoa content, 70 percent or greater, tastes rich, and has a low sugar content. Tonight I was craving something sweet and tart, so I went for a dark chocolate bar with tiny pieces of dried raspberries and another one loaded with chopped walnuts. A delightful way to bring in the new year!