Falafels, Pita and Baba Ganoush - a little everyday exotic - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Falafels, Pita and Baba Ganoush – a little everyday exotic

Lately I’ve been diving into The Joy of Cooking for dinner insperation.  Pinterest is great, don’t get me wrong, but I figure if I have such an extensive resource, I may as well be using it.

A thousand pages of recipes has to have something that will catch my eye, right?  You betcha.

In fact, it may have gotten a bit out of hand.  I started with a notebook, thinking I’d write down titles and page numbers as I progressed through the book.  I’m only 400 pages in, and I’ve already got two pages worth of ideas.  I’m looking forward to seeing it through and sharing with you.

My first recipe isn’t actually from Joy, but it’s vastly important for the meal I’ve put together.  I hadn’t ever made pita before, but after making it, I’m never buying it in stores again.

I enjoy making bread, but it’s a notoriously long process.  With many bread recipes, the time it takes to activate the yeast, let it rise, punch it down, let it rise again while you preheat the oven and then taking its time baking racks up pretty fast – often taking at least three hours in all.  But not pita! With only one rise, and a short one at that, and then only taking 15 minutes at most to bake, this is so much easier than any other bread I’ve ever made.  If you’re a fan of those expensive pita chips they sell for dips, you can take this recipe an extra step and cut your baked pitas into strips and toast them.  Thank you, Aimee at underthehighchair.com for this life-changer.

DIY Pita Bread (from Under the High Chair)

pita bread

So good, and so easy to make!

1 tablespoon yeast
1 ¼ cup warm water
1 teaspoon salt
3- 3 ½ cups flour

Dissolve yeast in water for about 5 minutes in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add salt and 1 ½ cups flour and with the dough hook, beat to make a batter. Add additional flour until a rough, shaggy mass is formed. Knead 8 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic. Add more flour if it is too sticky.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide into six pieces for large pitas or ten for smaller. I make all sorts of sizes to suit different snacks and meals. Form dough into balls, then flatten with a rolling pin into ¼ inch thick discs. Try and keep an even thickness as this is what helps them ‘puff’.

Let rest on the floured surface 30-40 minutes until slightly puffed.

Preheat oven to 425F.
With a large spatula, flip the rounds of dough upside down on to a baking sheet. Bake 10-15 minutes until light golden. Stick around for the first five minutes of baking when the pitas perform their magic and puff up from flat pancakes to proud, four inch high pitas.

These store for up to two days well wrapped or frozen for three weeks.

What’s a pita without something to put in it?  This recipe didn’t make near as much as my husband and I anticipated, though it was the perfect amount for just the two of us.  If you’re cooking for more, multiply it by at least two.  As I discovered, letting the “batter” stand is vital, else they go into your frying pan without any form at all.  They’ll still fry up beautifully, but they’ll fall apart fairly easily.

falafel

Who wouldn’t want this?

Falafels

  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • 1/3 C tahini (sesame paste)
  • 1/3 C cold water
  • 4 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp. + pinch of salt, separated
  • 1/2 C chopped onion
  • 1/4 C packed parsley leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red peppers
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • vegetable oil

Drain chickpeas, then add to a bowl with water, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt.  Drain, and add to a food processor with the onion, cumin, parsley, garlic, coriander, remaining salt, baking soda, turmeric, and crushed red pepper.  Coarsely puree, then transfer to a bowl.  Stir in the flour and let stand 15 minutes. form into small patties.

Heat a large skillet containing 1/2-inch of vegetable oil.  Fry the balls into patties until golden brown, turning occasionally.  Drain on paper towels before stuffing into pitas, best with tomato, cucumber, and lettuce.

Perhaps it’s my own immaturity, but baba ganoush is on my list of fun things to say.  Try it sometime.  That said, it’s also pretty fun to make. If you’re a griller, try putting your eggplants on the grill.  It takes about 35 minutes to get it soft all the way though, but adds a lovely smoky flavor. At first I asked my dad how long it might take, as he was always the one doing the grilling growing up.  His answer: “I have no clue.” It was then I remembered his strict, “no plants on my grill” rule, and had to laugh at the face I imagined him making when he read my text.  After you get your eggplants roasted all the way through, be it through the oven or the grill, it’s pretty simple.  Be warned about the garlic: you will not be cooking it at all, so be mindful of your tolorance level when it goes into your food processor.

baba ganoush

This tastes a whole lot better than it looks .

Baba Ganoush

  • 3 medium eggplants
  • 2 Tbsp. Tahini (sesame paste)
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. finely chopped parsley (or 1 tsp. flakes.)
  • pitted black olives (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Pierce each eggplant with a paring knife if several places each, and roast until soft, 45-60 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool.  When cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and put in a colander, pressing out excess water.  Put in a food processor and add tahini, garlic, lemon juice, and salt.  Puree until smooth.  Transfer to a shallow dish and garnish with olive oil, parsley, and olives.  Best served with pita.

Tip of the week: When reheating biscuits or muffins in the microwave, cover with a wet paper towel to keep them from drying out.





About the author

Sally Michaelis

Sally is a wife and domestic diva in Maryland. She approaches life with gusto, humor, and a passion that is unmatched. She is a classic woman, with a modern twist and is the kind of woman who will throw back a beer and watch Star Trek with her husband, and entertain the church croquette group with homemade cheese cake. Sally offers something for everyone, and is always experimenting and cooking up a storm in her kitchen. Contact the author.
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