Homemade Falafels

Homemade Falafels

Falafels are traditional Middle Eastern deep fried patties or balls made from chickpeas, fava beans, or both.  They’re usually found stuffed in Pita bread or rolled in a flatbread along with fresh and pickled veggies and topped with a tahini sauce, that’s a Falafel Sandwich.  They are also eaten with fried eggs, hummus, babaganouj, and pickles for breakfast or served as mezzes and snacks.

My first encounter with falafels was at a kiosk in New York city where I grew up.  Buying a falafel sandwich from this kiosk was a treat when we spent the day at the near by park.  Then my family moved to Hawaii in the mid-70’s where there were no kiosks selling “ethnic” foods and so I didn’t have falafels again until I married my husband who is of Palestinian decent.  Imagine his surprise when I told him I actually knew what falafels were!

As newlyweds in Hawaii we had to figure out how to make falafels at home; as I new bride I had no clue!  Remember back in the 80’s there was no google, no pinterest, no instagram, or any kind of internet that would find a recipe in seconds.  I had to rely on cookbooks from the library, not really helpful.

Then we found a box of falafel mix at a local health food store.  Just add water and fry.  It wasn’t the best, but we made do.  I started experimenting with the boxed mix and found that adding finely chopped fresh parsley improved the taste.  Started adding more spices and pretty soon I figured I may as well by pass the mix and make it from scratch.   That didn’t go so well until I managed to buy a food processor, now I was in business!

As I was exploring the makings for falafel from scratch we started traveling all over the world.  Of course travel opens up your life to different places, foods, and cultures and our travels in the Middle East definitely helped my falafel making.  We loved the falafel sandwiches at Mr. Falfala in Cairo and the ones found on the streets of Diera in Dubai.  But nothing beats the fresh falafels served at Hashem’s and Abu Jbarra in Jordan!  On our last trip to Dubai this year we discovered that Abu Jbarra opened a place by the Dubai Mall, we ate brunch there almost everyday!

Anyway those trips to Egypt, Dubai, and Jordan whetted my desire to make falafels at home that would be close to the ones served in the places we loved.  I say close because I doubt I’ll ever figure out the exact match to Hashem’s falafels served in this little alley in downtown Amman.

I make large batches of falafels so that I have enough to freeze for future use.  Raw falafel paste freezes beautifully!  This way I don’t have to haul out the food processor every time I want to fry falafels and I always have some handy when  I have a yen for a falafel sandwich.

I’ve found that using fresh ingredients makes the difference between decent falafels and amazing ones!  So I use fresh cilantro, parsley, and dill as my primary seasonings; they will turn your mixture green, but the greener the falafel is the better it tastes in my opinion.  I also use dry chickpeas never canned.

It takes a bit of planning to make really great falafels, but believe me it’s so worth the effort!

Fresh Falafel

Ingredients:

8 oz. Dried Chickpeas (1/2 a bag)

1 Tsp. Baking Soda

1 Large bunch of Fresh Cilantro, rinsed and dried on paper towel

1 Large Bunch of Fresh American Parsley, rinsed and dried on paper towel

1 Small Bunch of Fresh Dill, rinsed and dried on paper towel

2 Tbs. Fresh Garlic, minced

1 Tbs. Cumin Powder

1 Tbs. Ground Coriander

1 Tbs. Sea Salt

1 Tsp. Ground Black Pepper

1 Tsp. Baking Soda

Oil for frying

Pita or Flat Bread

Optional Condiments: Fresh lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, pickles, pickled beets, tahini sauce, thousand island dressing, or what ever you want to add in the sandwich

Directions:

Pour dried chickpeas into a bowl and mix in baking soda.

Cover with water and soak overnight.

Rinse chickpeas in cool water and drain in a colander.

In a food processor load in this order:

Cilantro leaves and stems (you don’t have to use all the stems but do use the leaves), Parsley, Dill (prepare and use Parsley and Dill the same way as Cilantro).

Drained chickpeas and garlic

Dried spices (cumin, coriander, salt, pepper)

Turn on processor and grind until it is a paste

If freezing place paste into freezer safe containers and freeze.  Thaw before cooking.

If using immediately:

Heat about 2″ of oil in a small pot.

Add baking soda to falafel paste and combine well.

Test that oil is hot enough by dropping a small amount of falafel paste in; if oil starts bubbling around the paste your oil is ready for frying.

Form paste into small 1″ balls or patties and drop into hot oil.

Fry until all sides are brown, cooked falafel will float.

Drain on paper towels and serve as a sandwich filling or by itself for breakfast or as mezzes.


Homemade Falafels
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Homemade Falafels
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Perfectly cooked turkey

Perfectly cooked turkey

Cooking turkey in a foil tent lets it steam in its own juices, resulting in more tender meat – then remove the foil and turn up the heat to get crispy skin

Looking to cook the perfect turkey? Follow our expert guide to cooking turkey here, and make our recipe below. There are no timings on this recipe, because we have included how to calculate how long to cook your turkey for in the recipe.

 

Ingredients

turkey 1, giblets removed               onions 3, thickly sliced             olive oil 2 tbsp                sea salt

 

Method

  • STEP 1 Remove the turkey from the fridge at least an hour before cooking and heat the oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7. Calculate the cooking time – allow 30 minutes at high heat, then 30 minutes per kilo after you have reduced the heat. So a 5kg turkey will take three hours in total.

     
     
  • STEP 2 Put the sliced onions into the roasting tin. Put the turkey on a rack and then put the rack into the roasting tin. Drizzle the turkey with olive oil, and season well. (If you’ve brined the turkey, skip the seasoning as it will be well seasoned already.)

     
     
  • STEP 3 Pour 2 cups of boiling water into the tin with the onions and cover the whole thing with a double layer of foil. Make sure that it’s well sealed around the edges. Put the tray in the oven and cook for 30 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6 for the remaining cooking time.

     
     
  • STEP 4 After 11⁄2 hours remove the foil and close the door. Don’t open it again until the cooking time is up. To test whether the turkey is cooked, insert a skewer or knife blade into the point where the thigh joins the breast — the juice should run clear. If it is pink, leave it for another 20 minutes and test again. Alternatively insert a digital thermometer into the thickest point – it is cooked when it reads 72C.

     
     
  • STEP 5 Take the bird from the oven, remove the onions, then strain the juice in the bottom of the tin into a large jug to settle. The fat will rise to the top, leaving the turkey and onion juice beneath. Skim off the fat and use the juice to make a gravy if you wish or serve as it is. Leave the turkey to rest in a warm place covered with foil for 1 hour, then carve.

 


Perfectly cooked turkey
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Homemade Potato Chips

Homemade Potato Chips

I love potato chips!  Not the flavored ones (the flavors get more exotic each year, like Taco Flavor); just plain salty chips.  Simple right?

These days potato chips don’t seem as simple as they should be.  Exotic flavors aside they’re also packed with preservatives, I mean they do have to last thru shipping and sitting in the store until you get it home.  And even then it can sit resealed in the bag for days depending on the humidity.  So what happened to those simple natural chips that are crispy and salty?  They’re pretty much a thing of the past unless  you make them at home.

That’s pretty much what I’ve been doing since this Pandemic forced everyone to stay home and limit trips to the grocery store.  With time on my hands and a bag of potatoes in the pantry I started making Homemade Potato Chips, and my they are delicious!  We may never buy chips again!

Really it’s simple, just a bit tedious if you’re like me and make several bowlfuls.  But they do store pretty well in ziplock bags, that is if you can keep enough to store.  My family eats them as snacks and with their sandwiches.

All you need are 3 ingredients; potatoes, salt, and oil.  I use olive oil, but Canola Oil works wells too.  The trick is to heat the oil enough so that you flash fry the chips and you got to work fast so you don’t burn them.  Oh, and if you really need them flavored you can toss them in garlic salt, or whatever seasoning you want as long as it’s dry.  Or you can dip them in your favorite dip.  But like I said I like mine just crispy and salty!

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Ingredients:

6 Large Russet Potatoes

1/2 Cup Oil – more if you need it while frying

Sea Salt or seasonings of your choice

Directions:

Scrub potatoes and peel (if you don’t want to peel them that’s ok too, just be sure they’re scrubbed clean)

Using a mandolin slicer shave the potatoes (you can choose the thickness, I prefer the thinnest setting; thicker chips don’t get very crispy and tend to get hard) If you don’t have a mandolin slicer any veggie slicer should work as long as it has a straight blade.  Or if you prefer you can use a food processor just be sure you use the correct blade.

Place slices in a bowl of cold water to keep them from turning brown while you slice the rest of the potatoes.

Heat about 1/2″  oil in a large frying pan.

Place slices on paper towels – work in small batches to keep chips from burning and clumping together.

Pat chips dry – they don’t have to be bone dry just dry enough so they’re not dripping in water.  Placing really wet chips in hot oil will cause the oil to pop and sizzle and may burn you.

Fry chips both sides until golden brown – about 45 seconds at most.  Adjust heat if they start to burn.

Drain chips on a paper towel.  Repeat until all chips are cooked.

Sprinkle with sea salt and gently toss chips to salt all the chips.

To store place in ziplock bags and keep at room temperature.


Homemade Potato Chips
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Homemade Potato Chips
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Escabeche – Filipino Sweet & Sour Fish

Escabeche – Filipino Sweet & Sour Fish

Sweet & Sour FishFilipino cuisine is a melting pot of several different types of cuisine, but it is said that 80% of Filipino dishes have been influenced by Spanish cuisine.  The Philippines was a Spanish colony from 1521 to 1898.  Almost 400 years of Spanish rule certainly left its mark, many Filipino specialties are local adaptations of Spanish dishes.

 One of our family favorites is Escabeche, or a Sweet & Sour Fish dish.  Escabeche is a common Spanish dish that is popular in Mediterranean and Latin American cuisine.  Typically it refers to a dish of poached or fried fish that has been marinated in an acidic sauce before serving.  It can also composed of other meats including chicken and pork, or vegetables.  The Filipino version of Fish Escabeche is fried fish in a Sweet & Sour sauce.  It is a favorite Filipino party food, specially when it’s made with a whole fish that’s artfully arranged on a platter and topped with colorful veggies and sauce.

I’ve made it the traditional way using whole fish, but my grandsons have difficulty with the small fish bones.  To make it easier for them to eat I have started making Escabeche using fish fillets than have no bones.  Any kind of white fish will work.  We have used Tilapia, Flounder, Orange Roughy, and other white fish we find in the market.

Like many Filipino dishes Escabeche isn’t difficult to make, but it is “fussy” meaning its preparation requires several steps; in this case dredging, frying, chopping, and making the sauce.  It takes about an hour or so tho cook so it’s not something I make very often, but when I do my family loves it!

Ingredients:

Fried Fish:

6 – 8 Fish Fillets (any white fish:  Tilapia, Flounder, Halibut, etc.)

1 Large egg – slightly beaten

1 Cup Flour

1  Tsp. Garlic Powder

1 Tsp. Ground Black Pepper

1 Tsp. Sea Salt

1/3 Cup Vegetable Oil

Sauce:

1 Cup Sugar

1/4 Cup White Vinegar

1 1/2 + 1/2 Cup Water

1/4 Cup Ketchup

2 Tbls.  Corn Starch

1 Large Onion Sliced into strips

2 Medium Green Peppers Sliced into large chunks

4 Cloves Garlic roughly chopped

Directions:

Fried Fish:

Mix flour and spices in a shallow bowl

Place egg in another shallow bowl

Pat fish fillets dry with a paper towel

Heat oil in frying pan

Dip fish fillet in egg, then dip in flour mixture, shake off excess flour

Fry in hot oil until both sides are cooked

Remove from pan and place on paper towel to drain oil

Repeat with the rest of the fish

Keep fried fish warm by placing it in the oven at about 200 degrees

Sauce:

Dissolve cornstarch in 1/2 cup water and set aside

Place sugar, vinegar, water, and ketchup in a medium pot and bring to boil

Stir in garlic, peppers, and onions

Make sure cornstarch solution is still dissolved, if not stir until it is

Slowly stir in cornstarch solution until you get desired thickness.  Sauce should be the consistency of gravy.

Place fish fillets on serving dish and pour sauce over it

Serve right away.  It goes great with steamed white rice.

Sweet & Sour Fish
Escabeche - Filipino Sweet & Sour Fish
Print Recipe
Popular Filipino dish featuring fried white fish in sweet & sour sauce.
Servings Prep Time
4 Servings 15 Minutes
Cook Time
45 Minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 Servings 15 Minutes
Cook Time
45 Minutes
Sweet & Sour Fish
Escabeche - Filipino Sweet & Sour Fish
Print Recipe
Popular Filipino dish featuring fried white fish in sweet & sour sauce.
Servings Prep Time
4 Servings 15 Minutes
Cook Time
45 Minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 Servings 15 Minutes
Cook Time
45 Minutes
Ingredients
Fried Fish:
Sauce:
Servings: Servings
Instructions
Fried Fish
  1. Combine flour, garlic powder, salt & pepper and place in a shallow dish.
  2. Heat oil over medium - medium high stove.
  3. Rinse fish fillets and pat dry with paper towel.
    Sweet & Sour Fish
  4. Dredge fillets in flour mixture and place in heated oil.
  5. Fry fish until cooked and turns golden brown - about 4 - 5 minutes per side depending on the thickness
    Sweet & Sour Fish
  6. Remove from pan and place on a plate covered with a paper towel to absorb some of the oil. Set aside.
    Sweet & Sour Fish
Sauce
  1. Combine sugar, vinegar, ketchup, and 1 1/2 cups water in a sauce pan and bring to boil. About 10 minutes.
    Sweet & Sour Fish
  2. Mix 1/4 cup water with corn starch until smooth.
  3. Slowly stir corn starch liquid into the boiling vinegar mixture to thicken. Reduce heat to low and let sauce gently simmer. Keep an eye on it, you don't want it to get too thick. If it gets too thick add a bit of water to thin.
Veggies
  1. Saute onions in the oil you fried the fish in until it starts to turn a bit soft.
  2. Add garlic, saute until cooked.
  3. Add green peppers and cook until peppers turn slightly soft.
  4. Return fried fish fillets to pan with veggies.
  5. Gently stir fish mixture for about 3 - 4 minutes.
  6. Arrange fish and veggies in a platter.
  7. Pour sauce over all.
Recipe Notes

The most efficient way to make this dish is to start making the sauce while the fish is frying.   Keep the sauce simmering over low heat while you finish sauteing the veggies. Stir the sauce periodically to keep a skin from forming on the top.
When you drain the fried fish and set it aside keep it warm by placing it in a warmer or on the stove top. Don't cover the fried fish, it will get soggy.
When you replace the fish in the pan gently stir it so that the fillets warm up a bit. Transfer fish and veggies on to your serving dish (or you can keep it in the frying pan) and pour the hot sauce over all.
This dish is perfect served with steamed white rice.

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Beef Kabobs in Vinaigrette Marinade

Beef Kabobs in Vinaigrette Marinade

 

 

Grilling is always fun.  We usually have a family barbecue every Sunday.  It’s lots of fun and a great way to catch up with each other after a busy week.  One of the problems I run in to is finding new recipes to grill. (With recent lock downs and quarantines we’ve had to barbecue for those of us in the household, other family members barbecue at their homes to maintain social distancing.  But hopefully soon we can all get together again for this family tradition!)

Sure hot dogs, burgers, and steaks are easy, but every now and then we need a change. That’s why I’m always in search of a new barbecue recipe.  I like to try them out during this weekly family dinner, and if everyone likes it we make it part of our menu.

 

Last month I tried this new marinade, mostly because I had all the ingredients in the pantry.  (Again with the pandemic quarantine we try to keep shopping trips to a minimum).  But also because I love balsamic vinegar, which is the main ingredient to this recipe.  I call it Beef Kabobs in Vinaigrette Marinade.

The best part about marinades is that it flavors your meat with very little work.  It’s simple, just toss the ingredients together, soak the meat, and let the marinade do the rest of the work!  I marinate my meat in the refrigerator overnight.  The longer is marinates the more flavorful it will be, but you don’t want to marinate it more than a day or so, because when marinated too long the meat starts getting this tough jerky like texture and it may eventually spoil.  If for some reason we don’t use the marinated meat the next day I freeze it, marinade and all.  That way I just thaw it out when we’re ready to grill.

Just before grilling I skewer the beef cubes on bamboo skewers, but you can use metal skewers if you have them.  We do have a bunch of pretty metal skewers we brought home from Turkey one year, but cleaning them after the barbecues is an extra chore I can do without.  When you do use bamboo skewers remember to soak them in water for about 10 – 15 minutes before putting the meat on, it keeps them from burning when you pop them on the grill.

Another helpful tip when grilling is to not over cook the meat.  Grill meat until it is just about done to the way you want it (rare, medium, well).  In short remove it from the grill before it is the desired “doneness”.  Place grilled meat in a covered pot or roasting pan and let rest covered for 5 minutes before serving.  This allows the meat to finish cooking and to release its juices.  Try it out!  You’ll end up with tender juicy meat!  It works for steaks too!

Having said that here’s my recipe for Vinaigrette Marinade!  By the way you can use the same marinade on chicken, lamb, or shrimp.  Just don’t mix the meats, make a separate batch of marinade for each type of meat or seafood.

 Ingredients:

3 Lbs.  Beef Tenderloin cut in 1″ cubes (you can use your favorite beef cut)

1 Cup Balsamic Vinegar

1/2 Cup Olive Oil

2 Tbs. Finely Minced Garlic

1 Tbs. Fresh or Dried Rosemary

1 Tbs. Fresh or Dried Oregano

1 Tsp. Sea Salt

1 Tsp. Ground Black Pepper

1 Large Onions cut into large chunks

1 Large Green Pepper cut into large pieces

1 Basket Mushrooms, washed and patted dry

Directions:

Combine Balsamic Vinegar, Olive Oil, and seasonings in a large ziplock bag.  Seal bag and shake to combine all the ingredients together.

Vinaigrette MarinadeAdd meat cubes to the marinade.  Seal bag and shake to cover all the meat.

Refrigerate at least 3 hours, for best flavor marinate in the fridge overnight.

 

 

About and hour or less before grilling place meat, onions, peppers, and

Vinaigrette Marinademushrooms on skewers.  Alternate meat with veggies.

Grill over medium heat until meat is just about done the way you want it.

Place skewers in a large pot or roasting pan with a lid.  Cover and let stand 5 minutes to allow meat to finish cooking and release its juices.

Serve hot with rice, potatoes, and other sides.


Beef Kabobs in Vinaigrette Marinade
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Tender, juicy, and flavorful grilled meat that's perfect for any cook out.
Beef Kabobs in Vinaigrette Marinade
Print Recipe
Tender, juicy, and flavorful grilled meat that's perfect for any cook out.
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Combine Balsamic Vinegar, Olive Oil, and seasonings in a large ziplock bag. Seal bag and shake to combine all the ingredients together.
  2. Add meat cubes to the marinade. Seal bag and shake to cover all the meat.
  3. Refrigerate at least 3 hours, for best flavor marinate in the fridge overnight.
  4. About and hour or less before grilling place meat, onions, peppers, and mushrooms on skewers. Alternate meat with veggies.
  5. Grill over medium heat until meat is just about done the way you want it.
  6. Place skewers in a large pot or roasting pan with a lid. Cover and let stand 5 minutes to allow meat to finish cooking and release its juices. Serve hot with rice, potatoes, and other sides.
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