falafels and tzatziki
For a quick dinner, I made one of our favorites – falafels. For those of you who do not know what falafels are, you are missing out! But really, these things are amazing. They are fried chickpea patties (or balls) in lafa (or in our case, pita bread), a popular fast food eaten in the Middle East. The first time I had a falafel sandwich was at B’s parents’ house, when my awesome mother-in-law wowed us with her terrific cooking skills and treated us to some Mid-East/Mediterranean goodness – homemade falafels, hummus and tabbouleh (the latter two were firsts for me as well).
I have never made falafels from scratch and I am sure it’s not hard, but for time’s sake, I used a store-bought mix – added a little water here, a little water there, let the falafel mix sit in the fridge for 30 minutes, and then fried the falafels (first rounded into a ball, then squashed into a patty) in hot canola oil. Put the three or four cooked falafel patties and some lettuce in a whole wheat pita pocket, toss in some tzatziki sauce and voila! My own version of a Mid-East/Mediterranean dinner. On the side, whole wheat couscous with flaxseed.
Falafels can be dry by themselves so you need a sauce to go with it. On a previous occasion, I had made tzatziki sauce with grated cucumber (if you search for a recipe online, you will find thousands of variations), but it didn’t turn out quite the way I wanted it to. It wasn’t bad at all, but it just didn’t taste right, didn’t taste like the tzatziki sauce I usually have at one of our favorite restaurants.
(Tzatziki sauce is traditionally a Greek sauce, but other Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries have their own versions. The Greek way, according to Wikipedia, is made of “strained yogurt, cucumbers, garlic, salt, olive oil, pepper, dill, sometimes lemon juice and parsley, or mint added”.)
So, I found another recipe online and decided to change things up (the recipe called for cumin but I negated that since the falafel mix had a lot of cumin already – such a strong flavor! I also didn’t use oregano but opted for dill). After letting the sauce sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes, it was close to perfect. Perfection came when Bryan found the crushed mint (a must!) and mixed it in the sauce.
If you want to give it a try, here’s my version of tzaziki sauce:
1 cup plain, fat-free yogurt
1 tbsp lemon juice (can adjust accordingly, to taste)
1/8 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp dill (my addition)
1/8 tsp mint, and then some (Bryan and I’s addition)
salt to taste
Mix everything up in a bowl and don’t be afraid (like I am learning) to add less or more of the ingredients (lemon juice and spices), seasoning it to your preference. Once the yogurt has been mixed well, put it in the fridge overnight. When you are ready to use it, let it sit for a few minutes at room temperature and it’ll be good to go. I was really quite proud of myself when I made this sauce, because I just relied on the little knowledge I know about spices, as well as remember the flavors of my favorite restaurant tzatziki sauce.