Updated February 2012.
A couple of years ago, I stopped into my favorite local market for all foods from the Mideast. For an upcoming cooking group session, I wanted to make falafel (chickpea fritters) from scratch.
I asked the shop owner -- a wonderful cook who prepares hundreds of hand pies, spreads, and stuffed grape leaves every week -- for her own falafel recipe.
She handed me a box of falafel mix.
"Nobody makes it from scratch," she told me. "The mix is so much better."
My jaw dropped. Could this be the same woman who welcomed me into her kitchen, who taught me to make mjedera and spinach pies and creamy baba ghanoush -- all from scratch?
I set out to prove her wrong. I purchased a box of falafel mix, which contains ground fava beans, ground chickpeas, corn meal, flour, dehydrated onion, dehydrated garlic, parsley, cracked wheat, baking powder, sodium bicarbonate, salt and spices. (Different brands have slightly different seasonings.)
To make falafel balls, we added water to the mix, allowed it to sit for an hour, formed the patties, and deep-fried.
To make the from-scratch falafel, I bought bags of dry chickpeas and fava beans, to combine with the remaining ingredients from my pantry. I researched recipes from many sources. I soaked the chickpeas overnight.
Then we mixed ingredients, refrigerated the balls to allow them to "set", and deep-fried.
The verdict? We all preferred the falafel from the box (golly...), which was more highly spiced and took one-tenth the time to make.
Ever since, I've kept a box of falafel mix in the pantry. The mix looks just like breadcrumbs, and I often substitute one for the other.
Turkey-falafel meatballs with pasta
Make the meatballs ahead and freeze them, and you can pull together an easy weeknight dinner. Serves 6.
1 lb ground turkey
1/4 cup onion, minced
1/3 cup falafel mix
Scant 1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or romano cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Olive oil, for frying
1 lb linguini or penne pasta, prepared according to package directions
3 cups baby spinach leaves
For the tahini dressing:
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp kosher salt
3 Tbsp water
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a Silpat (silicone mat) or parchment paper, and set aside.
Mix first six ingredients together by hand, season with salt and pepper, and shape into walnut-sized meatballs on the baking sheet. Bake at 400F for 15 minutes.
In the meantime, cook the pasta. Drain, and place in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the tahini dressing ingredients, and toss with the warm pasta. Add spinach leaves and stir to combine. Top with the meatballs, and serve hot.
Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Crispy roasted chickpeas with Moroccan spices, from Kalyn's Kitchen
Chopped broccoli salad with tahini soy sauce dressing, from Family Fresh Cooking
Asparagus with maple tahini dressing, from Gluten-Free Goddess
Crunchy veg salad with lemon-tahini dressing, from Food Blogga
Ten minute tasty asparagus and brown rice, from 101 Cookbooks
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