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Sometimes a little homemade falafel does the trick

jason

My little falafel adventure

My falafel

From 1994–1996, Imbiss falafel was one of my staple starving student lunches in the city of Marburg, Germany. Most of the Turkish restaurants in Marburg served falafel on wedge of a large round dough which they called pide, but has more in common with focaccia than the standard pita. The usual cost for such a lunch was about DM4 (give or take 50 Pfennig), or about $3, making it one of the most inexpensive lunch options in town.

I don’t know why I never make falafel at home; perhaps the relatively ready availability at various quick-service Mediterranean restaurants around Seattle is a bit of a distraction. But I can usually hope for no better than uncharismatic, flabby pita when I go to such an inexpensive place, although there are some notable exceptions when I am willing to spend a bit more for a full-service meal, such as at Mediterranean Kitchen (Bellevue, Seattle).

But at home I have the power to escape the travesty of stale or flavorless pita bread; I can make my own, and serve them just seconds after they leave the oven. It’s surprisingly easy to make good pita, as the more familiar variety requires only a quick knead and is a fairly moist, easy-to-handle dough. Rolling the dough out evenly is the most difficult thing, but is a surmountable challenge.

Falafel, too, sometimes suffer from the flaw of premature frying, to save some effort on the part of a harried staff far more concerned with pushing out orders than getting the best possible flavor. Unfortunately, falafel set aside for an hour or so and microwaved tend to be displeasingly dry. It is, alas, a fairly common strategy, but again, home cooking comes to the rescue. I soak dry chickpeas and fava beans for a few hours, chop them in a blender, add onion, various seasonings, and salt, then shape into small balls and fry.

In this case, since I was making dinner and not eating on the run, I served the falafel more like a salad, and used the pita as a utensil. I made a little yogurt sauce with a little garlic and salt, which should actually probably be served with the cucumber, but which mysteriously snuck onto the falafel itself, in addition to coating the salad.

Not a disappearing act, and grilled donut peaches

jason

Sorry for the long delay between postings. I suffered another laptop disaster, as the graphics controller or monitor seems to have given up the ghost. I should have known that the flaky hard drive of a month or two ago was only the beginning, but I was a tad too optimistic.

Repair would likely cost as much as a comparable replacement, since that machine is now approaching 3 years old. Accordingly, I’ve decided to delay purchase of a replacement for a bit, since I have a machine at my commercial space and I can occasionally make off with Hiromi’s laptop as needed.

I’ve also been fairly busy working on unrelated things, and catching up on some necessary reading.

We have been cooking, and we’ve made more use of the nifty shichirin. We bought some white-fleshed donut peaches at Sosio’s and grilled them for dessert. Donut peaches are more interesting for their shape than their flavor, and they tend to be less sweet than comparably seasonably appropriate peaches. But grilling them a bit creates a very nice caramelization, and provides the illusion of a sweeter taste. When eaten with a little lightly sweetened mascarpone with a few drops of good vanilla extract, magical things happen.

Peach-sumibiyaki

Gougères, or something like them

jason

On the heels of my savory choux, or Gefüllte Windbeutel, I wanted to revisit the “embedded” treats we had at Pair Restaurant few weeks ago.

Unlike our last choux, these gougères have cheese right inside the choux pastry dough, instead of being sliced and stuffed. I add the cheese just after whipping the finished dough.

Gorgonzola gougères

Gougeres

I used a couple of cheeses that I had on hand: in this case, a bit of gorgonzola and parmesan, along with some scallions. Because they are already reasonably buttery, no further adornment is required when consumed warm, but an additional pat of butter or cream cheese wouldn’t hurt.

These don’t require a piping bag, but they’d probably look a bit more presentable if piped.

Edamame ice cream

jason

Sure, I usually use edamame in the simplest way possible… boiled for a few minutes in salted water, and seasoned with coarse salt.

In spite of the perfect simplicity of that summer treat, I occasionally move beyond the obvious.

Several years ago, I stumbled into a special event at a Tokyo department store where I first encountered zunda with shiratama. Zunda is to edamame what anko is to azuki beans: a sweet paste, but instead of being red, it’s brilliantly green.

Thanks to that experience, I realized that edamame had a broader potential than I had first imagined. I experimented with other sweet applications.

A couple of summers ago, I made my first attempt at an edamame ice cream. It worked out well, but was a little light on the edamame flavor and heavy on the cream.

I adjusted the proportions again, using more edamame and less cream, after realizing how much fat the edamame contribute to the mix. This Wednesday, I made another batch, with some more adjustments. Now my only problem is that the ice cream is incredibly hard when it freezes, so I think I need to tweak the sugar balance to get the texure just right, but with this batch, I was very happy with the taste.

Edamame ice cream

To add to the edamame experience, I made a sort of glace of edamame, and spooned it over the ice cream when serving.

This weekend is the tail end of Sweet Pleasure's Summer Ice Cream event, so I have an excuse to consume a lot of ice cream. I’m looking forward to some other indulgences, vicarious or otherwise…