North of the Arctic Meets the Middle East

Crispy fried falafel – fragrant with cumin-, freshly baked pita pocket bread, garlicky tzatziki sauce, homemade hummus, honey-orange spritzers and Basbousa cake for dessert made for an eclectic gustatory tour of the Middle East. 

Last night’s meal was a self-imposed culinary challenge: Everything was created from scratch (right down to soaking dried garbanzo beans) in our little kitchen 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Jack is usually the chef, but on this night I wanted him to relax, sit back and let me take over. A date.

The menu included homemade pita bread stuffed with slices of cucumber, tomato and falafel drizzled with tzatziki sauce. A bowl of garlicky hummus was available to spread on extra pieces of pita. Orange honey spritzers, made with our SodaStream, provided a sweet balance to the spices and garlic. The candlelit meal was capped off with Basbousa cake and mugs of steamy-hot rooibos almond tea.

In preparation for this meal, I soaked two cups of dried garbanzo beans the previous night. The falafel mixture and the tzatziki sauce were made Saturday morning in order to let the flavors meld together.

Following are the recipes made in the order I used.

Falafel

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried chickpeas
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 1/3 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp white sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 pinch ground fennel powder
  • vegetable oil for frying

Directions

  1. Place dried chickpeas in a bowl. Fill with water to cover. Soak at least 8 hours or overnight in refrigerator. Drain.
  2. Place soaked and drained chickpeas in a blender or food processor; blend to a paste.
  3. Pour water into chickpea paste and blend until smooth. Scrape down sides of blender with spatula if needed.
  4. Place sesame seeds, cumin, salt, baking powder, coriander, black pepper, red chili powder, sugar, turmeric, and fennel powder in blender with chickpea paste; blend until well mixed. Transfer chickpea mixture to a bowl.
  5. Chill chickpea mixture in refrigerator to allow flavors to blend, at least 1 hour and up to two days.
  6. Cover bottom of skillet with vegetable oil and and heat to 370 degrees F over medium heat (188 degrees C).
  7. Scoop up chickpea mixture by heaping tablespoons and form into balls the size of ping pong balls and flatten slightly.
  8. Fry balls in hot oil until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes on each side.

Recipe adapted from allrecipes.com

Tzatziki Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cucumber, seeded, peeled and cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp dried dill
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Mix ingredients together.
  2. Blend or food process until well combined.
  3. Chill in refrigerator until you are ready to use.

Pita Bread

Ingredients

  • 1  1/4 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1  1/2 tsp white sugar
  • 1  1/2 tsp active dry yeast

Directions

  1. Place all ingredients in bread pan of your bread machine, select Dough setting and start.
  2. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Gently roll and stretch dough into a 12 inch rope. With a sharp knife, divide dough into 8 pieces. Roll each into a smooth ball. With a rolling pin, roll each ball into a 6 to 7 inch circle. Set aside on a lightly floured countertop. cover with a towel. Let pitas rise about 30 minutes until slightly puffy.
  3. Preheat oven to 500 degrees F (260 degrees C). Place 2 or 3 pitas on a wire cake rack. Place cake rack directly on oven rack. Bake pitas 4 to 5 minutes until puffed and tops begin to brown. Remove from oven and immediately place pitas in a sealed brown paper bag or cover them with a damp kitchen towel until soft. Once pitas are softened, either cut in half or split top edge for half or whole pitas. They can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for several days or in the freezer for 1 or 2 months.

Recipe adapted from allrecipes.com.

Click here for our post about basbousa cake.

So, Jack, what did you think about your Middle Eastern feast?

7 thoughts on “North of the Arctic Meets the Middle East

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.