I’ve always lived in a do-it-yourself household and prefer to cook most meals for the convenience factor (and, as my husband would point out, because I’m picky about where my food comes from, I try to deny this because I don’t want to seem like a snob but have to admit that the more I study our food system, the pickier I get).
With sustainability always on our minds in the workplace, we naturally stop to think, criticize and evaluate purchases and lifestyle choices that we make at home on a regular basis too. In the food arena, we are making efforts to reduce our carbon footprints by buying locally grown produce, beer and wine; buying bulk and fresh, unprocessed foods to reduce our landfill contribution; bringing our own bags to reduce plastic bag use at the store/ farmers market; and riding our bikes instead of driving. We are also pretty serious about supporting sustainably produced or harvested foods such as fish, meat and dairy- we know that these may or may not have added health benefits over conventionally grown foods, but they are generally more responsible in terms of resource use, pollution, chemical use, animal husbandry and overall respect for the community. As conscious consumers, these are values we like to support.
As eaters, we try to appreciate our food. Michael Pollan stated in his op-ed Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch in NYT Magazine that cooking is a defining human activity and we couldn’t agree more. We grow some of our own food and cook as much as we can. We sit down when we eat, we plan ahead so as not to waste food, and we enjoy sharing meals with good company whenever we have the chance. We are not perfect though. We could always do more- grow more, share more, eat more sustainable fish, eat less packaged breakfast cereal, etc. etc. The facts that 1) obesity rates are inversely correlated with the amount of time spent on food preparation; and b) the average American spends a mere 27 minutes a day on food preparation means that probably a lot of people could be doing a little more.
We also happen to like adventure in my household, so we have decided to spend one afternoon/ evening a week making a dish completely from scratch. The first meal was homemade falafel sandwiches, which in 4 main steps turned out quite laborious, but delicious nonetheless.
This chewy, tangy, spicy, starchy, heart-warming falafel sandwich was perfect for the misty fresh Sunday evening air here in Monterey. We hope you enjoy it. You can cut down on time by buying tahini and hummus at the store (or making it ahead of time).
Step 1: Tahini
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spread the sesame seeds evenly out on a baking sheet or a thin baking pan.
Place in the oven and open the oven and stir the seeds around every few minutes until they are golden brown, being careful not to let them burn.
Take the pan out of the oven and let the sesame seeds cool for a little while. Next, use a high powered blender or food processor to grind up the sesame seeds. Put all the seeds in the blender/ food processor with 1 tbsp oil and blend on high, adding the remaining oil slowly until the sesame seeds are blended on a thick, smooth paste. Do not add too much oil or it will be too runny.
Tahini can be kept in a jar or even frozen in small amounts for a few weeks.
Step 2: Hummus
I have to admit, the Joy of Cooking’s hummus recipe that we tried was fun to make and definitely edible but did not turn out anywhere close to the best hummus ever, Sabra with the red lid. We are inspired to try another recipe. Maybe from The Hummus Blog. Adrian also did a roasted garlic hummus recipe on this blog that you can check out here.
Step 3: Falafels
Rinse and soak the chickpeas for at 12 hours (they can be soaked in a bowl of water in the refrigerator). Put them in a food processor with the garlic, onion, lemon juice, parsley and spices. Blend to a rough moist texture. Add a little water if needed.
Let the mixture rest for about an hour. Chop the tomatoes and cucumber into bite size pieces and place in a bowl. Set out paper towels or pieces of paper bags on a surface. Place the pitas into a toaster or oven at about 200 degrees to warm.
Pour enough oil into the pan so that it is 1/4 inch deep. Heat it to medium-high.
Transfer to a mixing bowl and stir the baking soda into the mixture. Form uniformly shaped and sized balls and fry them when the oil is hot until they turn brownish, then flip. Transfer the falafels when they are golden brown on both sides onto the paper.
Step 4: Put it all together
Spread hummus into the warm pitas. Add generous amounts of tomatoes, cucumbers and falafel to your liking.
Falafels can be frozen and defrosted for quick dinners or a salad topping in the future. Enjoy!
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