Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lunch Box Chronicle: Day Forty-Five (Falafel, tahini sauce, libani)(vegetarian)

I like to believe that I can replicate any dish I have tasted anywhere.   Unfortunately my wishes and reality don't always coincide.

On two trips to West Hartford, CT, I visited Tangier International Store and Middle Eastern Deli.  The falafel wrap is beyond worldliness  It represents the blending of best of the cultures of the City of Tangier, the store and deli's namesake.  The flavors are incredibly powerful and bold, yet subtle and light.

Back in March, my mom and I were the first to stumble upon Tangier on our way home from West Hartford.  It is an unassuming store in the corner of a flat building, but what lurks inside is almost magical.   The aisles are lined with packaged foods from the Middle East, Mediterranean, and Fertile Crescent and off to the side is a small lunch counter with a myriad of homemade Middle Eastern foods.  There were fitayers of all types, but none quite as creative as the ones in the Lunch Box Chronicles  I am sure they would have thought of it as blasphemous to stuff a fitayer with peanut butter and jelly.  Peanut Butter and Jelly Fitayer Post

I ordered the falafel.  My mom said she wanted only "a little bit" claiming she was much too full after all our day of sampling and noshing at Whole Foods.  After one bite, the "little bit" simply couldn't satisfy her.  And, being a nice, but not overly generous daughter, I did not intend on parting with another bite.   We just had to order another.  Our conversation on the four hour ride home inevitably turned to the falafel.  "Can you believe the taste?" "Does it bring you back to childhood?" "What were those incredible flavors?  "Did you taste the nana (mint)?" "Do you think we can make this at home?"

On a repeat visit to West Hartford in May, I insisted to my daughter Emma that she had to experience the falafel from Tangier.  "Oh mom," she protested, "I am still so full from the food at the Afghanistan Cafe and Hookah Bar."  She still thinks it is wild that I unwittingly brought her to a hookah bar.

I persuaded her to have just a bite of the falafel..."This is the BEST," she proclaimed.   I had already experienced the "only a little bite" from her grandmother a few months before and knew that my best bet was to wolf down the falafel before Emma had any ideas to ask for more.

It must be our cellular memories for food of our ancestors, but something about the combination of blended chickpeas, tahini and lemon dressing, yogurt and mint, sent us into complete food heaven.

My goal was to replicate this Falafel Utopia at home.  The result was not quite Utopic.

Ingredients: Spelt Right Pizza Dough, Premade Falafel or Falafel Mix, Tahini, Fresh Lemon, Garlic, Salt, Pepper, Greek or Lebanese Yogurt (Liban), dried mint, cucumber, tomatoes, lettuce.

Prepare Spelt Right Pizza Dough into pita bread on the grill Spelt Right Pita Bread Instructions

Prepare falafel mix according to instructions.  We used a wheat free version.  I think next time I will
l try to make it on my own.

Tahini Dressing.  Blend the following ingredient in a blender:
  • 1/2 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 3 gloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • enough water to loosen dressing
  • dash of cumin (optional)

Yogurt Dressing: 8 ounces of Greek or Lebanese yogurt, finally chopped cucumber, 1/2 - 1 teaspoon of dried or finely chopped fresh spearmint, 1 garlic clove finely chopped and mashed.

Assemble all ingredients in a pita pocket made with Spelt Right dough.

Result: Not bad, the bread was better than that at Tangier, but the body of the sandwich couldn't compare.   Tangier's was so much more flavorful.  I am on a mission to recreate Falafel Utopia.  This isn't the last you will hear of my attempts.

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