It’s Lebanese mezze gone wild!
Okay, less wild and more, quietly appealing, especially to those not eating grains or have a gluten sensitivity. I’m an equal opportunist and I believe that everyone has the right to enjoy these delicious classics.
But really, I love Lebanese food. I mean, like, LOVE. There is this place I used to go to for lunch almost daily because they had the best falafel and hummus I’d ever tasted. Plus, it was cheap. When you work in New York near the financial district, finding inexpensive, healthy food is like hitting the jackpot. And I hit pay dirt when I landed on Baba ghanouge on Church Street last year.
Their food is the real deal. And even though they weren’t the most organized business, I patiently dealt with fumbled orders and some chaos each day because I just had to have one of their falafel on whole wheat or their Chicken Tawook pitas (like biting into yummy spicy heaven!) for lunch.
When I started cleaning up diet and experimenting with paleo and gluten-free, I said farewell to the nice guys at Baba ghanouge and their delicious food. Sadly, chickpeas aren’t paleo friendly and the fried falafel balls where definitely not allowed.
As I spoke about in my last post, I left the world of paleo behind and I’ve been reintegrating some of these foods back into my diet. But I have yet to revisit my falafel paradise on Church Street. I just can’t do the fried thing.
So I had the genius idea one lazy day to just make my own falafel. And why not throw in some hummus too for good measure? This way I can still get those great flavors without sacrificing something I love so much.
Before I get started with the recipe, let me go back to my roots here and present my nutrition factoids:
CHICKPEAS OR GARBANZO BEANS
Chickpeas, or garbanzo beans as they’re also called, are loaded with health benefits ranging from digestive tract support to lowering risk of cardiovascular disease. It’s a staple ingredient in Mediterranean and South Asian cuisines and can be eaten either in either cold or hot dishes. I’ve seen a number of gluten or grain-free recipes utilizing chickpea flour as well.
1 cup of cooked chickpeas has approximately:
- Fiber: 12.5g or 50% DV. The most significant aspect of the dietary fiber contained in chickpeas is that between 65-75% of that amount is insoluble fiber which helps improve intestinal health and efficient digestion of food. High fiber intake also helps keep you feeling full longer which can help reduce caloric intake.
- Protein: 14g or 29% DV. This is especially important to those following vegetarian or vegan diets and are looking for plant-based sources with higher protein levels. Since our bodies do not store this macronutrient, we have to take it in through our diet. Protein is used to build and repair tissues, and it’s an important component in the making of bones, muscles, skin, and blood. So you can see how vital it is to maintain a diet that meets your specific protein needs.
- Antioxidants and Heart Health: The seed coat or skin along with the chickpea’s inner portion are full of antioxidents, vitamins, and phytonutrients that work to improve cardiovascular health. Chickpeas are an excellent source of the mineral manganese (84% of DV!) and the vitamin folate (70% of DV), each promoting cell energy and heart health by lowering the risk for artery damage near the heart.
With all of the health benefits of chickpeas, it comes as no surprise that the Mediterranean diet, one of the healthiest diets that has consensus among most health and nutrition experts, incorporate these legumes into their cuisine. If you’ve never tried chickpeas, then pick up a can or bag (preferably GMO-free!) on your next grocery trip and throw some cooked beans in your salad. Or, you can try one of my recipes! And speaking of….
Today’s Meatless Monday recipe is broken down into 3 parts:
- Roasted Garlic Hummus
- Baked Grain-Free Falafel Patties
- Tomato-Cucumber Salad
I made all three together in the style of a mezze, or a tapas-style appetizer , although note that this didn’t take me very long at all. I’d estimate about an hour at most, and that depends on if you decide to buy raw or canned chickpeas (some people swear by cooking your own from the bag), and if you decide to skin the beans. To save some time, you can make the hummus a day before and store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to make the other parts.
Most of the recipes I found for either falafel and plain hummus were pretty much identical, with some additions here or there. You can be pretty creative with hummus since it’s essentially a dip. I’ve seen edamame and pea hummus, so go with what works for your palate. Garlic sings to mine so I opted to go for roasted garlic this time around.
Roasted Garlic Hummus
- 1 15oz can chickpeas, no salt added
- 1 medium head of fresh garlic
- ¼ cup Tahini paste
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
- 2-3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (extra for dressing)
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 2-3 tbsp warm water (for desired consistency)
Baked Grain-Free Falafel Patties
- 1 15oz can chickpeas, no salt added
- 1/2 small red onion, minced
- 3 garlic cloves, mashed
- 2 tbsp almond flour or almond meal
- 3 tbsp fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp fresh cilantro, finely chopped
- 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp baking powder
- Dash of ground red pepper
- Kosher salt and finely ground black pepper to taste
- ½ cup quartered tomatoes, grape or cherry
- ¼ cup persian cucumbers, diced
- 2 tbsp red onion, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 tbsp Italian parsley, roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
One thing I loved about making this is that it’s almost all the same ingredients being used for each dish, but the end results are so different. The ingredient list is very un-fussy with the exception of tahini which might require a bit of a search, but even that can be found online or in most grocery stores. I’m opting for canned chickpeas because it’s just much simpler and takes less time. As I said earlier, many people swear there is a big difference in the hummus if you’re making the chickpeas from scratch. If you have the time and patient, then I say, go for it! My instructions below are for the canned version.
Let’s begin with the hummus.
1. Preheat oven to 425° F. Cut the uppermost part of the garlic head, revealing the tops of each clove, but keeping the head intact. Pour a bit of olive oil over the top and wrap in aluminum foil. Place on the bottom rung of the oven and roast for 50-60 minutes. Allow garlic to cool before handling. Remove each clove from the skins and set aside.
2. Rinse out the can of chickpeas in a colander and remove any excess salt. Here comes the slightly tedious part. Remove the skin from each bean. They should slide right off and the whole process lasts about 10-15 minutes. This makes for a smoother hummus, so it’s worth the extra effort.
3. Add tahini and lemon juice to the food processor and mix for 1 minutes. Scrape down the sides and process for 30 seconds. Then add the olive oil, roasted garlic, and seasonings to the tahini and process for 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides and process for 30 seconds more. *All of the continual processing serves to whip up the tahini and make a creamier hummus.
4. Add half the chickpeas to tahini mixture and process for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and add the second half of the chickpeas to the food processor. Process for another 1-2 minutes, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl down, until you get a smooth consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
5. The mixture will be very thick and dense at this point. Adding the warm water, tablespoon by tablespoon, will allow the hummus to loosen up and become even smoother. Keep processing and adding water until you’ve reached the desired consistency.
6. Scoop out the hummus onto a serving plate and leave a well in the center. Pour high-quality extra virgin olive oil in the center and dash some paprika and chopped parsley on top. Serve.
The hummus should keep well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks. Use this as an alternative to mayo or other high fat spreads and dips in your sandwiches, with vegetables, or with whole-wheat pita bread.
Part 2: Baked Grain-Free Falafel Patties (recipe adapted from Chow Vegan)
1. Preheat oven to 375° F. Spray or brush a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil and set aside.
2. Drain and rinse a can of chickpeas. You won’t need to skin these beans as with the hummus! The skin has lots of nutrients and it won’t affect the consistency of the falafel. Add the beans to a mixing bowl. Smash the garlic cloves in a mortar and pestle and set aside.
3. Mash the chickpeas with a fork or masher until they’re completely smashed. Add the garlic and the rest of the falafel ingredients to the bowl and mix well. Carefully form about 2 tbsps of the mixture into balls and place on the greased baking pan. Lightly flatten each ball until they make patties. Makes 10-12 patties.
4. Bake for 15 minutes on each side or until they’re browned. *Note that since we’re using almond meal and baking these falafel, the patties will crumble more easily. Handle with care as you’re flipping and you should be fine.
5. Remove from the oven once fully baked and browned. Serve.
These falafel were not greasy at all and they were the perfect size to add to a pita or just on their own as a side dish. Yum!
Part 3: Tomato-Cucumber Salad
There aren’t a whole lot of instructions here! Chop the tomatoes, parsley, cilantro, cucumbers, and onions and place together in a bowl. Mix well with the lemon juice, oil, and seasonings. Serve!
Traditional Lebanese mezze has a different variation of this salad called tabbouleh, which has all of the ingredients above with the addition of mint and bulgar wheat. I wanted this to be a grain-free meal so I didn’t include the bulgar, but you can adapt this according to your tastes. I’ve seen tabbouleh recipes including quinoa in place of bulgar, so feel free to experiment!
Now it’s time to put your mezze together!
Grab a serving plate and place 2-3 falafel patties on a bed of spinach. Then add about 1/2 cup of hummus and tomato-cucumber salad on the sides and you’re done!
This requires a bit of juggling, but really, it’s not that hard to throw this together on a weeknight, especially if you make the hummus ahead of time. I hope you give this a try for your Meatless Monday meal! Enjoy!