Monday, August 22, 2011

Falafel and Tabouli

Day 407

Last time we met I told you how, living in the suburbs, there are times I desperately miss my favorite ethnic takeout spots in the city. There was a Turkish spot near my old office that had the best food - just thinking about it makes my mouth water! I was practically addicted to their Falafel and Hummus Salad, which was three or four large, fresh, hot falafel served atop a heaping scoop of cool, creamy hummus and herbalicious tabouli. I guess I thought that without a deep fryer I'd never be able to mimic those flavors at home. Wrong!

During my last year at the agency, I worked on a project with Food Network star Melissa d'Arabian. What I like about her is that she's not a chef's chef. She's a mom of four, with a master's degree, who simply loves to cook. That means her dishes are quick to make and easy enough for the amateur home cook (that would be me!). She's also traveled and lived all over the place so she's not afraid to experiment with different flavors and spices in an effort to recapture some of her favorite dishes from around the world.

On a recent episode on her show, "Ten Dollar Dinners," she created a light, simple menu of some of her favorite foods inspired by two classic ethnic restaurant and takeout dishes - falafel and tabouli. Rather than making her tabouli the traditional way with bulgar wheat, she substituted pearl-shaped Isreali couscous. And instead of chickpea-and-tahini hummus, she made a white bean, yogurt and garlic sauce.

This dish was three strikes - you're in! The falafel was super easy to make, the couscous tabouli was the perfect side - light and fresh - to accompany the fried falafel, and the sauce was absolutely delicious. Not only did the sauce provide an extra element of protein via the white beans, it complemented but also stood up to, the other flavors on the plate.

Time to Dish:
For the falafel, I used can chickpeas. I didn't have time to soak and wait. Guess what? I couldn't imagine it tasting any better so I'll use this shortcut next time, too.

I used Greek yogurt for the sauce, rather than the plan as instructed. Next time, I think I'll cut back on the garlic just a tad. Since it's not cooked at all, the garlic got to be a little strong by the end of the meal.

I always have whole wheat couscous in my pantry, but I've never bought Israeli couscous. I couldn't find it at my market, so I ended up buying a box with a flavor packet (you know the ones), and just used the couscous itself. I also skipped the mint - I'm just not a huge fan.

I skipped the lettuce, tomato and cucumber garnish because I felt the tabouli and white bean sauce was enough to complete the meal. And I'd do it again! I've been craving this since I made it. It will definitely be added into the regular meal rotation.

Falafel recipe:
Tabouli recipe:

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Curried Chicken with Saffron Rice

Day 388

Since moving to the 'burbs more than two years ago, Hubby and I are in serious Indian food withdrawal! We just haven't found any close to home that match up with the restaurants we loved in the city. Okay, we probably haven't looked hard enough... Whatever, I admit it.

I'm always on the search for new ways to cook chicken. It gets so boring doing the same ol' thing time and again. This will definitely spice up your humdrum dinner rotation.

Rachael Ray (yes, another RR recipe) calls this a "Takeout Fakeout" dish; we call it delicious! The combination of spices perfectly mimics even the most authentic curry. And, sure, you could just as easily hit up the spice aisle for a jar of curry, but if you're like me you have all the spices on-hand anyway so you might as well use them up! Using the spiced Greek yogurt as a vehicle to coat the chicken keeps the meat tender and moist throughout the baking process.

I served the chicken atop a simple basmati rice steeped in saffron and finished off with sweet peas.

Time to Dish:
Make sure you don't use your nice, silver baking racks for the baking process, unless you want them stained yellow from the curry like mine are. Rookie mistake, Hubby would say.