My falafel obsession began about two years ago when a friend from work told me she was making falafel waffles for dinner. Falafel waffles? Aside from being fun to say, I learned falafel is what happens when you take the really healthy food of chickpeas and you fry it up. It's delicious!
Shortly after my falafel introduction, I made my first trip to Los Angeles, epicenter of healthy living. Admittedly a little star struck with the whole LA scene, I convinced a fellow aspiring yogi to drive me up to take class with the amazing Steve Ross of Maha Yoga.
After, we walked in the rain and splashed in puddles along the Venice Beach boardwalk as I soaked in the counter culture only found out there. Eventually we found a little corner cafe and ducked inside to dry off and grab a bite to eat. My friend ordered a cheeseburger and fries and thought I was a little over the top for being so excited that they had falafel and hummus on the menu.
The falafel was great, the hummus was OK and the rainy afternoon at the cafe was absolutely perfect.
Fast forward eleven months and I'm sitting in a delightful little vegetarian cafe for lunch with my mom after her latest radiation treatment. We don't know it at the time, but she'll be gone in less than three months. But today, she's feeling good and we are having a girls lunch.
She also laughs at me a little because as a transplanted Southerner I don't have as many vegetarian options and I have to ask the waitress what some of the menu items are. I decide, once again, on the falafel and a lovely tomato soup. But I tell the waitress nothing with eggplant because it's the one vegetable I just don't like.
The whole time we are talking I'm chowing down on my falafel and dipping into some sauce that I'm absolutely digging! When the waitress came over to refill our crystal wineglasses with water and fresh sliced lemon, I asked her what this was on the side of my plate.
"Oh, that's baba ghanoush."
"What is it," I ask like the dumb Southern baby vegetarian.
"It's basically eggplant."
Oh, well what do you know? I guess I do like eggplant!
Here we are a year later and my attempts at home-made falafel have been failures. My dear friend and fellow Southern vegetarian Diane Z told me the problem is I've been using canned beans instead of dried.
Well what do I do with dried beans? A google search says to soak them overnight. Is it really that easy? At 11pm I post to Twitter my dried bean ignorance and get lots of responses that yes, it really is that easy. Put them in some water and go to sleep.
The next day I embark on a wild goose chase through two surrounding Memphis counties in search of falafel mix. If it exists it can't be found in the Memphis metro area. But no worries, I'll just cook these old school with the recipe Diane Z passed along to me. And my driving from store to store did pay off in that I found a small tub of baba ghanoush!
I carefully measured, mixed and blended everything together exactly according to the recipe. I got nervous when it came time to fry them because I fry food so rarely that I wasn't sure how much oil to use or how long to keep them in.
I got even more nervous when they didn't look like the falafel I'd had before. But, trying to stay optimistic I put them on the table for dinner.
They were....just OK.
They tasted like falafel, mostly. But they just weren't as good as I'd remembered.
Was it because I wasn't sitting on the beach or because I wasn't with my mom? Definitely a little bit.
Was it because I really have no idea how to fry foods? Definitely a little bit of that too.
I'm not sure if I'll attempt home made falafel again. I would like another chance to sit in a cafe at Venice Beach and enjoy the scenery, the company and the falafel. For now though, I'll hope some of my local friends who are better cooks than I am will take falafel pity on me and bring me some for lunch one day.