Delicious World of Chefette Spicy

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Toasted Falafel in Pita Pockets with Tzatziki

It is such an amazing feeling, to face the end of finals and look forward to my first holiday season (bar an academic paper up for submission) in two long years. After doing some mental math, I realized that I have been working without respite for the past two years. Some may argue that I took a break last summer also but then, I would beg to differ. Carrying a live person in the stomach for nine odd months and popping one fine day in summer is not my idea for a vacay (plying the mom card here). And that’s exactly what I did last summer.

Although this year is going to be as tricky as last year, I am taking solace in the fact that I would not be learning something as challenging as being a mother and breastfeeding an ever hungry baby. Yep, I am up-to-date with all of Miss Kohlrabi’s tricks. Nothing, I repeat, nothing will frazzle me. But I really do hope she gives me an easy time, mommy deserves a holiday. So I have all the time until mid-August until my next (crazy) semester commences and I have all the time in the world until the last week of June to plan a party (Kohl’s first), pack for the India trip and wonder how we are going to manage this then-one year old in a confined space for 24hrs.

I guess I will come to that later. So until then, I have quite some time and I have planned to do a whole list of stuff while the baby will be away, having a great time at the daycare for three days in a week. It is cleaning time! Everything starting from the refrigerator to the door knobs are scheduled to get deep-cleaned, thanks to a huge bottle of hydrogen peroxide, a big bag of baking soda and Costco-size dish liquid. Yes, I am channeling all my energy into the 1050 sq.ft. that is the house.
baked falafelI also have plans to cook wholesome, healthy meals, which would be balanced by those unhealthy ones at good intervals. So before I go and revel in all the awesomeness that is the end of this academic year, let me tell you what I made recently. I cannot call it a falafel since it doesn’t involve frying and mixing in egg into the batter. But it is loosely based on this Mediterranean chickpea ball. Okay, I know that this is the second chickpea recipe in a row. Since pulses, beans and lentils are the primary source of protein in a vegetarian diet, we use all of the above quite frequently.
baked falafel2This recipe is also a super-loose interpretation of Zoe’s Kitchen’s Greek Chicken Pita. Although I don’t eat meat, I know what goes into this sandwich and I just subbed the chicken part with my toasted falafel. I didn’t see anyone complaining!

Toasted Falafel in Pita Pockets

Ingredients:
For the falafel-
15oz can garbanzo beans (or one and a half cups dried beans cooked)

Four garlic pods finely chopped

One and a half tsp cumin powder

Quarter cup chopped cilantro leaves

Salt

Pepper

Half tsp Chili flakes

One Tbsp olive oil

For the sandwich-
Two heads yellow onion sliced

One Roma tomato cut into rings

Lettuce

Haalf a carton Feta cheese

One cup Greek yogurt

Half hothouse cucumber finely shredded

One tsp dried dill

One small garlic pod finely minced

Salt

Pepper

Six Pita pockets

Method:
Falafel-
Coarsely blend all the ingredients, except for the oil, together. Add enough water to make a dough-like consistency. Shape into balls (I was able to make 12). Heat a pan. Pour enough oil to grease it lightly. Flatten the falafel balls. Working in batches, toast them until golden brown on both sides (it took me four minutes for each side on a medium flame). Set aside.

For the sandwich-
Caramelize the onions with a pinch of salt on low flame. Blend the Greek yogurt, cucumber, dill, garlic, salt and pepper with a fork to make Tzatziki. Cut the Pita pockets into half and loosen the flaps. Fill it with a leaf of lettuce. Put in a couple of falafels. Gently press the sides of the pita to crush it. Add the tomatoes and top with some caramelized onions. Drizzle with the Tzatziki and a tsp of Feta cheese.

It might sound like a complicated sandwich to make but burgers require the same number of steps. And exactly like a meaty burger, this Pita sandwich is so worth the trouble!

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Healthy Semolina

There are only so many ways to make semolina, I always thought. But the only one I could come up with for a “snack” or what we South Indians proudly call “tiffin” was the boring old upma. First, about the tiffin. It is that mini meal we eat between an early lunch and a dinner, around 3pm. As a kid, I used to love weekend tiffin time because my mother or grandmother would make yummy snacks that were completely dedicated to evening-meals on weekends and they would always be of the fried kind, fritter-like, filled with an assortment of vegetables.

On weekdays, we would be given something boring like an Upma or if we were lucky, Maggi noodles. Upma is sort of like couscous. It is made of coarse semolina, or broken rice, or vermicelli and we add spices and condiments to make it, er, more interesting. But lately, I’ve felt like I’m done with Upma. It is so boring, gets repetitive and has no real nutritional value (yes, I am suddenly all big on that) unless I add on all the veggies I’ve got in my pantry.

So yesterday, I went on a quest: to revamp semolina. I wanted to add some depth of flavor to it, some extra texture and basically make it a teeny bit more exciting. And then I got this bright idea to treat it like you would couscous and make salad out of it. End of the day, I don’t know if we loved it or simply tolerated it. I am guessing the former because we went back for seconds and wiped out the huge portion I had made. So here is the recipe.

Ingredients:

One cup coarse semolina (Indian stores stock up on various sizes)

Two Tbsp olive oil

One and a quarter cups vegetable stock

One cup raisins or dried cranberries

Half cup roasted almond slivers (I cut up my pan roasted almonds)

One Tbsp dry oregano flakes

Few cilantro leaves, rough chopped

For the vinaigrette:

Quarter cup olive oil

Quarter cup apple cider vinegar

Two Tbsp honey

One tsp salt

Half tsp freshly ground black pepper

Method:

Heat the two Tbsp oil in a pan. Add the semolina to it and fry for a few minutes on medium heat until lightly golden-brown and fragrant. Add the vegetable stock to it, close the pan with a lid and let it cook for ten to twelve minutes until completely cooked. Take it off heat when done and let it cool.

While it cools, make the vinaigrette. In a bowl, pour the vinegar, honey, oregano, salt and pepper. Whisk them together as you add the olive oil.

When the semolina is cool enough to handle, fluff it up using a fork. It is an arduous process but make sure it is fluffy. If it forms a thin, brown coat in the bottom, take it off (the browned part tastes yummy, fyi). Add on the raisins, almonds and oregano to it. Make sure it is well mixed. Now pour the vinaigrette on top of the semolina and toss to coat. Garnish with parsley and ta da!