April 30, 2011

Black Bean, Corn and Goat Cheese Tacos

I was supposed to make pizza one night, but I wasn't able to make the dough the night before, and I was getting home later than usual. So I had to find something else that would work with the week's dwindling ingredients. I had everything to make these scrumptious tacos.

I always have the ability to make corn tortillas due to a bag of instant corn masa flour in my cupboard. It's easy - mix the flour with water, press into tortillas and cook in a hot skillet for a few minutes. The tortillas are never pretty, but they taste great. I bet a tortilla press would help.

Black Bean, Corn and Goat Cheese Tacos
from Family Bites

2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups corn, fresh or frozen
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
salt and fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup goat cheese, crumbled
2 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
4 radishes, thinly sliced
8 taco shells, corn tortillas or tortilla chips

Place the olive oil in a skillet set over medium high heat. Add the black beans, corn, lime juice, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper and stir to combine, cooking until the beans and corn are warmed through.

Scoop the mixture into taco shells and top with romaine, radish and goat cheese.

April 29, 2011

Carrot Oatmeal Cookies

These amazing cookies are so addicting! I think the secret is the coconut oil. If you're looking for a healthy cookie, try these. You won't even know they're healthy because they're so yummy. And I guess if I eat a whole bunch at once, that's not so healthy.

Carrot Oatmeal Cookies
from 101 Cookbooks

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
scant 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 cup rolled oats
2/3 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup real maple syrup, room temperature
1/2 cup unrefined (fragrant) coconut oil, warmed until just melted
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

Preheat oven to 375F degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and oats. Add the nuts and carrots. In a separate smaller bowl use a whisk to combine the maple syrup, coconut oil, and ginger. Add this to the flour mixture and stir until just combined.

Drop onto prepared baking sheets, one level tablespoonful at a time, leaving about 2 inches between each cookie. Bake in the top 1/3 of the oven for 10 - 12 minutes or until the cookies are golden on top and bottom.

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

April 27, 2011

Challah Bread

I can't quite remember how this bread snuck into my Easter repertoire, but I'm pretty sure my mom introduced me to it. Challah reminds me of brioche, because of the sugar and egg content, but is missing brioche's usual milk or butter.

Challah is usually eaten at Jewish holidays, and somehow I connected it with Passover, but that might be my own doing. Since Passover is around Easter, challah has become an Easter recipe for me, but this bread is great any time of the year.

Challah is usually braided (3 or 6 strands), and with the deep color from the egg wash makes a lovely addition to the table. I tried the directions below for a 6-strand braid, but had a little trouble following. I just made up something that worked, but feel free to just do a simple braid with three strands.

from Smitten Kitchen

time: about 1 hour, plus 2 1/2 hours’ rising
yield: 2 loaves

1 1/2 packages active dry yeast (1 1/2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup olive or vegetable oil, plus more for greasing the bowl
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon salt
8 to 8 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup raisins per challah, if using, plumped in hot water and drained
Poppy or sesame seeds for sprinkling.

1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in 1 3/4 cups lukewarm water.

2. Whisk oil into yeast, then beat in 4 eggs, one at a time, with remaining sugar and salt. Gradually add flour. When dough holds together, it is ready for kneading. (You can also use a mixer with a dough hook for both mixing and kneading, but be careful if using a standard size KitchenAid–it’s a bit much for it, though it can be done.)

3. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Clean out bowl and grease it, then return dough to bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until almost doubled in size. Dough may also rise in an oven that has been warmed to 150 degrees then turned off. Punch down dough, cover and let rise again in a warm place for another half-hour.

4. At this point, you can knead the raisins into the challah, if you’re using them, before forming the loaves. To make a 6-braid challah, either straight or circular, take half the dough and form it into 6 balls. With your hands, roll each ball into a strand about 12 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. Place the 6 in a row, parallel to one another. Pinch the tops of the strands together. Move the outside right strand over 2 strands. Then take the second strand from the left and move it to the far right. Take the outside left strand and move it over 2. Move second strand from the right over to the far left. Start over with the outside right strand. Continue this until all strands are braided. For a straight loaf, tuck ends underneath. For a circular loaf, twist into a circle, pinching ends together. Make a second loaf the same way. Place braided loaves on a greased cookie sheet with at least 2 inches in between.

5. Beat remaining egg and brush it on loaves. Either freeze breads or let rise another hour.

6. If baking immediately, preheat oven to 375 degrees and brush loaves again. Sprinkle bread with seeds, if using. If freezing, remove from freezer 5 hours before baking.

7. Bake in middle of oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden. (If you have an instant read thermometer, you can take it out when it hits an internal temperature of 190 degrees.) Cool loaves on a rack.

Note: Any of the three risings can be done in the fridge for a few hours, for more deeply-developed flavor. When you’re ready to work with it again, bring it back to room temperature before moving onto the next step.

April 23, 2011

Cheesy Eggs and Little Citrus Muffins

It's the day before Easter, and though I have a lot to do today, I can hardly resist making a fun breakfast. Tomorrow morning will be rushed, so this is my early Easter breakfast.

I love eggs, especially this recipe for cheesy eggs. It may be my favorite way to eat eggs. With sauteed garlic, Parmesan cheese and cream cheese, these eggs are transformed into a savory, creamy blend of yumminess. OK, maybe that wasn't a good description, but you get the idea -- I really love these eggs! Look how these pretty eggs from a local farm matched my napkin (the right one is light blue):

Cheesy Eggs
from The Schwarzbein Principle Cookbook by Diana Schwarzbein

4 eggs
3 oz. cream cheese, cut into ½-in. cubes
1/4 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 1/2 Tbsp. butter
1 minced garlic clove

In a small bowl, beat eggs with cream cheese cubes, Parmesan cheese and black pepper. Set aside. In a nonstick skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. When butter is hot and bubbly, add garlic and sauté about half a minute. Pour egg mixture into skillet. Stir and fold gently until cream cheese is melted and eggs are cooked to your liking. Serve immediately.

These citrus muffins can be made with orange, lemon, or lime, but lemon is my favorite. They're very easy to whip up. Once you start eating them, decide beforehand how many you want to eat, otherwise you may end up eating most of them. They're so easy to pop in your mouth that you don't feel like you're eating much. You've been warned.

This time I made one into a regular sized muffin to see if the texture held up. It did - the muffin was very light and airy. So if all you have is regular-sized muffin tins, this recipe will still work great. My guess is the recipe would yield 8 regular muffins (it makes 24 mini muffins).

Little Citrus Muffins
adapted from the Pampered Chef

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp orange, lemon, or lime zest

2 tbsp butter, melted
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 orange, lemon, or lime, juiced

Preheat oven to 375. To make muffins, grease a 24-cup mini muffin tin. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; mix well.

In medium bowl, whisk butter and sugar until well blended. Add egg; whisk until smooth. Mix in sour cream, vanilla, and orange zest. Add flour mixture; mix until dry ingredients are moistened, but don't overmix.

Using a small scoop or spoon, drop a rounded scoop of batter into each muffin cup. Bake 12-13 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 3 minutes in pan, then remove. Cool slightly.

While muffins are baking, combine glaze ingredients and whisk until smooth (you may want to add half the orange juice and then taste and adjust by adding more). Dip tops of warm muffins into the glaze. Serve warm.

April 21, 2011

Grilled Tuna Nicoise Platter

My friend made this lovely dish for a girls-only dinner party. It was very inspiring, so I had to try it. My husband won't eat seafood, but he will eat canned tuna. I had never made fresh tuna before, so I bought some hoping he might be willing to try it. That was a failure. He ate his platter with canned tuna, but still loved the salad! 

UPDATE 8/18/12:  A while ago I saw in a recipe header in Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table that the French eat their Nicoise salad with canned tuna.

The potato salad is amazing and I'll be making it as a stand alone item in the future.

Grilled Tuna Nicoise Platter
adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten

8 (1-inch-thick) fresh tuna steaks (about 4 pounds)
Good olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound French string beans (haricots verts), roasted (see method here)
1 recipe French Potato Salad, recipe follows
2 pounds ripe tomatoes, cut into wedges (6 small tomatoes)
8 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and cut in 1/2
1/2 pound good black olives, pitted
1 bunch watercress or arugula

For the vinaigrette:
3 tablespoons Champagne or sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
10 tablespoons good olive oil

To grill the tuna, get a charcoal or stove-top cast iron grill very hot. Brush the fish with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill each side for only 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. The center should be raw, like sushi, or the tuna will be tough and dry. Arrange the tuna, haricots verts, potato salad, tomatoes, eggs, olives, watercress, if used, on a large flat platter.

For the vinaigrette, combine the vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil to make an emulsion. Drizzle some over the fish and vegetables and serve the rest in a pitcher on the side.

French Potato Salad:
1 pound small white boiling potatoes
1 pound small red boiling potatoes
2 tablespoons chicken stock
1/4 cup minced scallions (white and green parts)
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons julienned fresh basil leaves

Drop the white and red potatoes into a large pot of boiling salted water and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, until they are just cooked through. Drain in a colander and place a towel over the potatoes to allow them to steam for 10 more minutes. As soon as you can handle them, cut in 1/2 (quarters if the potatoes are larger) and place in a medium bowl. Toss gently with the chicken stock. Allow the liquid to soak into the warm potatoes before proceeding.

Add a few tablespoons of the vinaigrette (above) to the potatoes. Add the scallions, dill, parsley, and basil. Serve warm or at room temperature.

April 19, 2011

Six-Seed Soda Bread

I've made many quick breads that use baking soda or baking powder, like pumpkin bread or muffins. I never realized baking soda could be used to make savory bread, but I should have remembered that is how biscuits are made. So here's a soda bread recipe that is very quickly thrown together and then immediately put into the oven. Easy as pie! Or soda bread.

If you don't have all six seeds on hand, try omitting some. I happened to have all available; I guess I'm a seed collector. Also, the recipe calls for spelt flour, but you can use whole wheat pastry flour in its place. I bought spelt flour for the first time last week at the farmer's market. The farmer grew and ground it himself. It's a light grain and I can't wait to try it in other baking ventures.

before baking

Six-Seed Soda Bread
from 101 Cookbooks

2 1/2 tablespoons EACH sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, flax seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 3/4 cup / 9 oz / 250 g spelt flour
2 cups / 9 oz / 250 g unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 3/4 cup / 14 oz / 400 ml buttermilk
a bit of extra buttermilk/milk

Preheat your oven to 400F . Place a rack in the center of the oven. In a small bowl combine all the seeds and set aside.

Sift the flours, baking soda, and salt into a large mixing bowl. Stir in all but 2 tablespoons of the seeds. Make a well in the flour, pour in the buttermilk, and stir until the dough just comes together. Adjust dough - add an extra splash of buttermilk if the dough is too dry, or a tablespoon or two of extra flour if the dough is too wet. The dough needs to mainly stick together, and all the flour should be incorporated with about 10 seconds of kneading.

Place the dough on a lightly floured baking sheet and mark it with a deep cross across the top, cutting two-thirds of the way through the loaf with a serrated knife. Brush with buttermilk and sprinkle with the remaining seeds, making sure plenty of seeds make it down into the cracks.

Bake for 35 - 40 minutes, or until the bread is golden crusted on top and bottom (you may want to move the oven rack up for the last 15 minute if you need more color on the top of the loaf). Cool on a wire rack.

April 13, 2011

Fried Rice

Fried rice is the perfect way to use up vegetable odds and ends from your refrigerator. Besides the rice and seasonings, the rest of the ingredients really are optional. The egg is optional (though one of my favorite parts of fried rice), the vegetables are variable, and I even included a note at the end how to incorporate more protein into the dish by adding pork, chicken, or tofu.

Fried Rice
adapted from a variety of sources

2 tbsp peanut or canola oil
1 garlic clove, minced
A handful of each chosen vegetable (your choice of at least 2): diced carrot, diced red pepper, diced red onion, sliced mushrooms, thinly sliced cabbage
2 tbsp fresh scallions (green onions), minced
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 cups steamed white or brown rice, cold (ideally, leftover from the night before)
1-2 tsp Asian sesame oil
2-3 Tbsp soy sauce
dash white pepper

Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a wok or large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the garlic for 30 seconds, then add chosen vegetables. Saute until tender, then remove to a separate bowl and set aside.

Wipe skillet clean, then heat over high heat, until a drop of water vaporizes instantly upon contact. Add the remaining 1 tbsp peanut oil, swirling to coat pan evenly, and heat until hot and just starting to smoke.

Add eggs, tilting pan and swirling eggs to form a thin, even layer and cook for 30 seconds. Add rice and stir-fry, breaking up eggs and letting rice rest several seconds between stirs, until rice is hot, about 2-3 minutes.

Add the cooked vegetables, scallions, and add sesame oil, soy sauce and white pepper to taste, stir-frying until well combined.

Optional: Add pork, chicken, or tofu to create a main dish. Thinly slice pork tenderloin, dice chicken or tofu. Before the above recipe is followed, first cook the pork, chicken, or tofu. Heat a splash of oil in the wok or skillet, add pork, chicken or tofu and stir-fry until cooked through. Remove from skillet. Add cooked pork, chicken, or tofu back to the pan along with the cooked vegetables.

April 11, 2011

Molten Chocolate Cakes with Raspberry Sauce

If you love chocolate and have never had a molten chocolate cake, then you are really missing out. The high butter and egg content allow these mini cakes to form an outer layer of cake, but the middle remains unset, like a thick chocolate sauce when served warm. The key to the unset middle is to not bake these too long. The middle of the cakes will appear runny. Even though your instincts will tell you to bake it longer, don't! As long as the outer edge looks baked, the cakes will be ready.

The recipe allows for bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate. This time I made the cakes with almost all unsweetened chocolate (again, I can't read). Because this made the cake less sweet, the raspberry sauce needed to be sweeter, and so I used 3 Tbsp. of sugar in the sauce. For a tangier sauce, use less sugar. For best results, taste the sauce and adjust the amount of sugar as needed. These cakes can be accompanied by a variety of things, so be creative: ice cream, fruit, powdered sugar, whipped cream, fruit sauce, or a combination.

My mom first introduced me to this cake, but she made a mega version in a bundt pan. The recipe was called "Tunnel of Fudge Cake". I unintentionally called it "Tunnel of Love", which was identified by my family members as a Freudian slip...chocolate = love.

Molten Chocolate Cakes
from Epicurious

5 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 450°F. Butter six 3/4-cup soufflé dishes or custard cups. Stir chocolate and butter in heavy medium saucepan over low heat until melted. Cool slightly. Whisk eggs and egg yolks in large bowl to blend. Whisk in sugar, then chocolate mixture and flour. Pour batter into dishes, dividing equally. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill.)

Bake cakes until sides are set but center remains soft and runny, about 11 minutes or up to 14 minutes for batter that was refrigerated. Run small knife around cakes to loosen. Immediately turn cakes out onto plates.

Raspberry Sauce
1 tsp. cornstarch
1 1/2 - 3 Tbsp. sugar
3 Tbsp. water
6 ounces frozen raspberries

In a small saucepan, stir together the cornstarch, sugar and water. Add the raspberries and cook over medium heat. Stir constantly until the mixture boils. Continue stirring and boil one additional minute.

April 9, 2011

Asian Lettuce Wraps

I've probably tried 5 different recipes for lettuce wraps over the years. All were okay, but none were repeatable. I've finally found a keeper! The vegetables and seasoning for the meat mixture is just right. The original recipe called for ground chicken, but I used ground pork instead.

Asian Lettuce Wraps
adapted from Our Best Bites

2 tsp canola oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 lb ground pork
3 ounces mushrooms, finely chopped (about 8 small mushrooms)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
4 cups thinly shredded cabbage
1 8-oz can sliced water chestnuts, drained, rinsed, and finely minced
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
4 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
1/2-1 tsp sriracha or other hot sauce, to taste
1/3 cup roughly chopped cilantro
1-2 heads iceberg lettuce, separated into leaves and washed

4 Tbsp soy sauce
4 Tbsp rice vinegar
3 Tbsp water
2 tsp honey
1-2 tsp finely minced fresh ginger

Heat a very large skillet to medium-high heat on the stove top. When hot, add vegetable oil and then garlic and ginger. Saute for about 30 seconds, until fragrant, and then add ground pork, chopped mushrooms, and kosher salt. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often, until pork is cooked through. Add cabbage, water chestnuts, and green onions. Cook for about 2 minutes, until cabbage starts to wilt. Add soy sauce, sesame oil, the zest from the lemon and the lemon juice, and hot sauce to taste. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro.

To prepare sauce, combine all ingredients and whisk to combine.

To serve, carefully remove the individual leaves from the head of lettuce. Place pork mixture in the leaves and serve with sauce.

April 8, 2011

Strawberry Salad with Candied Almonds

I couldn't pass up some reasonably priced strawberries at the store. The strawberries turned out to be very sweet and red, perfect for a salad. This salad has a sugary dressing and candied almonds, and paired with delicious strawberries to me is a sweet treat.

I added chicken for the first time for a scrumptious main course salad. For the chicken, I cut one breast in half to make two thinner breasts. Then I patted on some flour, salt, and pepper and sauteed them in a pan for a few minutes in olive oil.

Strawberry Salad with Candied Almonds
from my mother

2 heads romaine lettuce or 1 large bunch spinach, washed, dried, and chopped
2-3 green onions, chopped
2 c. strawberries, sliced
1/4 c. almonds, sliced
½ c. sugar

2 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
¼ c. oil
2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar

Heat skillet on high heat. Test heat by adding a pinch of sugar. The skillet is hot enough when the sugar melts right after hitting the pan. Add sugar to skillet, and, working quickly, stir to help it melt. Once the sugar is liquid, quickly stir in almonds and pour on a foil-lined cookie sheet until cool. Break apart.

Combine dressing ingredients and whisk to combine.

Combine lettuce, green onions, strawberries, and candied almonds. Pour on dressing and serve.

April 6, 2011

Meyer Lemon Sticky Rolls with Cream Cheese Glaze

Here's a spring twist on the classic cinnamon roll. Even my husband agreed these were pretty good, but he still prefers classic cinnamon rolls (but based on the way he gobbled the lemon rolls up, I'd say he liked them just as much). In my world, I don't choose between the two, but appreciate both for what they are: fabulous.

Meyer Lemon Sticky Rolls with Cream Cheese Glaze
adapted from TheKitchn by Good Life Eats

Lemon Roll Dough
1 envelope (0.25 ounces, or 2 1/2 teaspoons) yeast
3/4 cup milk, warmed to about 100°F or warm but not hot on your wrist
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, very soft
1/4 cup white sugar
1 vanilla bean, seeds only or 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 - 4 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 lemon, zested
1 meyer lemon, zested
2 eggs

Sticky Lemon Filling
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 meyer lemon, zested
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft

Lemon Cream Cheese Glaze
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 meyer lemon, juiced and zested

In the bowl of a stand mixer sprinkle the yeast over the warmed milk and let it sit for a couple minutes. With the mixer paddle, stir in the softened butter, sugar, vanilla, and one cup of the flour. Stir in the salt, nutmeg, and lemon zests. Stir in the eggs and enough of the remaining flour to make a soft yet sticky dough.

Switch to the dough hook and knead for about 5 minutes, or until the dough is elastic and pliable.

Spray the top of the dough with vegetable oil, and turn the dough over so it is coated in oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a towel and let the dough rise until nearly doubled - about an hour.

In a small bowl, mix the sugar with the nutmeg and ginger, then work in the lemon zest with the tips of your fingers until the sugar resembles wet, soft sand. Stir in the lemon juice.

Lightly grease a 13x9 inch baking dish with baking spray or butter. On a floured surface pat the dough out into a large yet still thick rectangle — about 10x15 inches. Spread evenly with the softened butter, then pour and spread the lemon-sugar mixture over top. Roll the dough up tightly, starting from the top long end. Cut the long dough roll into 12 even rolls, and place them, cut side up, in the prepared baking dish.

Cover the rolls with a towel and let them rise for an hour or until puffy and nearly doubled. (You can also refrigerate the rolls at this point. Cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. When you are ready to bake the rolls, remove the pan from the fridge, and let them rise for an hour.)

Heat the oven to 350°F. Place the risen rolls in the oven and bake for 35 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into a center roll reads 190°F.

While the rolls are baking, prepare the glaze. In a small food processor (or with a mixer, or a sturdy whisk), whip the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, lemon zest and juice and blend until well combined. Add the powdered sugar and blend until smooth and creamy.

When the rolls are done, smear them with the cream cheese glaze. Serve while warm.

April 4, 2011


I've been dreaming of homemade falafel for several years now. I always assumed it was too much work, and after a couple failed attempts, I couldn't muster up the motivation to try again. Until now. And now that I know it's so easy, these will become a common occurrence.

One reason that I've failed in the past is because I assumed that the chickpeas would be cooked after they soaked, and so I thought I could substitute canned beans. Clearly, this is entirely my fault. I made up something that wasn't there...that reminds of a story (see below). So the proper method for falafel is to use DRIED chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans). After the chickpeas have soaked for 24 hours (and not longer -- another one of my mistakes), they are processed with spices and flavors to yield a grainy batter. I used a cookie scoop to form them into balls and drop them directly into the frying oil. A few minutes later you have beautiful, scrumptious falafel!

Part of what makes falafel so good is the condiments. I don't have any specific recommendations yet. The sauce in the photo below didn't really turn out - I made up my own. However, there are great suggestions here and here. For yummy falafel, you basically need tahini (sesame seed) sauce and some crunchy vegetables served in pita bread.

My story: When I was a teenager, my family used to always tease me that I couldn't cook. I realize now that my problem was really that I couldn't read. One time I was making a berry cobbler. The berries were mixed with 2 tablespoons of flour to thicken them. In my limited kitchen experience, I assumed it said 2 CUPS of flour. Who ever heard of a recipe with only 2 tablespoons of flour? Flour is always measured in cups. If you need a pastel colored dessert, try out my method. Anyway, so I've had a revelation, and isn't recognizing the problem the first step on the path to fixing it? Just like the falafel, I assume I know what to do, but if I would just read ahead and correctly, I think some of my cooking failures would not have happened. So cooking lesson for the day? Read the recipe!

from Mark Bittman at the NY Times

1 3/4 cup dried chickpeas
2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
1 small onion, quartered
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
Scant teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
1 cup chopped parsley or cilantro leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn, for frying

1. Put beans in a large bowl and cover with water by 3 or 4 inches; they will triple in volume. Soak for 24 hours, adding water if needed to keep beans submerged.

2. Drain beans well (reserve soaking water) and transfer to a food processor. Add remaining ingredients except oil; pulse until minced but not puréed, scraping sides of bowl down; add soaking water if necessary to allow machine to do its work, but no more than 1 or 2 tablespoons. Keep pulsing until mixture comes together. Taste, adding salt, pepper, cayenne or lemon juice to taste.

3. Put oil in a large, deep saucepan to a depth of at least 2 inches; more is better. The narrower the saucepan the less oil you need, but the more oil you use the more patties you can cook at a time. Turn heat to medium-high and heat oil to about 350 degrees (a pinch of batter will sizzle immediately).

4. Scoop heaping tablespoons of batter and shape into balls or small patties. Fry in batches, without crowding, until nicely browned, turning as necessary; total cooking time will be less than 5 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings.