falafel for the flight

baked falafel

As you well know, I try to avoid eating plane food. There are notable exceptions: I’m in a foreign country and I’m not able to find a local market where I’m able to stockpile food in Tupperware, or when I arrive at an airport and my only food options are a corndog stand that makes 7-Eleven look like a Michelin-starred restaurant. In those cases, I find myself invariably poking at the contents of the hot aluminum foil tray much like how one would prod a dead body with a stick.

Believe me when I say that my food bag is just as sizable as a carry-on. I bring snacks, nuts, fruit, and plastic bins filled with food that can withstand hours without refrigeration. Often, I’ll bring cooked chicken and rice or pasta or meatballs (complete with my own utensils)–anything that contains a cooked protein.

Tomorrow, I board a plane back to New York for a brief work trip. It’s the first time I’ve returned since I’ve moved to Los Angeles, and it already feels weird to think about landing in New York without a place to go home to. I’ll be staying with a friend in the city, whose apartment is in walking distant of my client’s office. I’ll spend most of my days in work sessions and strategy meetings, and evenings working or catching up on new business proposals and new client deliverables, with very little time to see anyone. Initially, I was excited to return because Ample Hills Salted Cracked Caramel Ice Cream! Real Bagels! However, my recent fatwa on gluten and dairy (and my carting along my steroids in the event of a random flare-up), has made that blissful dream nothing other than a fantasy.

But I digress.

I’ve already started packing and doing prep work for next week’s meetings, and naturally I’ve started on the food bag. This time, I’m bringing fresh cut berries, protein bars, pistachios (I’m OBSESSED with matzo, don’t ask), and a tub of this falafel in a hummus bath.

Please know that I’m shaking my fists in rage over how good this cookbook is thus far. I’m on my third dish and I’ve been satisfied with the ease in which I can make these dishes and the tasty results. But again, this is not for the busy mom. Maybe a mom like Gwenyth who has access to fancy organic ingredients (I’m aware of the privilege I have in being able to buy fresh and local food) or someone like me who cooks for one.

I’ll be honest–I was tempted to fry these fuckers but after months of crap eating, I’m feeling the need to return to that which is virtuous. Enter–the tasty falafel.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Easy (FYI–I altered the recipe a bit for clarity)
Olive oil or cooking spray for the baking sheet
2 (15oz) cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp of chopped parsley
2 tbsp of chopped cilantro
4 scallions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 cup Greek yoghurt (I used dairy-free plain yoghurt–coconut, almond or soy works)
2 tsp salt, to taste

DIRECTION
Dump all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse 15-18 times. You want all the ingredients to be combined, but not smooth.

Use your hands and roll the mixture into 30 walnut-sized balls. Personally, I think that size is insane (who eats walnut sized falafel? NO ONE), so I got 20 golf balls out of this recipe and I was a happy camper. Keep a small bowl of water nearby since the ingredients tend to stick all over your hands.

Arrange the falafel on the greased baking sheet and cook for 20-25 minutes (depending on the size). Flip midway through to avoid burning the bottoms. I’ll be honest, flipping the falafel balls was annoying AF so I used a spatula and a spoon and only 3 of them fell apart.

Eat immediately. Serve with hummus or a salad.

baked falafel

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goop’ing it so you don’t have to: millet falafel + carrot salad

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My beloved Winona has made some unfortunate choices. There was the Adam Sandler movie we’ll say we talked about, but won’t. In The Informers, she played a bird so fraile, her every movement made the needle on the record player jump. You ached for her because she was WINONA RYDER playing a slutbag whore in an adaptation of Brett Easton Ellis’ worst book. I actually wanted her to die in Autumn in New York just so the movie could end, because it was a little creepy that I was the only one in the movie theater for the eight o’clock show. Her shoplifting scandal? A few years too early for the Kim Kardashian-famous-for-nothing set, but I still bought the t-shirt. Shook my fists, stomped my feet. All for naught, sadly, because deep down I knew she stole those clothes.

Naturally, I blamed Gwyneth Paltrow — the lithe blonde who couldn’t string a cogent sentence together, much less get into college, even with Steven Spielberg’s help — for all of it. It’s imperative to get close to one’s enemies, so I watched all of her films (even Shallow Hall), and kicked a chair over when she won the Oscar for a movie named after an author she’s probably never read. Don’t get me wrong — watching her movies hasn’t been a complete exercise in futility — for every Shallow Hall and Great Expectations (whatever, you just liked the wardrobe and romance of it all), there was Hard Eight and Flesh and Bone. She’s given some vulnerable performances amidst the ingenue roles. Remember when she dated the ketchup king? I do, because I knew a friend of his that confirmed she was an entitled head-case, but now I’m being a petty asshole, so we’ll just move right along.

With the arrival of GOOP, I knew her day of reckoning was upon us. Who would take a woman hocking $900 cashmere throws and $52,000 “aspirational wardrobes” seriously? Apparently, America did. Millions of kewpie dolls went macrobiotic and purchased $500 beaded bracelets, which one could easily make for $5.99. Many wanted the whitewashed life of clean, freckled faces and Jennifer Meyer necklaces. Naturally, I screamed into pillows and prayed for the day when Winona would come like a plague of swallows, and launch a zine that would celebrate the fine art of cheeseburger-eating, Roth-reading and chain-smoking (note: I do not support smoking).

No such luck.

When I say that I’ve been a fan of Winona Ryder since high school, a time when she waxed poetic on Salinger and red lipstick, believe it with all of your heart. From her strange, cultish literary upbringing, to her bizarre films, she was an idol for losers in Long Island. Winona read the books I read. Winona had the corpse-like pallor of which everyone in my high school loved to ridicule.

Brief digression: What I wouldn’t give for a Where Are They Now? about all the rat bastards who tormented me during those forgettable years at Valley Stream South High School.

As you can imagine, I’ve been praying for Winona Ryder’s triumphant return (rosary beads, candles, the whole nine) for years. When I read her latest interview in Interview, I spent the greater part of one evening trying to track down last month’s issue (again, no such luck). Clearly, Winona is classy and will only ridicule GOOP from the confines of her Williamsburg apartment. Surely, Winona will forgive the fact that while I often want to pummel Paltrow, I quite like her cookbook.

THE STRUGGLE.

I’ve a friend coming around tomorrow, and she’s got a gluten allergy. After combing the usual sites and suspects, I discovered the BIG GOOP’ers Millet Falafel recipe. Since I’m allergic to avocado and had a pile of carrots to use up, I decided to nix the relish and go full-on with a carrot salad. Per usual, the goddamn-this-is-delicious commentary ensued, and I even thought the recipe would be better all mashed up, fried and tossed with arugula. I plan to play around with it over the next few weeks, because, quite frankly, if I go through another collapsed ball in the pan, I’m kicking someone. Possibly Gwynnie.

INGREDIENTS: Millet Falafel recipe adapted from Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Good (with adjustments and clarifications); Carrot Salad recipe adapted from La Tartine Gourmande (modified slightly).
For the falafel
1/2 cup raw millet, rinsed
1/2 cup cooked chickpeas (or Garbanzo beans), crushed with a potato masher or using the tines of a fork
4 scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 lemon
3 1/2 tbsp olive oil, divided (2 tbsp for the falafel, the remainder for the pan)
Coarse sea salt

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For the carrot salad
4 large carrots, peeled
1 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 tbsp scallions, chopped

For the carrot salad vinaigrette:
sea salt + pepper
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS
For the carrot salad: Grate the carrots and place in large bowl with the parsley and scallions. Since I’m lazy and loathe to grate anything, I bought grated carrots 1 1/2-2 cups worth, and added them to a bowl. In a separate smaller bowl, combine the vinaigrette ingredients in the order listed, whisk together and pour over the carrots. The salad can be refrigerated or served at room temperature.

For the falafel (I made this sans garnish. If you want the whole shebang, GOOP IT.)
Combine the millet with 1½ cups of water and a big pinch of a salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover the pot, and cook until the millet is very soft and all the liquid has been absorbed, 25 minutes.

Stir the chickpeas, scallions, and parsley into the cooked millet. Using a grater, zest the lemon and stir the zest into the millet mixture along with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Using a potato masher, crush the mixture until it holds together a bit.

Preheat the oven to 250ºF and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Set a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and coat the bottom with a slick of olive oil (1 1/2 tbsp). Drop large tablespoonfuls of the millet mixture into the pan with a bit of space between each spoonful. Press each tablespoonful down with the back of a spatula to form a sort of thick pancake (no need to go crazy shaping these, they should be nice and rustic). Cook until browned and crisp, about 3 minutes per side. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO FLIP UNTIL AFTER THREE MINUTES. I experienced a wretched ball collapse, which sent me into hysterics. Set the cooked falafel on the prepared baking sheet and put them in the warm oven while you cook the rest of the millet mixture, adding more olive oil to the skillet if necessary.

Cut your zested lemon into wedges, squeeze a bit of juice over each falafel, and sprinkle each with a tiny pinch of coarse salt. Serve immediately.

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