This past holiday weekend I did something weird. Well… it was weird for me. For the first time in who knows how long, I took a real day off. Not my usual kind of “day off” that’s filled with errands and side projects and several hours cooking, photographing & writing (which is really just time away from the regular job, not an actual day off).
No, this was the real deal: the kind of day off that actually left me feeling somewhat rested, rejuvenated & recharged, because that’s all I focused on doing. There was no blogging, no cooking (well, nothing special… though, that new sorbet was quite lovely…), no photographing, no volunteering for others’ projects, no playing unofficial counselor/business consultant to everyone… in short, it was everything I dreamed a day off could be. And I liked it.
My mom used to do this many moons ago (only she called it going “on strike”, lol), and now I understand why. There’s something to be said for a few moments of real “me” time, especially if you’re like me and you’re the “helper” type who thrives on helping others. Sometimes I forget to take care of myself as well as I take care of everything else, so even if it was just for one day, I’m glad I took the time to remind myself that it’s okay to take a breather every now & then.
After a relaxing day spent lakeside with a good friend & plenty of sun, I was absolutely ravenous. Who knew vegging out could rev up the appetite so quickly, right? I didn’t feel like making anything too complicated, but I wanted to have something tasty & filling. Top that with the random, mad craving I had for tzatziki, and a decision was made: it was time to make falafel.
It’s a little weird that I haven’t posted a falafel recipe yet. After all, it pretty much covers all the PGEW bases: quick, easy to prepare, relatively healthy, and ridiculously affordable. Whether you use the canned variety or you cook your own from dried, chickpeas (the base for falafel) are very inexpensive. Once you have that figured out, all it takes is some parsley and a well-stocked spice pantry, and you’re just minutes away from falafel bliss.
Most falafel recipes call for frying as the cooking method, but I’m not all that into fried food. Instead, I prefer to bake mine; they still have that same crispy exterior & soft interior, just without all that extra fat. It’s also usually served with hummus or tahini, but I prefer to serve mine with a healthy amount of tzatziki for some reason. Not that I don’t like falafel with hummus; there’s just something about the tangy, garlicky coolness of tzatziki that really enhances the flavor for me. And because I make my falafel a little on the spicy side, the tzatziki helps with some of that extra heat.
One last note before we delve into this super easy recipe: if you don’t have any pita or lavash bread handy, feel free to deconstruct your sandwich & turn it into a falafel salad. With the tzatziki drizzled on top as a cool, creamy dressing, you can’t possibly go wrong!
Spicy Baked Falafel Sandwiches with Homemade Tzatziki (makes 4 servings; total cost per serving: $1.75)
Ingredients:For the falafel:
2 14 oz. cans of garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 T finely chopped parsley
1 T finely chopped cilantro
1 t ground cumin
1 t ground coriander
1/2 T crushed red chile flakes
1 t salt
2 T flour
1 T olive oil
For the tzatziki:
8 oz. Greek yogurt*
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded & finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 T dill (fresh is preferable, but if you only have dried dill like I did, that works too)
1 T fresh lemon juice
1/2 t salt
4 whole wheat pita pockets
1 large tomato, sliced
4 large lettuce leaves
Red onion slices, separated into rings
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, then prepare the tzatziki by combining the yogurt, garlic, cucumber*, herbs, lemon juice & salt in a bowl and mixing until well combined. Cover & chill in the refrigerator while you prepare the falafel.
2. In a large bowl, mash the chickpeas using a fork or a mortar & pestle. Add the onion, garlic, herbs, spices & flour, and mix together to make a thick paste. Roll small amounts if the mixture into ping pong sized balls, then flatten slightly to form small discs.
3. Line baking sheet with foil. Lightly brush both sides of each falafel disc with the olive oil and place on baking sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes, turning about halfway through the cooking process so they’re evenly browned.
4. Assemble your sandwiches by stuffing each pita pocket with 2-3 falafel pieces and as many veggies as you can fit in there. Drizzle with a generous amount of tzatziki (or hummus, or tahini, for the purists), and enjoy!