Friday, February 1, 2013

Lunch Week 5: Israeli Sabich with Falafel

So every Sunday, I head over to the kitchen to whip up a big batch of food for lunch the next week. Yes, I brown bag. And I almost always do it every week unless I become too busy to even buy cold cuts from the deli. I do it for several reasons being health, finance, and laziness. Now, you may think that spending hours on a day off to prep and cook five meals at once is hardly lazy. But let me remind you, I hate it when the time comes to decide what to eat for lunch every day. I work in Midtown so the choices are endless. My problem, the more choices, the harder it is for me. So it's much easier for me to have my lunch ready and already decided.

So my lunch for the week: Israeli Sabich with Falafel
I've said it before and I'll say it again, Taim makes the best falafel I've had in my life. Sure, I'm not a falafel connoisseur but it was ridiculously good. They also make a really good sandwich called the sabich. It's a pita stuffed with cooked eggplant, eggs, tahini sauce, and a cucumber salad. It's very good as is but I thought, what if I stuffed falafel in there too? Mind blown.

The first thing to make is the falafel which is a chickpea based meatball. I ground up a bunch of canned chickpeas with whole garlic cloves, lemon juice, cilantro, parsley, mint, and olive oil in the food processor until smooth. Season with salt to taste. Fold in breadcrumbs to make a thick paste.
I set up my station with flour, beaten eggs, and breadcrumbs to form the falafel for frying. Falafel are usually formed into balls but I made patties so that they're easily to stuffed into the pita.
First I made larger than golfball sized balls, flattened them, then dunked them into the flour, eggs, then breadcrumbs. I lined a baking sheet with breadcrumbs to prevent sticking from the moisture.
To fry, I added olive oil to a pan on medium high heat. The oil is ready when a pinch of bread crumbs start frying immediately when thrown in.
Fry the falafel in batches then drain on a paper lined pan. Let cool.
Next the eggplant. I sliced a medium eggplant into thin slices about 1/4 inch thick. Seasoned with salt and pepper then coated with flour. The flour helps dry the surface of the eggplant.
When frying, a nice crust will form due to the flour. Fry the eggplant in batches and drain on a paper lined pan.
Meanwhile, I boiled eggs on the side until they're completely set. A couple were stubborn in the peeling process. Luckily, these will be hidden in the sandwich so presentation isn't too important.
The sauce is tahini with plain yogurt, lemon juice, and olive oil. Mixed until smooth and well combined.
I also sliced up some red onion, cucumber, and tomato as garnishes.
And the assembly. Slice a fluffy pita along the edge to open up the pocket.
Stuff the falafel in first, about 2 patties. Then added 3 slices of eggplant, a sliced hard boiled egg, cucumber, tomato, and onions. Scoop the tahini yogurt sauce on top. This sandwich is best served when slightly warm. A toaster oven is best for warming this up but a microwave will do in a pinch. About 30 seconds in the microwave is just perfect. It didn't make the falafel soft nor did it decimate the yogurt sauce.
The flavor and texture of this sandwich was really good. The falafel was the best I've ever made. I think the mixture of herbs really made a huge difference. The crunchy crust was perfect and kept the pita sandwich from being mush. The eggplant was slightly crispy but mostly soft. The fresh garnishes were a nice contrast to the fried vegetables and the tahini yogurt sauce added a rich creamy zing to the whole thing. I have to say, it was one damn good sandwich. Did I mention, it's also vegetarian?

Israeli Sabich with Falafel
Makes 10 sandwiches
2-16 oz cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
6 cloves of garlic
1 bunch of parsley, leaves picked
1 bunch of cilantro, leaves picked
10 mint leaves
1 lemon, juiced
1 medium eggplant
13 large eggs, divided
1 cucumber
1 tomato
1/2 red onion
4 cups bread crumbs, divided
2 cups all purpose flour
1-6oz container of plain yogurt
2 tbsp tahini
Olive oil
10 medium pitas with pockets

1. In a food processor, chop chickpeas, garlic, and herbs with half the lemon juice. It should be very thick right now. Add 1/4 cup olive oil and process until combined. Add salt to taste. The mixture should remain chunky and not smooth. If mixture is too thin and wet, add breadcrumbs. You should be able to handle the mixture with your hands with no problem.
2. Prepare your station for the breading process with all purpose flour in one pan (about 2 cups), 3 eggs beaten in another, and bread crumbs in the last (about 2 cups). Line a baking sheet with bread crumbs. Form falafel batter into 20 balls that are slightly larger than a golfball. Then flatten into patties about 2 inches in diameter. Dredge into flour, then eggs, then breadcrumbs. Place on breadcrumb lined baking sheet. Repeat process for all of the falafel balls.
3. Heat olive oil in pan on medium high heat to about 350oF. Add falafel patties in batches. Fry until browned (about 3-5 minutes), then flip and continue on other side. The patties should puff up a little during the frying process. Remove and drain on a paper towel lined pan. Repeat with rest of patties.
4. Slice eggplant into 1/4 inch rounds. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Dredge in all purpose flour. Using the same pan (add more oil if needed), fry eggplant until browned on both sides (about 6-10 minutes in total). Drain on paper towel lined pan.
5. Put eggs in a pot, cover with cold water, and place on high heat. Hard boil eggs for about 6 minutes. Drain, and rinse with cold water. Keep submerged in cold water until cool enough to peel. Peel and slice into 5-6 pieces.
6. Mix yogurt, tahini paste, 1/2 lemon juice, and 1/8 cup olive oil together. Season with salt. Set aside.
7. Thinly slice cucumber, tomato, and onions.
8. Slice pitas on one edge creating a pocket while leaving one side intact. Place 2 falafel patties inside pita trying not to overlap. Then layer on about 2-3 sliced of fried eggplant, and 1 sliced egg. Add 2-3 slices of cucumber, 1 slice of tomato, and a handful of red onions. Top with 3 tsps of the tahini yogurt sauce. Close top of pita and serve.

*Sabich may be made 1 day ahead of time. Reheat slightly in the microwave for 30 seconds or a toaster oven for 1 minute just to soften pita and warm falafel. Be careful not to overheat the sandwich since there are fresh vegetables in there.*

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