Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Pita bread with falafel, raita, and fresh tomatoes
It's so nice to be back in Berkeley. The weather has been warm, the mathematics has been stimulating, and the food has been delicious. Tonight's meal was particularly good; I'll post the last few meals soon.
This was not the first time we've made falafel and pita, but we're getting it down to an art. Tonight we forwent the hummus and babaganoush we sometimes make, in favor of a luxurious raita: it was hot this afternoon, and we wanted a cool yogurt. There are many variations — for example, combine nonfat yogurt (Nancy's), diced Armenian cucumber (wonderfully fresh from today's CSA), minced peppermint (from Full Belly, probably a weed growing on the farm), cumin, salt, and olive oil.
For the falafel balls, open a can of garbanzo beans (we didn't decide to make this meal until the last minute, else we would have soaked and boiled them; the surprisingly good Westbrae organic cans were on sale), and mix in plenty of tahini, some cumin, and a bit more salt than is strictly necessary. Also add a fair amount of flour, lest the beans fall apart while frying. The standing mixer with the paddle makes short shrift of the mixing and helps mash the beans — you do not need to get the beans completely smooth. Heat olive oil in the cast iron fry pan, and create small paddies (about 2 Tbsp each) of the bean mixture; fry on each side until golden brown, and transfer to a bowl lined with paper towel.
Maybe the most important part of the meal is the pita bread. We had been thinking of having soup and a whole-wheat baguette, so B had made a dough earlier, which fortunately was perfect for pita: very moist to the point of being a bit sticky, and not overly worked. When the dough has risen, transfer to a well-floured work surface, and cut off small pieces. Coat with a little flour if necessary, and lightly work into a round ball by hand. Then with a floured rolling pin roll the dough ball into a thin circle, about the size and thickness of a diner pancake. Coat well with flour, and set aside. Repeat; if you use enough flour, you can stack the dough pancakes into a short stack.
The trick with pita is to avoid overly glutenizing the flour until you roll it out: the rolling pin creates high glutenization but only horizontally. With the baking stone set inside, heat the oven as hot as it will go, and place the raw pitas on the stone. After a minute or three they will puff way up as the water in the middle expands and rips apart the weak vertical gluten strands. Remove the pita from the oven when it just barely starts to turn golden brown.
We paired the dinner with a Rosé from Red Bicyclette (we began by finishing a bottle of their Pinot Noir), and finished the meal with a lemon-dressing salad. Most important to the meal, though, were the sliced tomatoes we had with the falafel. The tomatoes had come in today's CSA (we also bought a twenty-pound box for canning) and were extremely fresh.