I once read a restaurant review of my favorite little Greek fast food joint in Tacoma, It's Greek to Me. The reviewer raved about pretty much every item he tried there, with one notable exception. The falafel, he noted, was "fal-awful". It's Greek to Me has the distinction of being the first place I ever tried falafel, back when I was staying with my aunt and uncle in Puyallup while attending piano camp the summer I turned sixteen, and, as such, it holds a dear, dear place in my heart. Clearly, this reviewer had a palate ill-equiped to appreciate the nuances of such a complex dish.
Fortunately, I was not the only one who took umbrage with the review; the next time I visited the restaurant in question, I saw that they had taped a copy of the offending article to their door, along with a lengthy response from one of their falafel fans, praising their falafel as one of the best he'd ever eaten, even taking into account the ones he'd had in Israel.
It had been a very long time, however, since Michael and I ate our last falafel. I do occasionally make them from scratch, and after a lengthy hiatus I decided tonight was the night to bring falafel back. Armed with a new recipe from the November issue of Saveur, I set about chopping garlic and Persian cucumbers for tzatziki, mixing yeast, warm water, flour, and olive oil for fresh pita bread, roasting red peppers in the toaster oven, and making the blender earn its prime spot on the counter top, grinding away at a mixture of raw soaked chick peas, onions, garlic, cilantro, and spices.
For dinner, we were rewarded with the best falafel I have ever made. What's the secret? You know, I'm not entirely sure, but I will say that having a deep fryer is a real boon. If you would like to try it yourself, you can find the recipe at www.saveur.com. I did deviate from the recipe slightly, using cilantro rather than parsley, since that was what I already had on hand. Also, I do not own a food processor, hence the iron man workout I put my blender through tonight (be cautious if you try this at home - some blenders may not survive).
Falafel is best served on freshly made pita bread (those cardboard frisbees from the store do not compare), and we like it with topped, rather untraditionally, with tzatziki, preferably made with a good Greek or Middle Eastern yogurt, as well as some Bulgarian feta. It's a real Mediterranean fusion food this way - fal-awfully delicious.