As I was helping my mom make the falafels, she told me that falafels are a street food in Israel. She said that they are on every corner and are super popular. A falafel stand in Israel is more common than a McDonald's in America.
As I mixed the tabouli, she commented on how healthy and fibrous this food is for our bodies. That triggered my thoughts toward this blog, and I thought I would share our meal with you. With so much healthy and yummy food being around, I couldn't resist snapping some pictures to show you guys. I decided to post the pictures and recipes, and then I thought I should tell you a little bit about the incredible benefits of eating a Mediterranean diet. So, before I get into the recipes and all that stuff, I just want to tell you a bit about the Mediterranean diet.
First of all, the Mediterranean diet is rich in fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains, beans, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. A diet such as this is high in fiber - which prevents dips and swings in the blood sugar level - and aids in digestion. In the New England Journal of Medicine, a study was published which showed that rather than a low-fat diet, a limited-calorie Mediterranean diet could be more effective for weight loss. The Mediterranean diet consists mainly of plant based foods, and limited portions of meats and animal proteins.
It is important to note, that besides consuming mostly plant-based foods, the people of the Mediterranean are also more active than the average American. Including at least 30 minutes of some type of exercise in your daily lifestyle will not only make you healthier and stronger, but also bring faster results than a healthy diet alone.
If you are interested in the Mediterranean diet, and are considering a healthier diet and lifestyle, you can just Google "the benefits of the Mediterranean diet," or "how to follow a Mediterranean diet." There is an abundance of information you can access about this on the internet.
Now it is time for recipes!
Even if you aren't interested in making a Mediterranean feast, you could always have one of these dishes for lunch or dinner, or even a snack. I'm sure once you try these scrumptious dishes, you will fall in love with the Mediterranean diet.
We shall begin with the beautiful, healthy, fibrous, sensational Mediterranean salad - tabouli.
1 cup Bulgur wheat
1 cup boiling water
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. dried oregano leaves
Dash of cayenne pepper
1small onion (chopped)
1 bunch fresh parsley (chopped)
1 large tomato (chopped)
1 can black olives (sliced)
In a medium bowl, pour boiling water over the bulgur wheat. Let sit for 1/2 hour.
In a shaker, mix together the oil, lemon juice, salt, garlic powder, oregano and cayenne pepper and shake well. In your medium bowl, add the vegetables to the bulgur wheat (after letting it sit for 1/2 hour) and mix. Pour in your oil mixture (dressing) and stir well.
Ta-da! There you have a lovely bowl of tabouli salad. You can serve this dish over a bed of lettuce if you so choose. I, however, prefer to eat it without the lettuce. It tastes really good with a heaping scoop of hummus on top, though.
And now it is time for the beloved falafel. These came out so well! They had the perfect shape and they were soooo delicious. If you have not tasted a falafel before, you are in for a real treat!
1 pound (about 2 cups) dry chickpeas/garbanzo beans
1 small onion (roughly chopped)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
3-5 cloves of garlic
1 1/2 tbsp. flour
1 3/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
Vegetable oil for frying (canola, peanut, or grapeseed will work)
Your chickpeas will need to soak overnight, so pour them into a bowl and cover with about 3 inches of water. In the morning you will notice that they have doubled in size. You should have more than enough chickpeas for this recipe.
Drain and rinse the chickpeas. Then in a food processor, pour in the chickpeas, onion, garlic cloves, parsley, flour, salt, cumin, ground coriander, pepper, and cardamom. Pulse these ingredients until a course meal forms. Occasionally scrape the sides of the processor and push the meal down. Be careful not to process this mixture too long. We will be forming little balls with this, and you should be able to handle the mixture. It should be a paste-like mixture, so don't overdo it. :)
When the mixture reaches the proper consistency, remove it from the food processor, and pour into a bowl. Stir it up a bit, as this will even out the texture. Now it will need to chill for a while. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and place it in the fridge for 1-2 hours.
Now you can really cook these in anything - a skillet, a fryer, etc...
We used a fryer. So depending on what you use, the cooking techniques may vary. However, the important thing is to have whatever it is you are using filled with oil to a depth of 1 1/2 inches.
(I just want to mention that you could always bake falafels. I don't know what the results would be for this recipe, but I have seen falafel recipes that bake them rather than frying.)
Heat the oil slowly over medium heat. Now that your falafel mixture has cooled, wet your hands and form into little balls.
When your oil is at the proper temperature, you can place the falafel balls into your fryer. It should take about 2-3 minutes for them to brown. If your oil is at the right temperature, the total cooking time per falafel should be about 5 minutes. You fry falafels in batches, usually about 4-5 at a time. Once the falafels are nicely browned, you can remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon or tongs. Place the cooked falafels onto a plate covered with paper towels and let them drain.
These taste best served fresh and warm with a bit of hummus for dipping. You can also eat these in a sandwich. You could make a delicious falafel pita sandwich. Yum!
However you decide to eat these, they are amazing, so eat up and enjoy!
Now that we have the main dishes cooked, we can whip up the scrumptious dips that really top off our Mediterranean meal - hummus and baba ghanouj. I love hummus. It is incredibly good and can be used in so many ways. You can eat veggies with hummus, hummus on bread/toast, hummus in sandwiches, hummus on salad, hummus with eggs, hummus pizza - the possibilities are endless!
However, even though I love hummus, I love baba ghanouj a bit more. It is so creamy and has such amazing flavor. It is a taste sensation. I could eat baba ghanouj by the bowl. (I actually have...)
It can be a meal. Just pour a bowl of baba ghanouj and eat it with veggies, or pita bread, or sliced bread, or tortillas. It is just as versatile as hummus - only more creamy and delicious.
2 (15oz.) cans of chickpeas, drain (reserve the liquid)
(we cook our own chickpeas, and use 6 cups of them)
1/2 - 3/4 cup lemon juice
3-4 tbsp. tahini (heaping tablespoons)
4 garlic cloves (add more if you like a stronger garlic flavor)
1/2- 3/4 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. salt
Place all the ingredients into a blender (or food processor). Add 1/2 cup of the reserved chickpea liquid.
Blend until smooth and creamy. You may need to add more liquid if the mixture isn't blending well. Add as much as necessary to yield desired consistency. Transfer to a small bowl and drizzle olive oil over the top and sprinkle with paprika. You can let this chill for several hours, or you can eat it immediately. Serve this dip with veggies, pita bread, or anything that strikes your fancy. It is fabulous any way!
I forgot to take a close-up picture of the baba ghanouj. This is the only one I got.
3 large eggplants, pierced with a fork
3-4 tbsp. of tahini (heaping tablespoons)
6 garlic cloves, peeled & whole
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
Preheat the broiler and pierce the eggplants in several places with a fork. Place on a baking pan or on some foil wrap to prevent dripping. Broil for 20-30 minutes until skin is charred and the insides are soft, turning as necessary. Remove from the oven and let sit until cool enough to handle. Carefully remove the skin and place only the filling of the eggplant in the blender along with other ingredients and blend until smooth. Place in a medium bowl and drizzle olive oil over the top. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours if possible to blend the flavors. It tastes better cold, but you can eat it warm if you prefer. Serve with pita bread or vegetables. We ate ours with some pita, tomatoes, and greek peppers.
Well, there you have it - a Mediterranean feast. I hope that you enjoyed learning a bit about the Mediterranean diet, and found these recipes useful. Check back for more recipes, photos, tips, and articles. Have a blessed day!