I’ll never forget my first taste of Middle Eastern food; it was at the Calvert Café in northwest Washington, D.C., near the Zoo. It was 1974 and my friend Jane took me there to taste my first hummus (ohmygoodness), my first tzatziki (garlicky yogurt sauce) and my first falafel. Such a revelation! Younger readers should note that the plethora of ethnic foods available now were not so common years ago—especially in the smaller towns. For example, I tasted my first avocado when I was thirteen years old and we visited Colorado. Who says things don’t get better?
The Calvert Café, opened in 1960, still exists but it was renamed for its owner: Mama Ayesha. I recommend it.
On to the falafel. This is a wonderful chickpea fritter. Easy to make. Easy to eat. Good for lunch or dinner. Vegetarian, vegan, gluten free (if you skip the pita bread), substantial and filling. Great to make in late summer when there are still wonderful cucumbers available for garnish.
A word about garbanzo beans: I always recommend cooking from scratch instead of using a canned version. Great Valu now stocks dry garbanzos. Cook them in your crock pot overnight and you’ll be all set. One cup dry will yield two cups cooked.
- 2 cups cooked garbanzos
- 1 cup bread crumbs
- ¼ cup tahini
- ¼ cup tamari sauce
- 2 tsp minced garlic
- Peanut oil for frying
Blend all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Shape into about 32 small balls, about an inch in diameter.
Heat the oil until not quite smoking and fry the falafel, a few at a time, till golden. Drain on paper towels.
Serve in pita bread, topped with yogurt, chopped onion and small cubes of cucumber.