Falafel, Hummus, and Tzatziki

This weekend was crazy.
Beijing flooded.

We were at Summer League, playing fields near Happy Valley. The pollution index was over 300, it was humid and hot and sticky, I felt like shaking out of my skin. The smog blocked out our view of the building that looks like a caterpillar/cruise ship, and the Happy Valley roller coaster (yeah, great day to be running around, right?). A few sprinkles at first. Then, the entire sky darkened eerily, and the rains started. Poured. Actually kind of hurt when the raindrops hit you. Did we stop? Of course not. Played on through the torrential downpour, despite the fact that I had to constantly wipe the water out of my eyes to see. Even more eerie than the sky darkening, was the sudden pillar of light, although the rain didn’t abate at all, white mist sweeping in from the west. It looked a bit like the Rapture might be descending. Good thing I was in good company with bad people, and none of us were taken.

After falling a few times in the mud, the games finally ended, and a few of us hiked over to Baoyuan Jiaoziwu for a truckload of dumplings. We stayed as long as we could, but the rain showed no sign of abating, and at 4:30, we finally left to try to make our ways home (the waitstaff turned the lights off and gave many hints before we stirred). No cabs to be found, and a pedicab tried to charge me 80 kuai. Asshole.

Getting caught in the downpour completely killed all ambition I had to do anything or be productive for the rest of the weekend. I sat in bed and read, ate bread and cheese and fruit for the rest of my meals, and barely motivated myself to walk around outside on Sunday, when the skies turned gloriously blue, the AQI was only 29. Well, it was 93 degrees and I was sweating the moment I stepped out of the door.

We had had a party planned and I had soaked a giant batch of chickpeas to roast and spice for snacks. But since the party was cancelled due to rain, I had a big bowlful of chickpeas that I had to do something with. I didn’t feel like eating spiced baked chickpeas for days on end, so I decided to make falafel and hummus, which was adventurous because while I love hummus, particularly Joseph’s Garlic Lovers Hummus, it has never occurred to me to make it myself.

Maybe it’s because I rarely use measurements anymore and just eyeball amounts, and I also guesstimate to cut most recipes in half so I don’t end up eating the same thing for days on end, but the hummus turned out pretty terrible. The falafel and tzatziki was delicious, but the hummus…meh. I also decided to mix things up and add some zucchini to the falafel.

I simmered the soaked chickpeas for about an hour and a half, until soft.

For the falafel.
1 cup chickpeas
1/2 small onion
1 small zucchini
3 cloves of garlic
Lemon juice, cumin salt and pepper, red chili flakes
2 Tbs. Flour and 1/2 tsp baking powder.

First, blend everything but the last two ingredients up, once pulsed together, mix in the baking powder and flour. Maybe because I had already cut them into pieces, or I blended for too long, but the mix was much wetter and less coarse than it should have been. I ended up adding almost twice as much flour. It was still too sticky and wet to roll into balls as all the recipes I looked at suggested. Instead, I used two spoons to drop it into hot oil in my wok.

Heat is very important for my wet batter. The first batch was near perfect–the oil bubbled up as soon as it hit, and cooked the batter into the ball-esque shape. Fry for about 3 minutes, until golden, and carefully flip. I turned the heat lower to make sure it didn’t burn, and added a few more spoonfuls. With the heat too low, the batter doesn’t immediately crisp up, and begins to break up into the oil, and you’re left with flat shells of fried falafel. Heat too high, and the batter burns. But, I managed to get quite a few decent ones. Remove from the oil and let cool on a paper towel covered plate.

Falafel: golden crispy on the outside, soft, pillowy delicious on the inside. Tooped with mint-dill tzatziki

This is super simple and delicious (I’ve been missing out by not making Mediterranean before this!).
Take about a cup of Greek yogurt (or plain, unflavored, thick yogurt).
Chop up about half a cup of mint and dill.
Mince 2-3 cloves of garlic.
Peel, slice in half, and seed half a cucumber (or one small pickling cucumber), then grate.
Mix all this up in the yogurt with salt, pepper and a splash of lemon juice.

Tzatziki: Yogurt, cucumber, mint, dill, lemon juice.

Serve on top of warm falafel, or dip veggies into.

Hummus Disaster: I’ll revisit this recipe (I still have a container of cooked chickpeas) and post when it’s successful. Somehow, it came out dry, gritty, and tasting only of sesame paste. Abject failure.

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