Beyond grabbing the pre-made Balela (chickpea salad) from Trader Joe’s, Middle Eastern cooking was something I was not very familiar with. Until the lovely Faith Gorsky, sent me a copy of her cookbook, An Edible Mosaic. Faith is a fellow blogger and cookbook author who also did all of her own photography. Knowing firsthand how much LOVE, blood, sweat, and tears goes into creating a beautiful book like this, I couldn’t wait to dive right in. Faith is such a sweet gal, and I loved reading about how her Syrian mother-in-law taught her to cook traditional Middle Eastern dishes. 
Inspired by Faith’s book, I made my family a Middle Eastern feast this week. It was a long busy day of summer day camps and tired kids and I only had 20 minutes to get dinner on the table, so I took some shortcuts – I used 1 can of chickpeas and roasted them in the oven for 10 minutes to dry them out a bit instead of soaking dried beans. And I used store-bough hummus and flatbread. Don’t tell Faith, because her traditional recipes for those things are amazing. I made falafel for the first time ever and it was incredible. Crisp on the outside and tender on the inside, with warm nutty flavors. Nothing like the overly dry falafel I’ve had in the past. I loved them in a lettuce wrap with hummus and tabbouleh. The more traditional flatbread wrap method was equally (perhaps even more) mouthwatering.

Faith’s falafel inside a lettuce wrap with hummus and tabbouleh. An amazingly satisfying vegetarian meal. This meal was so tasty I’m going to make a point of making Middle Eastern feast nights more often. 

I wasn’t sure how this was going to go over with the kids. But… they loved it! I found myself saying, “Stop eating Mommy’s work!” several times while snapping photos. Always a good sign. 
Menu and recipes after the break! 

Simple Middle Eastern Falafel Menu 
Falafel from An Edible Mosaic 
Hummus sprinkled with za’atar 
Tabbouleh (I couldn’t decide between two of Faith’s salads so I added cucumber)
Romaine lettuce for scooping hummus and tabbouleh 
Assortment of olives and veggies 

Falafel Recipe 

Yield: Serves 4 to 6 
Preparation Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes, plus 12 to 24 hours to soak the chickpeas
Cooking Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes 

  • 1 cup (1/2 lb/250 g) dried chickpeas
  • 1 onion, finely diced 
  • 3-4 large cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 bunch fresh parsley leaves, minced 
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4-6 tablespoons all-purspose flour
  • Oil, for frying
  • Sesame Sauce (optional, for serving) 
  • 1 tablespoon minced  fresh parsley leaves (optional, for serving) 

1. Soak the chickpeas in cold water for 12 to 24 hours; drain. After soaking, add them to a medium pot with fresh water; bring up to a boil, then turn the heat down slightly and cook until they’re easy to mash with your fingers, about 1 to 2 hours; adding more water as necessary so that they’re always immersed; drain. Pick through the beans to remove any skins you find.
2. Add the chickpeas, onion, garlic, salt, cumin, and red pepper flakes to a food processor and pulse until it forms a chunky paste (do not purée it; alternatively, this can be done by hand using a large mortar and pestle). Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the parsley. Sprinkle in the baking powder and gradually add enough flour to form a dough, being careful not to over-mix. Cover the bowl and refrigerate 1 hour.
3. Add about 3 inches (7.5 cm) of oil to a medium saucepan; heat the oil to between 350 to 375°F (175 to 190°C). As the oil heats, shape the fritters with a Falafel mold or with 2 spoons, gently scraping them against each other to form oblong shaped falafels.
4. Fry the Falafel in batches so the pan doesn’t get overcrowded. Fry each batch until golden brown outside and fully cooked inside, about 4 to 6 minutes, and then transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain any excess oil. Repeat this process until all the batter is fried.

5. Serve immediately, with a drizzle of Sesame Sauce and a sprinkle of parsley on top, if using.

Tabbouleh Recipe 

 Yield: Serves 6 
Preparation Time: 45 minutes 
Cooking Time 0 minutes 

  • 3 bunches (1 lb/500 g) fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) fine-ground bulgur wheat
  • 1 cup (250 ml) hot water
  • Juice of 2-3 lemons (about 1/2 cup/125 ml)
  • 3/4 cup (185 ml) olive oil 
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 sprigs fresh mint leaves, minced
  • 1 onion, minced 
  • 3 tomatoes, diced 
  • Romaine lettuce leaves, for serving 

1. Wash the parsley and completely dry it. Holding them by the stems, gatyher a handful of parsley leaves together in one hand. Roll the leaves tightly together and use a sharp paring knife to cut them into thin strops. Repeat this process until all the parsley is chopped. 

2. Put the bulgur in a medium bowl and pour the water on top; soak until softened, about 10 minutes. Drain the bulgur in a fine mesh sieve, pressing with the back of a spoon to extract the excess water. Fluff the bulgur with a fork. 

3. Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Gently combine the parsley, bulgur, mint, onion, tomato, and dressing in a large bowl. 

4. Transfer to a serving bowl and servew tih lettuce leaves to scoop up the salad.  

Recipes published with permission from An Edible Mosaic by Faith Gorsky, Tuttle 2012.