Among the many travel itineraries Scott and I considered while planning our honeymoon nearly five years ago was a trans-continental rail journey across Canada. We would pass on getting ourselves drenched at the old-fashioned tradition of Niagara Falls in favor of the Toronto-Vancouver Canadian, a spectacular four-day multi-province jaunt through some of the most spectacular territories of God's country. Having no more than transient knowledge of Canada outside of watching Winter Olympic Games, hockey, and the cities closest to us on the East Coast, we had assumed that the pinnacle of our trip would have been Jasper and the Rockies. Well, we never did get to take that trip, but I have since learned that pinnacles can actually be golden valleys of gently rolling vineyards and massive lakes protected by the very mountains we were so particularly keen on experiencing. I didn't get this knowledge out of books or magazines or TV travelogues, but from Val Harrison, gracious hostess and writer of the very popular and enduring blog, More Than Burnt Toast. The Okanagan Valley is where she happily makes her home.
Val, who also goes by the nom-de-blog, Bellini, is an accomplished cook and seasoned traveler with a particular fondness for Greek and Mediterranean cuisines, where preparing meals and breaking bread with others are arts to be savored rather than swallowed in the rush of the rat race. A champion of local ingredients, Val also has her sights on those of far away places where she can experience the exhilaration and conviviality of new cultures and their own specialties. She is the epitome of the axiom that travel enriches our world view as it enriches our appetites.
When Scott and I do finally make that trip up north, we will now have to make a special stop to visit Val in her valley. The world is a big place, made that much smaller and friendlier now, among the famous frontiers of Canada.
I am delighted that Val has made some time to share one of her typically Greek-inspired recipes for My Legume Love Affair - Kicking Off Year 4. Thanks, Val!
The following writing, recipe, and photography are owned by Val Harrison and protected by copyright. All Rights Reserved. 2011. All materials appear here by permission and courtesy.
As writers and budding cooks we get our inspiration from many different sources. The secret to any successful meal is simplicity, fresh ingredients whenever possible, love, and intuition. Above all, don’t be afraid to let your imagination have free reign and make it a fun experience. Every day we should be excited about what we are eating even if it just means making use of a wonderful find at our local farmers market.
Sliders, which are nothing more than mini burgers, have been a very popular item for a while now and are definitely enjoyable both to prepare and to eat!! Their fun presentation allows you to make anything from crab to lamb into a mini version of their giant cousins. Good things really do come in small packages! Not just for vegetarians, this easy-to-make Middle Eastern specialty will become a favourite for your summer entertaining. Falafel sliders with a bright, creamy cucumber-yogurt sauce takes the idea to a new level of deliciousness. There is just something about these flavour-packed little bombers that perfectly captures the happy confluence of ingredients in a few small bites.
These party appetizers are rich, satisfying, and incredibly flavourful. I thought it would be fun to serve these appetizers in mini pita breads that are easily found at our local grocers. Keep in mind that the falafels also freeze well, so feel free to make a big batch! The tzatziki recipe is based on a method from my good friend Peter at Kalofagas. He recommends adding his secret ingredient...a dash of ouzo to create complex flavour.
**Falafel Sliders with Herbed Tzatziki Sauce**Enjoy!!!
* 1 cup dried chickpeas
* 1/2 large onion, chopped (1 cup)
* 2 T fresh parsley, finely chopped
* 1 tsp salt
* 1/2 - 1 tsp dried hot red pepper
* 4 cloves garlic
* 1 tsp cumin
* 1 T chick pea stock (from soaking the chickpeas)
* 1 tsp baking powder
* 4 - 6 T flour
* soybean or vegetable oil for frying
* pita breads, tops cut off
* 1/2 onion, diced
* 1 tomato, diced
* Herbed Tzatziki Sauce (recipe to follow)
* 1 dozen mini pitas
Put the chickpeas in a large bowl and add enough water to cover them by at least 2 inches. Let soak overnight, drain reserving 1 tablespoon chickpea stock.
Place the drained, uncooked chickpeas in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the onion, parsley, salt, hot pepper, chick pea stock, garlic and cumin. Process until blended but not pureed.
Sprinkle in the baking powder and 4 T of the flour, and pulse. You want to add enough of the flour so that dough forms a small ball and no longer sticks to your hands. Turn into a bowl and refrigerate, covered for several hours.
Form the mixture into 1-inch patties. Dust lightly with flour and fry in hot oil, turning frequently until browned and crisp. Drain on paper towels.
Cut the top off of each mini pita. Insert the cut end into the bottom of each pita pocket. Put a falafel patty into each pita pocket, diced tomatoes, onions and a 1/2 teaspoon of tzatziki sauce.
**Herbed Tzatziki*** 1/2 English cucumber* 1 cup (250 mL) Greek-style plain yogurt* 1-2 cloves garlic, minced* 1 cup (250 ml) finely chopped fresh dill, parsley and mint, mixed* Juice of 1/2 lemon* salt to taste(If you cannot find thick Greek yogurt strain your yogurt in a cheesecloth bag or fine mesh seive overnight in the refrigerator. Make sure to have a bowl underneath to catch the excess liquid. This will create a thick yogurt perfect for this sauce).With a box grater grate the cucumber directly into a mesh strainer or, a couple layers of cheese cloth. Sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt. Set the strainer over a bowl to catch the liquid or hang your cheesecloth bag over the drain of the sink. Allow it to drain for a half hour. With your hands squeeze the remaining moisture out of the cucumber. Discard the liquid.In a large bowl, mix together the strained or Greek yogurt, garlic, dill, cucumber, lemon juice and a generous pinch of sea salt. Taste the Tzatziki and season with additional salt if needed.