My blood may be mostly Scandinavian, my appearance may be Irish-dominant, but in my heart I’m way more exotic. Sometimes my heart is Greek, sometimes it’s Italian, and every now and then it flirts with the Middle East. This Middle Eastern flirtation began, as with many food discoveries, in my college cafeteria. The hit-or-miss “Grains” (read: vegetarian) line was suspiciously popular one day, so I decided to investigate. The overwhelmed student worker filled my plate with the donut-hole sized fried balls that my classmates were clamoring after, topped with a mysterious tangy white sauce.
It was love at first falafel. With some googling, I learned that my dear falafels were just a magically balanced blend of chickpeas and spices, rolled into balls and fried to a golden brown. The mysterious white sauce, tzatziki, would later become an obsession of mine on a study-abroad trip to Greece, but this first taste in my MN homeland was what started the tzatziki and falafel fever.
Post-graduation, there were several attempts at recreating the cafeteria falafel experience: boxed mixes that tasted…boxed, scratch-made recipes that made my falafel balls collapse and break so they were balls no more, and an overly fried, poorly seasoned falafel stick at the MN State Fair. Nothing was up to snuff. In fact, nothing even came close, until one fateful day when I stumbled across a falafel burger recipe from Rachel Ray. So, today I bring you the best falafel recipe I’ve found over the past 4 years, along with a quick tzatziki lime sauce that, when drizzled over top, is sure to make your heart feel Middle Eastern, even if you are but a petite Irish Scandinavian.
There’s no gray area when it comes to opinions on coconut. It seems you either love it or you hate it. Personally, I love it with all my heart,to the point where I get rather offended when someone disagrees. “You just haven’t had it in the right thing,” I’ll say, “Let’s go get a big, chocolate dipped macaroon and THEN you’ll understand.” Of course, despite my best efforts, it turns out most folks really do know what they like. So, I’ve decided to back down and say that if you don’t like coconut, that’s cool, but you can stop reading right here right now, because this blog post isn’t for you. This blog post is about shameless coconut l.o.v.e.
Coconut haters aren’t new to me. Two of my closest friends hate coconut: my sister and my ex-roomie (note: it was an amicable roomie split not brought on by irreconcilable coconut differences). Fortunately, I do have a partner in coconut-love in my mother. When it comes to food, my mom and I disagree about basically everything, with two firm exceptions: meat-free meals and coconut-laden desserts. When I find a new place that has a coconut sweet, I call her immediately. As soon as I find a new coconut recipe to try, I email it to her. It’s kind of our thing. So, when I stumbled across Smitten Kitchen’s Double Coconut Muffins, my fingers flew to my gmail: copypaste,cutemessagetomom, aaand done. It was decided, I was going to make these muffins for my mom and I to share, and we were going to bond in our special way that coconut haters (like my sister) can never understand.
I haven’t always been a big cook. In high school, I rotated between phases of grilled peanut butter sandwiches, tortillas filled with cheddar and nuked in the microwave until crispy, and nighttime bowls of cereal. In college my palate expanded a bit, due to the blessing of a well-stocked cafeteria, but it’s not a stretch to say that I never so much as looked at an oven for those four years. Post college, I found myself living in an apartment with no cafeteria, and since there are only so many nights you can eat cereal for dinner before you realize you have a problem, I decided I needed to learn a thing or two.
One of the first recipes I learned and loved involved sun-dried tomatoes, pesto, and barley, which happen to be three of my favorite things (“favorite things” post high school, of course). Until recently, I hadn’t made the recipe in a couple of years, and decided it needed to be brought back, but adapted to fill the needs of my super sophisticated taste. See, my “sophisticated taste” had gone through a cereal-for-dinner relapse while feeling sick for a couple weeks, so I wanted some extra veggies to make up for the nutrient deficit (In my mind this is how things work…don’t ruin it for me). To provide some vitamin oomph, I added a couple more of my favorite things: spinach and artichokes… Remember how I feel about artichokes? Yeah, it’s an intense love. Anyway, read on for a throwback recipe delicious enough to convert a kitchen novice into, well, someone who tries really hard.