Picture it: Lower Manhattan, 1988. I was a wide-eyed naif, fresh off the bus from a small Upstate town, enrolled at NYU but getting my real education on the streets of the big city. It was a year of many firsts: my first iced coffee, my first gay friends, my first VISA card, my first pair of $140 shoes, my first time doing cocaine with drag queens in the men’s room of an exclusive Manhattan nightclub.
And my first taste of falafel, late at night, from the incomparable Mahmoun’s on St. Mark’s Place. Bear in mind that I grew up eating middle-class, Midwestern food: tuna sandwiches, meatloaf, various casseroles combining chicken and Campbell’s Soups. Falafel was a revelation to me, as was Indian food, real Chinese (by “real” I mean “not canned LaChoy from the grocery store”), gyros, Ukrainian fare, and half-moon cookies from the 2nd Avenue Deli.
But, oh, that late-night falafel. We would take the plump little foil-wrapped packets back to our dorm rooms and picnic on the floor in the hallway outside our rooms. After eating, we’d smoke one last cigarette, putting them out on the carpet–the mind reels. What teenage hubris. What insufferable pricks we were! Remember when you could smoke indoors and use the floor as an ashtray?
A lot has changed since then. I don’t smoke anymore, I don’t do cocaine anymore, and I don’t do credit cards. I still have lots of gay friends and I still love falafel. Only now, living some 440 miles from Mahmoun’s, I have learned to make my own. For a while I used those boxed mixes, but I have recently discovered how crazy easy it is to make falafel from scratch, from real honest-to-goodness dried chickpeas. It helps to have a kickass blender, like my Vitamix, but a regular blender and some patience might do the trick. I don’t know; I don’t have either of those things.
Use My Favorite Falafel from Epicurious as a jumping off point, like I did. But, listen, this is so simple it’s laughable. Soak the chickpeas, drain, throw them in your blender, grind. Add some spices and a bit of flour to make a workable dough. Chill. Form into balls or patties. Bake or fry. Stuff into pitas. Devour.
Yeah, I’m that kind of pretentious poseur who makes her own pita bread. Sometimes–I do also buy it in the store. But again, this is so easy it’s almost painful. If you have flour and time, you can make pita.
I got this recipe from Pete Bakes! His introductory blurb says, “Hello, my name is Pete, and I like to bake stuff.” Doesn’t that alone make you want to marry him, sight unseen?
We stuffed our homemade pita with the homemade falafel, tomato, cucumber, something called Yoga Sprouts that I bought on a whim from the co-op (and yes, I bought them because they were called Yoga Sprouts, and somewhere in the back of my mind I thought that if I ate them, I would be able to hold Tree Pose a little longer. Long-Suffering Husband doesn’t call me “Madison Avenue’s Bitch” for nothing) and tahini sauce, made from whizzing together tahini paste, some low-fat yogurt, and lemon juice. If I weren’t so exhausted from making every damn thing from scratch, I would’ve thrown some garlic in there too.
It was delicious, though. If I had closed my eyes, I might almost have imagined that I was back in the dorms at NYU, balling up my foil and napkin, inhaling the unmistakable smell of smouldering industrial carpet.