And thank you, Jimmy Carter. The Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty was signed on this day in 1979 by Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin making Egypt the first Arab country to recognize Israel. President Carter brokered the treaty. It has been in effect ever since, although there’s been some concern that the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest political party, would bring it to a referendum. Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, however, has vowed to respect the treaty.
This calls for falafel, the one thing Arabs and Israelis agree on … sometimes. While there has been some dispute as to falafel’s origin, it’s widely-considered to have originated in Egypt and today, is considered the national food of Israel (and Palestine and Egypt and Lebanon). In 2008, a Lebanese industrialist accused Israel of claiming ownership of traditional Lebanese delicacies such as falafel and threatened to sue. Can’t we all just get along?
Israeli Falafel *
1 pound (about 2 cups) dry chickpeas/garbanzo beans
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley
6 cloves garlic
1 1/2 T. flour
2 t. salt
2 t. cumin
1 t. ground coriander
1/4 t. black pepper
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
Pinch of ground cardamom
2 c. vegetable oil for frying
Pour the chickpeas into a large bowl and cover them by about 3 inches of cold water. Let them soak overnight.
Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans well. Pour them into your food processor along all of the other ingredients. Pulse until they are the texture of a coarse paste. Once the mixture reaches the desired consistency, pour it out into a bowl and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
Fill a skillet with vegetable oil and heat the oil slowly over medium heat. Meanwhile, form falafel mixture into round balls using wet hands. When oil has reached 375 degrees F, drop ping pong-sized falafel balls into the oil. Cook until dark brown, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels and serve with a salad and a garlicky cucumber-yogurt sauce (in a pita, or not).
Note: Egyptian falafel uses fava beans instead of, or in addition to, chickpeas, so if you’re interested in that, replace some or all of the chickpeas with fava beans (known as broad beans in Europe).
3 c. Greek yogurt
1 t. lemon zest
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium cucumbers, seeded and diced
1 T kosher salt for salting cucumbers
salt and black pepper to taste
Peel cucumbers, then cut in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scrape out the seeds. Discard them. Slice cucumbers, then put in a colander, sprinkle on 1 T salt, and let stand for 30 minutes to draw out liquid. Drain well and wipe dry with paper towel.
In food processor, puree cucumbers, garlic, lemon zest, and a few grinds of black pepper. Once mixture is well blended, stir into the yogurt. Salt if needed. Refrigerate for at least two hours so flavors come together. Serve over falafel or on its own with pita bread.