Continuing my ethnic cooking spree, I recently made falafel, fried cucumbers, and baklava for a very rich dinner. The meal contained at least a week's worth of fat, but was worth every calorie. As a bonus, my baklava recipe made a metric ton of the stuff, so I had plenty to take with me on a kayaking trip the next day. Floating along in the sun with a thermos of coffee and a fistful of baklava was pretty much perfect.
For the falafel, I used Mark Bittman's recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. He calls for raw chickpeas, which is a departure from other falafel recipes I've seen. You soak the chickpeas in water for 24 hours, then pulse them with herbs in the food processor. I was skeptical, and the chickpea mixture barely fit in my food processor, but they fried up nicely with crunchy brown outsides and bright-green insides. I served them with tahini sauce (tahini, garlic, soy yogurt, and a little water blended in the food processor), cucumbers, and sprouts on pita bread.
The fried cucumbers are supposedly a Lebanese dish, and are made by dredging cucumber slices in seasoned flour and pan-frying them. The recipe I was using called for sprinkling slivered green onions all over the top after frying, and the green onion/cucumber combination was fantastic. So, cooked cucumber skeptics: try it!
The baklava (which I wish I was eating RIGHT NOW) was tedious to make, and I'm not sure I'd put in the effort again, though it was delicious. It uses a whole package of phyllo dough, each maddeningly delicate sheet brushed with margarine, with three layers of walnut/brown sugar mixture interspersed. After baking, the whole thing is drowned in simple syrup spiked with cinnamon. I don't know if I'll bother making this again, but if the phyllo fairies ever show up at my house and offer to make it for me, I'll advise them to use agave nectar instead of the simple syrup for a more honey-like flavor.