Buffets and my introduction to 7 Spice
With Comfort Food on the brain, I’ve been dreaming of deep-fried falafel stuffed into pita and drenched with tahini sauce. While we’re here we might as well throw in some baba ganoush and hummus on the side, right? I mean, if you’re going to dream, you’d might as well dream big!
Just for fun, I started scouring the Net trying to find healthy ways to prepare falafel. It started with an email from Bed Bath and Beyond who tried to lure me to their store with a gift card if I bought their healthy frier called Actifry. Apparently it has been hand-stamped as one of Oprah’s favorite things. So, with absolutely nothing better to do (um, yeah – right) I started reading reviews. Supposedly, this thing can crisp up to two pounds of food without using more than a spoonful of oil. Most of the reviews mention that it decently cooks chicken nuggets and fries to a light, crispy coating. But can it do the same thing with falafel and other soft foods? No. It cannot. Honestly, from what I can gather this appliance has a paddle inside that constantly rotates so the food is tossed around continuously, thus getting all sides evenly heated and crisp. The trick though, is using firm or semi-firm foods. Something like falafel would end up looking like whipped potatoes by the time it came out of the machine. Sorry, T-Fal. Not interested. When I’ve got my mind set on falafel, nothing else will do. Does anyone own this Actifry machine and if so, do you like it?
Back on topic….when Craig was having a good day a couple of weeks ago we decided to drive to the best Lebanese restaurant we have in our area. It’s a little bit of a drive but SO worth it. When we arrived they were just setting up for a buffet. Now, I never do buffets – ever. Not only does the food look like it has been sitting for God only knows how long but I always, always overeat so it’s better if I just stay away. Besides, buffets are getting crazy. A Golden Corral recently opened here and would you believe that they have their own cotton candy machine?
…sorry; I don’t know why I can’t stay on topic this evening. Anyway, I could see beyond the very modest buffet and watched the older woman in the back for a moment. This woman knew her way around a kitchen! She was busy chopping fresh vegetables and adding spices that smelled like pure heaven.
One of the waitresses came over and I asked about several dishes that I didn’t recognize. She replied, ‘The owner’s mother is visiting from Lebanon and is doing all of the cooking in the back. This is about as authentic as it gets!’ Um, well – okay; the least I could do is eat this woman’s food; I mean, she did come all the way from Lebanon, right? It would be rude otherwise……right?
The food was outstanding. But it was the spices that had me singing. Let me tell you, the flavors were so good together I had to ask what was being used and where could I get it. I was told it was a mixture of spices called 7 Spice. I’d never heard of it. Grabbing a pen and paper, I listened while she told me how I could make my own which I could then use on meat, fish, chicken and – falafel!
Ingredients for Lebanese 7 Spice:
Use equal parts: black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, allspice, fenugreek and nutmeg. Mix together well and store in an airtight container.
Saturday I went to my newly opened Whole Foods and walked straight to the bulk spice aisle:
Everything I was looking for was right there and in just the amounts I needed. I also picked up some chickpea flour which has a great baked falafel recipe on the side of the bag. I’m making falafel this week, and I hope it turns out. If it does, I’ll post the recipe here. If it doesn’t, you’ll likely not read about my cooking on this blog for a while
Wednesday I take my husband back to see a surgeon. The next post I type will contain an answer to his problem as I’ve decided that we’re not leaving the doctor’s office until we get one. It’s been over a month now and it’s time to make some decisions.