May 15, 2013

Baked Spinach Falafel & Cashew-Cucumber Sauce

If you decide that you want to start eating heart healthy, plant-based food, but would still want to eat to your heart's content, then Mediterranean cuisine would be an ideal choice :-) Mediterranean cuisine uses a lot of plant based ingredients: veggies, herbs, nuts and legumes. It is flavorful with the use of garlic, ginger, onion, extra virgin olive oil, etc. Another plus I have found is that it is very flexible and  one can create one's own version of Mediterranean salads, sauces and other dishes. 

Now for the falafel recipe; this is a very quick and simple recipe from me as usual, with very minimal ingredients and instructions. The cashew-cucumber sauce is a plant based version of the Tzatziki sauce. Of course like any other plant-based, home-made, or made-from-scratch recipe, you require some planning (to soak the chickpeas for falafel and cashews for the sauce). 

On the topic of planning, my cooking has always been based on some amount of planning. To others it might seem like I cook really fast, but I achieve that with some mental planning of tasks and also some preparation of ingredients like soaking, sprouting etc. Now that I am reading more about cooking/eating healthy, I am realizing that there is a lot of value in soaking and sprouting grains, nuts and legumes. In simple terms soaking makes the dry grains/nuts/legumes lively or active again. Sprouting is even better, in fact that is the best way because it is proven to increase enzyme activity and increase nutrient levels. 

Baked Spinach Falafel:
  • Chickpeas - 1 cup - soaked overnight (Even better if you can sprout the chickpeas *) 
  • Spinach - 1 cup
  • Green chilly - 2-3
  • Garlic -2 cloves
  • Fresh Ginger - 1 inch
  • Sea Salt - as per taste
  • Chia seeds -2 Tbs 
  • Cook soaked and drained chickpeas with enough water to cover. I just cook till chickpeas are half done because I don't want to overcook while making the falafel. Let them cool down.
  • Grind half cooked chickpeas along with above ingredients to a coarse mixture without adding water. (I used my blender, stopping and scrapping sides every few seconds, but you could very well use a food processor)
  • Grind chia seeds and mix with 4 Tbs water and set aside for 5 mins. This is the binder for your falafel. (use your coffee grinder or spice grinder to grind chia seeds - you could also use flax seeds instead of chia seeds)
  • Mix the ground chickpea mixture and chia seed paste well.
  • Divide into lemon sized balls and lay on a baking sheet and give them a press to make them evenly thick patties.
  • Bake in 350 deg for 10 minutes, flip and bake for 10 more minutes.

Cashew-cucumber sauce:

  • Raw cashews - 1/2 cup - soaked for couple of hours
  • English cucumber - 1/3
  • Sea salt -  as per taste
  • Dried parsley- 1/2 tsp
  • Lemon juice 1-2 Tbs
  • Add everything to a blender and puree till nice and creamy. 

* Sprouting Chickpeas:
  • Soak chickpeas for 8-10 hours.
  • Drain and keep them in a jar covered with a clean cloth away from direct sunlight.
  • Rinse and drain after 5-6 hours and continue to keep covered.
  • Repeat rinsing/draining once every 5-6 hours for 2-3 days.
  • 2nd day you should start seeing some sprouting, this time can vary based on room temperature, quality of chickpeas etc.

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