Covid19 has restricted my buying habits to a great extent—I can no longer shop multiple ethnic stores to get just the right ingredients. As a result, I have been making mostly “old favorites” that have easily obtained ingredients. This dish has become an almost weekly meal in my house—and not just because it takes only about ten minutes to put on the table. This dish is not so much a recipe, but an assembly of ingredients—the only “cooking” required is a few minutes in the microwave to soften the pita bread and to warm up the falafel balls.
Most of the ingredients for this dish can be bought at Trader Joe’s. While Trader Jose has carried falafel balls in the past, they were small, dense, and frankly not very good. In the last few months they have started carrying a new product that is much higher in quality—large, light, and of an excellent flavor. Trader Joe’s new product reminds me of the falafel balls produced by the ethnic food stand that used to come to our local farmer’s market.
Note: While you may buy premade tahini sauce from Trader Joe’s, I prefer to make the traditional tahini sauce that the ethnic food stand operator taught me.
How much you need of each ingredient depends entirely on how many people you are planning to feed. You can easily make it for from 1-7 people from one package of the falafel balls (14). For each person for lunch, I usually make a sandwich with half a pita bread, two falafel balls, a few slices of tomato, cucumber, and onion—a few spoonfuls of tahini sauce and a good bit of chopped cilantro and mint tops off the sandwich. For a dinner, I usually double the amounts of everything for each person.
Note: This meal is both Vegan and diabetic friendly.
Karl’s Trader Joe’s Falafels
2-3 Tbs. tahini paste
1-2 tsp. lemon juice
1 small clove garlic, mashed
Pinch Kosher salt
Beef steak tomato
Cucumber (English or Persian)
Whole wheat pita
Trader Joe’s fully cooked Falafel
1. Put the tahini paste in a small bowl.
Tip: Figure 1-2 teaspoons of paste for each sandwich you are planning to make. I make the sauce in the recipe above for three people.
Note: Tahini paste is simply ground sesame seeds. It can come as either roasted or raw, but for this recipe toasted is better.
2. Add the lemon juice, garlic and salt to the paste.
3. Stir in some boiling water and mix until it is a smooth paste.
Tip: Start with an amount of water equal to the amount of tahini you are using. A small whisk is a useful tool for this process.
Note: At first the sauce will seem very thin. Over a few minutes the ground sesame seeds will absorb much of the liquid.
4. Thinly slice the tomato, cucumber, and red onion and place them on a serving plate.
Tip: At the table your diners will take as much of each ingredients as please them as they build their own sandwiches.
5. Coarsely chop the cilantro and mint—mix them together and place them in a small serving bowl.
6. Cut the pita breads in half and wrap them in a paper towel.
Tip: One half bread per person for lunch or one whole pita bread for dinner.
7. Place the wrapped pita on Plate and microwave them for 15-30 seconds.
Tip: This softens the breads enough that they do not fall apart as you open the pockets.
8. Carefully open the pocket of each half pita.
9. Wrap as many falafel balls as you need in the paper towel and place them in a microwave safe serving bowl.
10. Microwave the falafel balls until heated through 2-4 minutes—depending on the amount.
11. Taste and adjust the tahini sauce.
Tip: You should just be able to detect the lemon and garlic, but they should not overpower the sesame’s flavor.
Note: Before serving, you may also need to add more boiling water to thin the sauce to the proper consistency—you should be able to easily drizzle it over the sandwich.
12. Place the plates of pita breads, vegetables, falafel balls, and sauce on the table, for your diners to build their own sandwiches.
Tip: I usually start by packing some of the greens on the bottom of the pita. I them lay some of the onions and cucumbers along one side. Next, I add two falafel balls and top them with tomato slices on the other side of the sandwich. Finally I drizzle the fillings well with sesame sauce and maybe some more green on top.