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Enjoy the flavors of traveling to an exotic land without the dysentery!

Traveling and getting to eat new and exciting things is pure joy for me.  I absolutely love eating at a new restaurant or when friend shares a dish or a recipe for something I’ve never had before.  Even if a trip to somewhere on your bucket list is out of your budget, indulging in some exotic flavors is always within your reach.

Many basic pantry items are used in a whole bunch of different cuisines.  Take chickpeas for example, they’re common all over the Mediterranean and have certainly spread from there.  They can be a lovely puree with garlic and rosemary in the Tuscan hills, in classic Spanish stews, in vegetarian curries all over India and they’re made into hummus and falafel in the Middle East.  Chickpeas are just the tip of the iceberg! There are so many different ‘international’ recipes you can make from the simplest and cheapest of ingredients.  To me, being able to make a dish from a different cuisine from ingredients that are accessible here at home is like playing dress-up with your food.

For this little mini-trip to somewhere spicier, I combined flavorful falafel, all hot and crispy, paired with a cool and tangy sauce.  These falafel would be lovely with any number of sides like a rice pilaf or cous cous.  I needed to use up those herbs I still had kicking around in my fridge, so I made an orzo pasta salad as a side dish; I just tossed cooked pasta with olive oil, a lot of fresh herbs, sun dried tomatoes and some broccoli I needed to use up.

Spiced Falafel and Yogurt Herb Sauce –served with an orzo pasta salad

Makes 12 falafel and serves 3 as a main dish – cost approx $.44 per serving.  (With the cost of the pasta salad, this meal cost me approx $1.02 per serving)

Falafel Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked, drained chickpeas – made from approximately 1/2 lb dry chickpeas, canned would be a great alternative if you’re short on time ($.56)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbs fresh herbs – parsley or scallions would be traditional but you can flavor it any way you like ($0 from your or a friend’s garden!)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • pinch all spice or garam masala
  • cayenne – to taste
  • salt and black pepper – to taste
  • 2 Tbs sesame seeds or tahini paste ($.10)
  • 1 egg ($.12)
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs ($0 if you grind your stale bread into home made crumbs!)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil ($.17)

Yogurt Sauce Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt – I use my home made yogurt, it’s surprisingly easy to make ($.12)
  • salt – to taste
  • 1/2 tsp lime zest
  • 1 Tbs mint, minced
  • 1 Tbs parsley, minced

For the falafel, put all ingredients except the vegetable oil into a food processor, blend until a paste forms.  It should have a consistency similar to wet sand.  Form into balls about the size of a golf ball, then flatten and shape into a little patty.

Falafel mix before cooking

Shallow fry your little falafels in the vegetable oil until they’re golden on both sides.  I found that a fork was the best tool to turn them as they are frying, tongs weren’t delicate enough and a spatula was too clumsy for me.


Combine all yogurt sauce ingredients in a small bowl, that’s all there is to making the yogurt sauce.  Done-zo!