Pascale's Kitchen: Our famous street food

Below, I explain how to prepare all of the various components that make up a tasty falafel meal, including homemade pita bread, falafel balls, hummus, tehina and s’hug.

Three falafel and salad-filled pitas. (photo credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)
Three falafel and salad-filled pitas.
(photo credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)
 Over the better part of this past year, we’ve all been spending much more time at home and treating ourselves to homemade pizza, cakes and other yummy foods to help boost our spirits.
Recently, I began thinking about which foods I miss eating the most when we would go out, and I realized that falafel, Israel’s unofficial national food, is probably the street food I crave the most.
So, I decided to dedicate this week’s column to help my readers prepare this popular dish at home just as you would buy it at your favorite corner falafel stand.



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Below, I explain how to prepare all of the various components that make up a tasty falafel meal, including homemade pita bread, falafel balls, hummus, tehina and s’hug.
First, you bake the pitot, and let them cool down. Next, you deep-fry the falafel balls and stick them into the pocket bread. Drizzle on some homemade tehina and spread on some homemade hummus. If you’re courageous, spread some s’hug inside, too, for a spicy kick. You can add to this chopped tomato and cucumber salad, pickles and spicy green peppers.
If you have some extra time on your hands, you can also prepare some crunchy french fries to go along with the falafel. 
HOMEMADE PITA BREAD
Makes 14-16 pieces.
1 kg. white bread flour, whole wheat flour or spelt flour
1 Tbsp. salt
1½ Tbsp. dry yeast granules
1-2 Tbsp. white, golden or brown sugar
3 Tbsp. canola or olive oil
3½ cups water, at room temperature
Pour the flour into a large bowl. Add the salt and mix. Add the yeast granules and mix with your hand. Add the sugar and mix well. 
Add the oil and half of the water. Mix until mixture is doughy. Continue kneading dough and then gradually add the rest of the water while kneading. Knead well until dough is very sticky. 
Stick one hand in water and then lift up the dough a bit. With the other hand, twist the bowl, making a half-turn. Continue this process to knead the dough. If your hand gets too sticky, you can wet it again. Knead this way for 8-10 minutes until dough is nice and soft. 
Alternatively, you can mix dough in an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix on low speed for 10 minutes until the dough has formed a ball around the dough hook and has fallen away from the side of the bowl. You can add a little water while kneading if necessary. 
Cover the bowl with a damp towel and place in a warm spot so the dough can rise for 60-90 minutes, until the dough doubles in volume. 
Place a baking stone in the oven and heat to 250° for 90 minutes before baking bread. 
Place the dough on a work surface that is floured well. Cut the dough into 14-16 pieces, depending on what size pitot you want. Roll each piece into a ball and then place them on a floured baking tray. Cover with a towel and let them rise for 10 more minutes. Then, roll out each ball into a thin circle. Place a few of the circles on the hot baking stone. Wait for 30 seconds until the pitot puff up and then remove them. Continue to make the rest of the pitot in the same fashion. 
To bake the pitot in an electric pan, place two or three circles at a time on the metal rack in the pan. Cover the pan and wait 30 seconds. If the pita has puffed up and has turned yellow with brown spots, carefully turn it over. If it’s not ready, close the lid for another 15 seconds and then check again. Heat the pitot for 20 seconds on the second side. When the pitot are cooked on both sides, remove them and place on a towel so they can cool down. Repeat with the rest of the dough circles. 
The pitot should be puffy with a slightly stiff edge. Wait 30 minutes for pitot to cool down and soften before serving them. 
Level of difficulty: Medium. 
Time: 2 hours. 
Status: Parve.
Falafel. (Photo credit: Pascale Perez-Rubin)Falafel. (Photo credit: Pascale Perez-Rubin)
FALAFEL
Israel’s unofficial national food, falafel has roots in Egyptian and Yemenite cuisine. In Egypt, falafel is known as ta’amiya, and calls for a mixture of chickpeas and small broad beans. 
Makes 20-22 balls.
2 cups dried chickpeas
5 cilantro stalks
6 parsley stalks
5 garlic cloves
2 medium onions
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. spicy paprika
¼ tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. baking soda
3 Tbsp. water
Oil for deep frying
The day before you’re going to make the falafel, place the dried chickpeas in water and let soak overnight. The next day, rinse them and grind them in a food processor with the cilantro, parsley, onion and garlic, until smooth. 
Transfer mixture to a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients, except for the oil. Mix well and let mixture sit for 20 minutes. Form small balls from the mixture. 
Heat the oil in a pan for deep frying. When the oil is very hot, add the balls and fry until they turn golden brown. Remove and place on paper towels. 
Level of difficulty: Easy / Medium. 
Time: 1 hour + overnight. 
Status: Parve.
 
 Hummus, Tehina, chickpeas. (Photo credit: Pascale Perez-Rubin) Hummus, Tehina, chickpeas. (Photo credit: Pascale Perez-Rubin)
HOMEMADE HUMMUS
Pretty much everyone likes hummus. It’s a cornerstone of Middle Eastern cuisine, and thanks to its nutritional value and the ease with which it’s prepared, its popularity has spread all around the world. 
Makes 6 servings. 
½ kg dried chickpeas, soaked in water with 1 tsp. baking soda overnight, then drained
1 cup raw tehina
3 garlic cloves
1 cup liquid from cooked chickpeas
Juice from ½ -1 fresh lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste
Serving suggestion: 
½ cup chopped parsley
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 spicy green pepper, chopped finely
Juice from 1 lemon
4 Tbsp. olive oil
Add the soaked and rinsed chickpeas to a pot. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Cook for 90 minutes until completely softened. Drain and retain 1 cup of liquid for further use. 
Transfer the chickpeas to a food processor. Add the tehina and garlic. Mix a few seconds at a time. Add the liquid gradually until you achieve desired thickness and texture. Add the lemon juice, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning. 
In a separate bowl, mix together the parsley, garlic, spicy green pepper, lemon juice and olive oil. Store this in a closed container in the fridge. 
When ready to serve, spread the hummus in a pita or use a spoon to spread it on a small plate. Add a spoonful of the parsley mixture, eggplant pieces and whole chickpeas. Sprinkle with kosher salt and chopped spicy red pepper. You can also drizzle with olive oil. Serve hot. 

Level of difficulty: Medium. 
Time: 2 hours + overnight.
Status: Parve.
TWO COLORS OF TEHINA
Traditional tehina has a light tan color. You can also make purple tehina by adding cooked beets, or red tehina by adding roasted peppers. 
Makes 8-10 servings. 
Light tan tehina:
1 cup raw tehina
Salt and pepper, to taste
Juice from 1-2 lemons (depending on how sour you want tehina to be)
1 cup water
8 medium cloves of garlic, crushed
For green tehina, add:
1 bunch of parsley, chopped finely
8 sprigs of mint, chopped finely
Add the tehina, salt, pepper and lemon juice and mix well. Gradually add the water while stirring until you reach desired consistency (some people like it thick, and others like it watery).
If you’d like to prepare green tehina, add the parsley and mint. Taste and adjust seasoning. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the fridge. 
Level of difficulty: Easy. 
Time: 30 minutes. 
Status: Parve.
S’HUG – SPICY PEPPER SPREAD
Red s’hug is made from spicy red peppers that are ground and mixed with herbs. Green s’hug is made with spicy green peppers and herbs. Add more or less water, depending on desired level of spiciness.
Makes 1 medium jar.
Red s’hug:
150 gr. spicy red peppers, dried and ground
6 tsp. coriander seeds, ground
6 tsp. cumin, ground
5 tsp. black pepper, ground
7 cardamom pods, ground
20 garlic cloves, crushed
¾ tsp. cloves, ground
2 tsp. salt
450 gr. cilantro, ground
Grind all the ingredients, except for the salt, in a food processor. Add more water if desired. Add the salt and store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Level of difficulty: Medium. 
Time: 30 minutes. 
Status: Parve.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.