Baked Saffron Falafel

Yesterday was round one of the Masters. I watch it EVERY year. When I was living at home (back in Augusta), I didn’t care too much for the Masters. Traffic got really congested for little ol’ Augusta, gas prices went up, everyone wanted to dress like they’d been to the Masters, and my local watering holes were jammed packed. So, this was the week that a friend and I would go to the beach to escape it all. Now that I’m not home (far far from home), I miss it. I can hear the mocking birds and robins on the television, and it takes me back to being at home hearing those birds. I see the tall Georgia pine trees and it makes me miss home. Even hearing the honey-like Southern accent from Billy Payne, the chairman at Augusta National, makes me miss home. His is the accent that I grew up with and know to be genuine. It’s not like the fake Southern accents you hear on True Blood or Andrew Lincoln’s accent on The Walking Dead. Sorry Andrew. I love you but your Southern accent is horrible. And this is when I miss sweet tea the most. I can’t make it like my Dad. I can’t even find the right kind of tea here. So, usually when I go home, sweet tea is the only thing I’ll drink…other than coffee.

But enough of being homesick. I need to get this post done before round two airs in my time zone. Last night we had baked saffron falafels from Green Kitchen Stories. I LOVE saffron. It just has such a rich, deep, and beautiful color.

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I was first introduced to saffron when the Hubs took me to an Indian restaurant when I first moved here. I’ve never really paid attention to this delicate thing before. When I saw saffron rice I had to give it a try. Then I fell in love with it. I make paella quite often when we were first married because I loved the saffron in it.

Saffron is the world’s most expensive spice because it’s actually the dried stigmas from the saffron flower. This site has some photos of the flower. It can only be hand-picked in the fall when the flower is in full bloom. So imagine how many flowers were picked just to fill up the tiny jar I had. My jar weighed one gram and it was $12. Thankfully just a teeny bit goes a long way.

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This is what the Flavor Thesaurus says:

Saffron is inimitable. Turmeric, safflower and annatto are often used in its stead but can only hope to impart an approximation of its color, and maybe a little saffron-ish bitterness. Saffron combines the flavors of the sea air, sweet dried grass and a hint of rusting metal–it’s the spice equivalent of Derek Jarman’s garden on the bleak rocky beach at Dungeness, defiantly strange and beautiful. This rarefied, and accordingly expensive, spice is most often paired with sweet ingredients, especially those ale enough on the eye and palate to show off its color and complex flavor–rice, bread, fish, potatoes, cauliflower and white beans. It also combines well with other bitter flavors, like almonds or citrus zest, and is especially harmonious with other bittersweet florals like rose.

And this is what my Cook’s Wisdom says:

In flavor, saffron, the stigmas of a type of crocus, is pungent and earthy, with a slight bitterness. When soaked in liquid, it turns the liquid a dark yellow. Because it must be hand-picked, and because each crocus has only three stigmas, saffron is the world’s most expensive spice.

So there you go. I didn’t realize each flower had only three stigmas. That’s why.

The making of the falafels were easy. You throw some sunflower seeds, chickpeas, onion, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, buckwheat flour (I used an all-purpose gluten-free flour) baking powder, and saffron in a food processor and mix everything together.

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Then you take this mix and shape them into balls. I used an ice cream scoop to form mine. Then you let them bake for about 15 minutes at 350F. I actually had to let mine bake for 30 minutes. When I checked them at 15 they were a bit soft. It could’ve been because my falafel balls were bigger than theirs, I don’t know. But at 30 minutes they were ok.

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The tahini dressing was something of a disappointment. It was way too thick to be a dressing. It ended up having the same consistency or spreadability as peanut butter. Maybe I did it wrong or added too much tahini. The little one didn’t like it too much and neither did the Hubs. I scooped it on mine for a try, but I kind of agreed with them. I left out the garlic because I was just garlicked out for this week.

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I put the falafels in pita bread for the Hubs and little one, and used the rest of the lettuce that was in the fridge for me.

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The falafels weren’t bad. They actually didn’t last the evening. The thing that I would do differently is add salt and pepper. Once I put some salt and pepper on them, they were REALLY good!

I’d say this dish would be good to make on a weeknight. You just throw everything in the food processor and then bake it for 15-30 minutes. If you make this dish, make sure to taste for seasoning before you bake it. I wish I would’ve done that. Other than the tahini sauce (which I’m sure I did something wrong) and the seasoning, the falafels were good.

Tonight we’re having japchae. It’s a Korean dish made of the sweet potato noodles and a bunch of vegetables. My Mom used to make it for us all the time growing up. I’m still trying to get it to taste like hers, but you know what they say: “Nothing tastes like Momma’s cookin’.”

Enjoy your Friday. I’m off to watch the Masters now.

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