|A tray of Falafel "Pizza" straight from the oven|
Unfortunately, he passed away at a way too young age recently. His memorial service was held at his favorite local Mid-Eastern restaurant. There were shared stories and lots of delicious appetizers that were said to be ones he was particularly fond of.
By the time we left, we were stuffed with good memories and the restaurant's tasty food. One dish in particular stood out, a kind of "pizza" made with a crust of ground chickpeas and herbs. The menu called it a safeeha (sometimes spelled sfiha) which is a popular Arab and Lebanese open-faced pie, usually topped with meat and having a more traditional bread crust. These were vegetarian and used a falafel-like crust. I knew I needed to recreate and adapt this. In some ways I felt my friend was inspiring me still.
The result of this experience is the recipe below. You can vary the toppings to your taste. Try replacing the feta cheese with hummus and or tahini for a vegan version.
Using falafel mix makes the Falafel “Pizza” an easy weeknight treat. Falafel mix is available in boxes or by bulk in specialty and Middle Eastern stores and in some larger supermarkets. Mixes vary so adjustments to yield and topping amounts may be needed. Spicing also varies. The mix I used was very spicy and needed no additional seasoning. To test your mix, fry a tablespoon of batter before forming crust and taste. If needed, add in cayenne pepper, salt, or other seasonings to taste.
Serves 4 as a main course, 8 as an appetizer
12 oz. falafel mix
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. chopped parsley
3/4 cup cold water (see note below)
2 cups diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 tsp. dried mint
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped green onions (white and light green parts)
2 cups crumbled feta cheese (about 8 oz.)
2 Tbs. olive oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 11”x15” baking tray. Combine falafel mix with 1/4 cup chopped parsley. Stir in water. Let sit 30 minutes until water is absorbed and mix holds shape. Spread falafel mixture about 1/4" thick into a rectangle that’s about 10”x12”. Use a knife to score into 8 sections (for a main course serving) or 16 sections (for appetizers). Lightly spray oil on top. Bake 10 minutes until falafel crust is firm and slightly browned. Remove from oven and slide spatula under crust to loosen.
Raise oven temperature to 450 degrees. Toss drained tomatoes with mint, oregano and black pepper. Scatter tomatoes, green onion and feta on top of crust. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake 10 minutes until heated through and cheese is lightly browned. Garnish with remaining parsley. Cut along scored lines and serve.
Note: Mixes differ. Refer to directions on package for making patties and adjust water as directed.
This recipe appeared in a different context in the j weekly.