Nearly a year ago, I wrote about the complexities of the Arab Israeli conflict and how the issues extend far beyond the politics to the people and even to the food. In Hummus, Not Hamas, I shared a delicious recipe for homemade hummus. However, what is a good hummus without it’s most important pairing, falafel?
The current situation in Israel has been keeping me up at night – I have to hold back tears thinking about the 28 IDF soldiers who have lost their lives protecting their homeland and their people, and I genuinely feel for the hundreds of Gazans whose lives could have been saved if not for their own government’s actions. On top of all the atrocities – Israelis running for cover as thousands of missiles rain down on their homes; Palestinian children being given hand grenades so as to thwart the Israeli operation; Israeli teenagers becoming gravely injured while serving their country; Gazans finding themselves homeless and terrified both of Israeli forces, and perhaps more importantly, of their own government – I think the most concerning factor of all is the world’s response (or lack thereof) to the current operation and to Israel and Jews in general. Rallies in Paris and all throughout Europe, and even closer to home in both Calgary and Toronto, have taken a turn from simply being “Pro Palestinian” to being very clearly antisemitic and violent. I cannot express my gratitude enough to the Canadian government, and especially to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird for their unwavering support of the State of Israel, it’s right to defend itself, and the Jewish people. I feel lucky to be a Jew living in Canada, and I feel proud to be a Canadian. I am embarrassed for the many word leaders, including US President Obama, who have either stood by in silence or who have urged restraint on the part of Israel rather than encouraging the protection of their innocent civilians.
All of this weighs heavily on every Jew, every supporter of Israel, and every believer in the human rights of Palestinians living under the conditions set forth by their own terrorist government. So, as I sit here wondering what I can do to help, the best I can come up with is to find a way to remind those who may have forgotten why Israel is the best country in the world, why war doesn’t define us, why the arts and culture and food of a nation with so much history is the best definition of its people. And with that, I’m sharing a simple, healthy and quick take on one of my favourite Israeli foods – falafel!
Being almost nine months pregnant, I find myself looking for recipes that will keep my on my feet for the shortest amount of time possible. Luckily, this is one of those recipes! All you need is a food processor and a baking tray, making the clean up incredibly simple as well. While traditional falafel mainly consists of chickpeas and is usually deep fried, I thought I would put a bit of a nutritional spin on it by adding in collard greens, eliminating all of the oil, and baking them instead. The result was surprisingly nutritious and delicious!
I would highly recommend giving this simple vegetarian treat a try – and, I ask that when you’re in your kitchen making dinner tonight, take a moment to think of the millions of Israelis and Palestinians affected by the current conflict who aren’t able to enjoy the peace and quiet of their own kitchens without worrying about when the next siren will be heard. Today especially, keep IDF Sgt. Oron Shaul, currently MIA, in your thoughts and prayers.
Collard Greens Falafel
Makes about 20 balls
4 cups (about ½ bunch) collard greens, washed and torn (stems removed)
1 can (540ml) chickpeas, drained and rinsed (I prefer the ‘no salt added’ variety)
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp tahini paste
1½ tbsp lemon juice
¼ tsp cumin
½ tsp za’atar, plus 1 tsbp set aside
½ tsp sesame seeds
pinch each salt and black pepper
- In a food processor, lightly pulse collard greens until roughly chopped. Add in remaining ingredients and pulse until well combined, but not pasty. Small chunks of chickpeas should remain.
- Preheat oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and spray lightly with olive oil or cooking spray. Using your hands, roll about 1 tablespoon of the mixture into a ball, and set on parchment paper. Continue until none of the mixture remains.
- Once all of the balls are lined up on the tray, dust each with the remaining za’atar. Bake at 400 for 17 minutes, remove from oven and carefully flip each ball over. Return to oven, bake for another 5 minutes at 400, then broil on high for 2 minutes, watching carefully to ensure balls don’t burn.
- Serve with pita, Israeli salad, hummus, tahina (prepared using tahini paste, water and lemon juice), sliced pickles and anything else you like in your falafel!