Baked Green Falafel and Greek Salad

Baked Green Falafel and Greek Salad | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Baked Green Falafel and Greek Salad | Image: Laura Messersmith

Before we even begin I should say that these are by no means authentic falafel. For one, I skipped the dried chickpeas (couldn’t be bothered) and for two, these guys get just the barest whisper of olive oil, no deep frying or sautéing required, and finally, for three: this is my favorite ratio of spices and herbs, but to be honest I’m not sure if any of them actually belong in falafel. So really these should probably just be called something generic like “spiced chickpea patties” and not falafel at all. But, since we’re rebellious around here and it’s a handy shortcut I’m sticking with falafel.

Baked Green Falafel and Greek Salad | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Baked Green Falafel and Greek Salad | Image: Laura Messersmith

Shortcuts or laziness are the name of the game with this recipe since the previously mentioned points (canned chickpeas, no frying) save a ton of time, effort, and mess. When has that ever been a bad thing? The most important part though is that they taste incredible.

Tender and garlicky, pungent with cilantro, bright from the lemon juice and deliciously golden, these falafel make the perfect topping to a greek salad or wrapped up in a pita. They’re just the thing for these not-quite summer not-quite fall evenings and I personally love to make a big batch and freeze the extras (assuming there are any!) for an even easier dinner down the road.

Baked Green Falafel and Greek Salad | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Baked Green Falafel and Greek Salad | Image: Laura Messersmith

Baked Green Falafel & Greek Salad (serves 4)

Falafel Ingredients:
2 cups fresh parsley leaves
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
6 cloves garlic
4 lemons
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 1/2 teaspoons cumin
28 ounces canned chickpeas, well rinsed and drained
1/4 cup whole wheat or oat flour

Salad Ingredients:
4 cups shredded lacinato kale leaves
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
2 cups diced hot house cucumber
8 ounces feta cheese, divided
1/2 cup hummus
4 pitas toasted
olive oil
kosher salt
black pepper

Instructions:
Place the parsley, cilantro, roughly chopped garlic, 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and ground cumin in the bowl of a large food processor and mix to combine. The texture will be similar to a thick pesto.

Rinse and thoroughly drain the chickpeas in a colander and add half to the herb mixture. Pulse the food processor a few times to combine and then add the remaining half of the chickpeas. Pulse again a few times until the chickpeas are mostly incorporated but some larger pieces remain and there are still traces of un-mixed herbs. You want to maintain some texture not end up with hummus.

Use a rubber spatula to transfer the chickpea mixture to a large mixing bowl and fold together to finish mixing in the herbs and seasoning. Sprinkle the whole wheat flour over the chickpeas 1 tablespoon at a time using the spatula to press the mixture together until a loose dough is formed. It should be firm enough to hold its shape when handled, think meatballs. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

Use a cookie scoop or measuring spoon to portion about 2 tablespoons of falafel mixture. Use your hands to form 12 flattened discs about 1/2 inch thick and 2 inches in diameter. Place on baking sheet and refrigerate or freeze for 15 minutes to firm up.

OPTIONAL STEP: I don’t bother with this, but for a little extra crust on the outside, before baking heat a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons olive or canola oil. Swirl to coat pan, then add falafel. Carefully flip once golden brown – about 3-4 minutes - and then cook on the other side until golden brown as well  – 3-4 more minutes.

In the meantime, line a second rimmed baking sheet with foil and place in the oven while you pre-heat to 375 degrees F. When the oven is hot, remove the sheet (oven mitt!) and lightly coat it with non-stick spray or olive oil. Place the falafel on the warmed sheet and bake on one side for 20-25 minutes then turn and bake for another 10-15 minutes. Both sides will be lightly browned. The longer you bake them, the firmer they’ll get! While the falafel bake, prepare the kale, tomatoes, cucumber and feta.

Toss together kale leaves, tomatoes, cucumbers and feta. Serve the falafel alongside with the toasted pita and hummus. The falafel can be refrigerated, layered with parchment paper in an airtight container, for several days. Freeze to keep longer.

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes! I used a medium food processor, small cutting board, fine mesh sieve, medium mixing bowl, rubber spatula, cookie scoop, and two rimmed sheet trays.

Baked Green Falafel and Greek Salad | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Baked Green Falafel and Greek Salad | Image: Laura Messersmith

Summer Squash & Pesto Quesadillas

Summer Squash & Pesto Quesadilla | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Summer Squash & Pesto Quesadilla | Image: Laura Messersmith

Like all good recipes this one came about in a moment of desperation on a Sunday afternoon when a random set of leftovers and refrigerator bits and pieces became a brilliant lunch idea.

I became fairly obsessed with zucchini and yellow squashes this summer, which meant that there was often a roasted piece or two hanging about. Since I also had handful of flour tortillas and it occurred to me why do quesadillas have to contain Tex Mex flavors? Why shouldn’t a tortilla capture all sorts of other ingredients?

Summer Squash & Pesto Quesadilla | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Summer Squash & Pesto Quesadilla | Image: Laura Messersmith

From there I reasoned since zucchini is incredible paired with basil, and in a bit of a nod to salsa, I should add some of the pesto I made earlier in the week. I also shredded the remaining roast chicken, added a few crumbles of farmer’s cheese for salty tang and we were in business.

Obviously, or we wouldn’t be talking about it, the combination was delicious and thus the vaguely Italian quesadilla was born. Now it gets top billing, an intentional recipe, not an afterthought at all.

Summer Squash & Pesto Quesadillas (serves: 4)

Ingredients:
3 medium zucchini or summer squash
2 bone-in skin-on chicken breasts
4 flour tortillas
4 ounces farmer’s cheese or goat cheese
4 ounces Monterey jack cheese, shredded
1 cup fresh basil leaves
olive oil
kosher salt
ground black pepper

Instructions:
Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees F and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Pat the chicken breasts dry with paper towels and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle both sides liberally with kosher salt and black pepper. Roast skin-side up for 40-45 minutes or until the internal temperature registers 165 degrees on an instant read thermometer. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, remove the stem from the zucchini and slice lengthwise into 1/8” strips. Place on a rimmed baking sheet, brush both sides lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 12-15 minutes on each side until tender and lightly browned. Remove to a plate.

While the zucchini roasts, make a quick pesto. Finely chop the basil leaves and place in a small bowl. Stir in 1-2 tablespoons olive oil, a sprinkle of kosher salt and black pepper.

When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones and shred into large pieces.

Place the tortillas on the baking sheet then divide the cheeses, chicken, zucchini, and dollops of pesto among them layering on one half of the tortilla. Fold the other half over the top to create a half moon shape. Bake for 5-6 minutes until the cheeses have melted. Slice in half into triangles and serve immediately!

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes! I used a rimmed baking sheet, chef's knife, small cutting board, small bowl, pastry brush, cheese grater, flat spatula, and aluminum foil.

Summer Squash & Pesto Quesadilla | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Summer Squash & Pesto Quesadilla | Image: Laura Messersmith

Summer Squash & Pesto Quesadilla | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Summer Squash & Pesto Quesadilla | Image: Laura Messersmith

Basil Chicken Salad Tartines

Basil Chicken Salad Tartines  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Basil Chicken Salad Tartines | Image: Laura Messersmith

I first tasted a version of this salad when I was living in Cambridge and working near Beacon Hill. Occasionally we’d walk over to a café on Charles Street called Panificio for lunch where their Chicken Tarragon Salad quickly became my favorite menu item. The addition of the grapes; the chopped fresh herbs made it special and elegant – a daring flavor combination to my newly awakening palate.

Since ten dollar salads on the regular weren’t really in the budget at the time I began making tarragon chicken salad for myself at home and even relied on it to impress Mike the first time I cooked for him. I worked all morning carefully slicing the grapes, washing the greens and trying to make everything perfect. We wedged ourselves in at the black and white table – an old counter top from my grandparent’s farmhouse transformed by a thrifty uncle – and began a tradition of connecting over a meal.

It’s been an awesome 8 years since that lunch. Our current kitchen is different, but still tiny, the black and white table is still with us, and I’m still making our favorite chicken salad. This time with a small refresh using basil in place of the tarragon. Why mess too much with a good thing?

Basil Chicken Salad Tartines  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Basil Chicken Salad Tartines | Image: Laura Messersmith

Basil Chicken Salad Tartines (serves 4)

Ingredients:
3 pounds (4 split) bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
Kosher salt
ground black pepper
1/3 cup light mayonnaise
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
1 cup seedless green grapes
4 slices multigrain bread
2 cups mixed baby greens or spinach

Instructions:
Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Pat the chicken breasts dry with paper towels and sprinkle both sides generously with salt and black pepper. Place the chicken skin side up on a rimmed baking sheet and roast in the oven for 40-50 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees on an instant read thermometer. Set the roasted chicken aside to cool.

Meanwhile, finely chop the basil leaves and slice the grapes in half. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, carefully remove the meat from the bones and cut the chicken into bite sized pieces. Place the chicken in a medium mixing bowl; add the mayonnaise, basil and grapes. Season to taste with kosher salt and black pepper. Stir to evenly combine.

Toast the slices of bread and top with the greens and the basil chicken salad. Serve immediately.

Adapted and re-written from Ina Garten’s Chicken Salad Veronique inspired by Panificio's Tarragon Chicken Salad.

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Since day one. I used a rimmed baking sheet, medium mixing bowl, medium cutting board, chef’s knife, measuring spoons, and a rubber spatula.

Basil Chicken Salad Tartines  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Basil Chicken Salad Tartines | Image: Laura Messersmith

Basil Chicken Salad Tartines  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Basil Chicken Salad Tartines | Image: Laura Messersmith

Summer Panzanella Salad with Pesto Vinaigrette

Summer Panzanella Salad with Pesto Vinaigrette  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Summer Panzanella Salad with Pesto Vinaigrette | Image: Laura Messersmith

This recipe will seem out of place once I tell you that wet bread makes me cringe. An under-cooked piece of French toast, still sodden with eggy custard sends a cold chill up my spine. A cellophane-wrapped sandwich where the tomatoes have seeped into the previously delicious roll? Eww.

Summer Panzanella Salad with Pesto Vinaigrette  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Summer Panzanella Salad with Pesto Vinaigrette | Image: Laura Messersmith

So, as you might guess, I have avoided panzanella salads like the plague for 99.9% of my life until essentially this moment when I made one myself and discovered that if the bread-to-greens ratio tips slightly in favor of greens, the dressing trends toward a thick sauce, and the croutons are definitively toasted to burnished bronze then I’m good to go.

Only a few terribly specific requirements, oh and if there could be stone fruit involved too? There is? Awesome. This, my friends, is that recipe. An excellent dish for dinner with friends – fresh, light, filling, and gorgeous.

Summer Panzanella Salad with Pesto Vinaigrette  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Summer Panzanella Salad with Pesto Vinaigrette | Image: Laura Messersmith

Summer Panzanella Salad with Pesto Vinaigrette (serves 4)

Ingredients:
4 cups sourdough bread cubes
4 teaspoons (3 cloves) minced garlic
2 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
2 lemons
4 cups (1 large bunch) lacinato kale leaves
2 cups cherry tomatoes
2 ripe nectarines
4 ounces fresh mozzarella
olive oil
kosher salt
ground black pepper

Instructions:
Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut the sourdough into 1/2 inch squares (no need to remove the crusts) and place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Toss with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of kosher salt. Toast in the oven, turning periodically for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned and crunchy. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, place the garlic cloves and 2 cups of the basil leaves in the bowl of a small food processor. Pulse until a thick paste forms. Scrape the pesto into a bowl or jar and mix with 1/3 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice to form a thick dressing. Season to taste with kosher salt and pepper.

Wash the kale leaves, the working with 4-5 at a time, remove the center rib and stack the leaves. Roll lengthwise in a loose cigar shape and slice across the roll in 1/4-1/8” ribbons. Repeat until all the kale is shredded, then toss together with 2 tablespoons of the pesto dressing and the remaining 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves.

Prepare the remaining ingredients. Remove the pits and slice the nectarines in thick wedges, cut the tomatoes in halves or quarters and tear the mozzarella in rough pieces.

In a large, shallow bowl layer the dressed kale and basil leaves with the nectarines, tomatoes, bread cubes, and mozzarella. Dollop the remaining pesto dressing on top and serve!

Inspired by The First Mess’s Summer Panzanella with Peaches and Kale.

Small Kitchen Friendly?
I used a rimmed baking sheet, medium cutting board, bread knife. Small food processor, medium mixing bowl, chef’s knife and tongs.

Summer Panzanella Salad with Pesto Vinaigrette  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Summer Panzanella Salad with Pesto Vinaigrette | Image: Laura Messersmith