I scoffed for years at the idea of a panini press. As if we needed another counter-space-hogging specialty appliance. Pah! Chuck felt differently: he purchased them as gifts for others, and occasionally expounded on their presumed virtues. But I kept our own home free of this silliness.
Finally last Christmas I caved. We got a Cuisinart “Griddler.” I rearranged things in the pantry and made enough shelf space that the darn thing could at least be put away in between uses. The kids were thrilled. Chuck was happy. I coped.
But now … I’m a convert. I admit I love the ease of serving paninis for supper: healthy food that everyone enjoys, which can be prepared in under 20 minutes. Our favourite sandwich is fresh basil leaves (garden fresh purple basil shown, from last summer), thick slices of tomato, some sweet onion, a little mayonnaise and some cheese. Our press has the traditional ridged grill plates for the paninis, but also flat plates. And last week I discovered a wonderful use for these: felafel.
I love felafel. Except for the hassle and mess and oil of shallow-frying them. I generally make big batches, and I have to fry them a couple of dozen at a time. It takes ages to drop them in, flip each one at the right time, take them out, drain off any excess oil, heat the next bit of oil, drop in the next batch.
With the griddler, though, I just drop 15 rounded tablespoonfuls of batter onto the lower plate, close the press, wait five minutes, open it and sweep the golden yellow-brown little fellas off. Repeat, repeat, repeat. While making and enjoying a cup of tea. So easy! And totally low-fat too.
Felafel (adapted from the Moosewood Cookbook)
1 1/2 cups dried chick peas
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. turmeric
1/8 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup rice or wheat flour
Approx. 3 Tbsp. water
Soak the chick peas overnight. The next day bring to a boil, then simmer 30 minutes and drain. Once cool enough, transfer to food processor. Add onion and garlic. Process until the consistency of very chunky peanut butter. Transfer to a bowl and add the salt, spices, parsley, lemon juice and flour. Add enough water to make a playdough-like consistency that holds together easily. Use tablespoons of this mixture and form into balls with your hands, then flatten slightly. Cook for 3-5 minutes on a flat grill-press at medium heat. Consume immediately in pita pockets with raita, olives, tomatoes and cucumber. Or cool, then store in the fridge for future meals or snacks.
Yup, love the panini press.