Sunday, June 27, 2010


Peoria, Illinois, where I grew up, has a surprisingly large Lebanese population. Jenni and I used to love stopping at Haddad's restaurant on Main to get some home cooking courtesy of Mr. Haddad and family. Tabouli salad, hummus, pitas, falafels, really great stuff.

Falafels are a popular, protein rich, street food throughout Israel, Egypt and Lebanon. You can get mixes to make them, but it's easy to make your own from scratch.

The recipe below comes from Joan Nathan's book the Foods of Israel Today It was also posted on

1 cup dried chickpeas
1/2 large onion, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon salt
1/2-1 teaspoon dried hot red pepper
4 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon baking powder
4-6 tablespoons flour
Soybean or vegetable oil for frying
Chopped tomato for garnish
Diced onion for garnish
Diced green bell pepper for garnish
Tahina sauce
Pita bread

1) Put the chickpeas in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover them by at least 2 inches. Let soak overnight, then drain. Or use canned chickpeas, drained.
2) Place the drained, uncooked chickpeas and the onions in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the parsley, cilantro, salt, hot pepper, garlic, and cumin. Process until blended but not pureed.
3) Sprinkle in the baking powder and 4 tablespoons of the flour, and pulse. You want to add enough bulgur or flour so that the dough forms a small ball and no longer sticks to your hands. Turn into a bowl and refrigerate, covered, for several hours.
4) Form the chickpea mixture into balls about the size of walnuts, or use a falafel scoop, available in Middle-Eastern markets.
5) Heat 3 inches of oil to 375 degrees in a deep pot or wok and fry 1 ball to test. If it falls apart, add a little flour. Then fry about 6 balls at once for a few minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Stuff half a pita with falafel balls, chopped tomatoes, onion, green pepper, and pickled turnips. Drizzle with tahini thinned with water.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Wideroe Dash8 cockpit view landing at Tromsø Airport

I was listening to This Week in Travel earlier today. On the show was commercial airline pilot, Joe d'Eon of Fly with Joe and host, Jen Leo of the LA Times were talking about videos people have shot from the cockpits of commercial flights, showing take-offs and landings. I went out to YouTube and found a fair number of them. Some are pretty jumpy, as you'd expect, and might not be great viewing for those a little nervous about air travel. But if you've every been curious about the view from the front, they are kinda cool. Given it was in the 90's and humid here today, I found this one particularly engaging. It shows a landing in Norway.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Under the Tuscan Sun

A friend of mine is working his way through Italy: eating, drinking and looking at art. While looking at his posts on Facebook it put me in mind to pick up Under the Tuscan Sun again. I remember reading it years ago and wondering, how on earth does one buy a home in Italy, and where is this Tuscany I keep hearing about? Since then there have been numerous books about expats buying and restoring houses, eating great food and living la dolche vita. Frances Mayes has written several other books about her experiences in Tuscan, Italy, most recently Every Day in Tuscany: Seasons of an Italian Life, but Under the Tuscan Sun remains something of a classic. When I first read it, I had recently become a vegetarian and was still trying to figure out how we were going to feed ourselves, let alone enjoy it. But Mediterranean cooking lends itself to a vegetarian diet: simple herbs, pastas, sauces, olives, nuts, edible flowers, just cooked vegetables; it's a great place to get your feet under you.

Ms. Mayes has a lyrical way of describing Italian cooking and celebrating her ingredients. There are two sections in the book containing her favorite summer and winter recipes. And peppered throughout you see how food influences life and vice-versa. It's worth a read for the aspiring vegetarian or the arm chair traveler.

Here's a link to a recent podcast where Rick Steves speaks with Frances Mayes celebrating 20 years since she wrote Under the Tuscan Sun.