Exploring Traditional, Cultured Armenian Foods (recipe: Falafil from soured garbanzos)

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From the Editor: Please welcome Suzanne, Cultures for Health Customer Support Rep and Cultured-Kitchen Keeper.

I have been exploring the history of Armenian and Lebanese foods. This topic may sound a bit odd, but I have a personal interest in these foods. My family is Armenian on my mother’s side and Lebanese on my father’s.

I grew up eating foods like kibbeh, mujaddara, and madzoun, but in exploring more healthy ways of eating over the years, I have eschewed many of these dishes because they contain grains or legumes. Recently, however, I have been interested in exploring my family’s history. And what better way to explore than through the foods they ate and the traditions surrounding those foods? As I read and learn, I wonder if more modern recipes have left out one essential step in the preparation of these dishes: fermentation.

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Obviously, madzoun (Armenian yogurt) and laban (Lebanese Yogurt) are fermented foods. But what about others, not so obvious? Many recipes call for soaking grains or legumes, but not long enough to ferment them. Are these versions of traditional recipes, which have been adjusted for our more fast-paced lifestyle? I don’t have the answer, but I’ve begun trying some different methods along this line as I prepare different dishes.

I recently made falafil and soaked the garbanzo beans for 48 hours, versus the 24 hours called for in the recipe. While the beans smelled a bit sour, after cooking the falafil, I couldn’t tell any difference in flavor. They were delicious, as always. The recipe I follow (with a few adjustments) is taken from A Taste of Lebanon, by Mary Salloum.

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Falafil

Ingredients

  • 1 lb chickpeas
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 medium potato, peeled
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp coriander, ground
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1 Tbls flour
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • 2 tsp baking soda

Instructions

  1. Soak chickpeas for 24 hours. Drain. Quarter onion and potato. Run all through fine holes of the meat grinder along with garlic two times.
  2. Add all remaining ingredients except baking soda and vegetable oil. Mix well. Run through grinder once more. Mix again. Cover and leave to rest for 2-3 hours.
  3. Heat oil for deep frying. While oil is heating add baking soda to the chickpea mixture. With dampened hands, form a mixture into balls the size of a walnut, then flatten slightly into a patty. Deep fry, making sure patties are cooked through and are golden brown. Remove from oil with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

In the future, I will be experimenting with fermenting the bulgur wheat in kibbeh. My family’s recipe calls for soaking the wheat for 1 hour. And while that’s enough to soften it, I wonder if kibbeh was previously soaked in water and a little whey from the laban and allowed to ferment for a couple of days before mixing with the meat. It’s certainly worth a try to have my favorite dish, at least now and then.

Sahtayn!

Suzanne

Suzanne

Suzanne is into gardening, real food, and treading lightly. Her favorite cultured foods include Matsoni yogurt, which tastes just like the yogurt her Armenian grandmother used to make; sauerkraut, which she used to dip out of a barrel each week at her favorite little shop in Germany; and dill pickles, which she used to eat straight from the big jar on the counter of her Grandpa’s general store.

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Note from Shannon: Please welcome Sarah, Cultures for Health Customer Service Rep and Cultured-Kitchen Keeper.

One of the questions we get here at Cultures for Health is how to make tempeh without plastic. Many people have worked hard to reduce the plastic in their homes, and then are faced with having to use plastic bags to make tempeh. And it is tough to avoid. Rhizopus spores stick to everything! So cloth is not an option.

But the mold needs a balance of low moisture and airflow, so a solid container is also not an option. The acidity and moisture also limit paper and metal. I decided I would test a traditional method for making tempeh to see if I could use it in my home kitchen. It was easy, fun and pretty!

Here’s how I did it…

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Sarah Firkins

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Note from Shannon: Please welcome Janet Creasy, CFH Content Contributor and Cultured Kitchen-Keeper.

Health claims about soy abound. Being mostly a vegetarian, I do believe there are many health benefits of soy but I am leery of the myriad products that contain processed soy. Therefore, ingesting the whole food always makes the most sense to me.

Looking for options to expand my soy diet, I did some research into the Asian culture and found some foods that I was not well apprised of:  natto, tempeh and the more common tofu. Thankfully, the amazing folks at Cultures for Health carry some great soy cultures that helped me in my quest for preparing, cooking and eating in a more healthy fashion.

Let’s explore some of the ways in which you can eat soy (fermented or not).

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Janet Creasy

Janet Creasy

Janet is primarily a proud mama of two tween girls and is married to a stellar man wired for engineering. She spends a great deal of time in the kitchen and garden. She enjoys the full life cycle of real food as primal fuel for our body; which she feels is critical to how we approach the world around us. She finds immense joy in seeing how many food culture ‘science’ projects she can keep going at one time! Her favorites are kombucha, yogurt and tempeh and she is delving currently into rice flour sourdough and water kefir.

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The fermentation of soy has been practiced for many, many years, going far beyond the boom in soy products we have seen in America over the past half-century. Tempeh is just one of the varieties of fermented soy you can make.

Making tempeh is fairly simple and involves only a few simple ingredients – whole soybeans, vinegar, and a specific tempeh starter.

For those who would like to consume more plant-based proteins, it is a good option as the fermentation process results in a meat-like taste and texture and also gives you a more digestible food.

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Shannon is a mama to four small children, homesteader, freelance writer, and picture-taker. She lives with her husband on their off-grid homestead where they make and eat kefir, kombucha, sourdough, and fermented vegetables.

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