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Economical, Healthy, Main Dishes, Sandwiches, Stuffing Stuff, Vegetarian

A Middle Eastern Lunch

by Nick

If you’ve been a long time Macheesmo reader you’ll know that Betsy and I are on a crazy hunt to find original and fun lunches to eat during the week.  There’s always a few qualifications for these lunches.

1) You need to be able to make them in bulk.

2) They need to be fairly economical and also keep really well for at least five days.

3) They need to be somewhat healthy.

This hunt has led us to some awesome lunches like this pesto quinoa salad.  In general though, it keeps us both out of the fast food lines and generally saves us a few bucks a week also.

I do think I’m starting to get fairly good at the weekday lunch because Betsy’s co-workers have actually offered to pay me to bring them lunch during the week.  I haven’t actually taken them up on it, but I happily direct them to this here website where they can find almost every lunch I’ve made for us.

The latest iteration of this hunt took the form of a classic Middle Eastern meal:  Falafel and Tabbouleh.

Yield
Serves 6-8.
Prep Time
Total Time

Just a moment please...

Print Recipe A Middle Eastern Lunch

Ingredients

  • Tabbouleh:
  • 1 cup quick cooking bulgar
  • 1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/3 cup fresh mint, chopped
  • 3 scallions, minced
  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes (drained)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • Pinch of salt
  • Falafel:
  • 2 16 ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup fresh parsley, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, minced
  • 1/2 white onion, diced
  • 2 Teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 Teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 Teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 Cup Sesame seeds
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • Mini Pitas
  • 1 quart oil for frying
  • Greek Yogurt

Helpful Equipment

Directions

For Tabbouleh:
1) Cook bulgar according to package. This will most likely mean letting it steep in hot water for about 20 minutes.
2) Chop other ingredients.
3) Once bulgar is soaked, mix with veggies and add in olive oil and lemon juice.
4) Season with salt and store for up to a week.

For Falafels:
1) Pulse onion, garlic, and sesame seeds in food processor.
2) Add chickpeas and pulse until combined.
3) Remove from processor and stir in breadcrumbs, egg, herbs and spices.
4) Heat frying station up to 350 degrees.
5) Make about Tablespoon-sized balls from the chickpea mixture.
6) Fry balls in oil for about 3-4 minutes until they are a deep golden brown.
7) Let drain and serve with pita and greek yogurt.

Getting Bulgar

Tabbouleh, if you aren’t familiar with it, is an awesome side dish that just a mixture of bulgar wheat and lots of fresh vegetables and herbs.

You can find bulgar in most supermarkets and grocery stores these days.  Look out for the quick cooking variety.  It works great.

bulgars

Love this stuff.

Besides the bulgar, you just need a lot of veggies.  I like crunchy stuff like scallions and cucumbers in mine along with lots of fresh herbs like parsley and mint.  I also drained a small can of diced tomatoes and added those to the mix just for good measure!

veggies

Lots of good flavors here.

Preparing the bulgar is really straightforward.  You should read the instructions that come with your bulgar but basically it will involve soaking the bulgar in hot water for about 20 minutes.

Then it will turn nice and fluffy!

soaked

After a soak.

Mix all this stuff together and season it with some lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper and you’ll be all set.

As with most stuff like this, tabbouleh gets even better if you let it sit in the fridge for a day or two.  All the flavors start to mingle and it’s really very delicious, not to mention healthy.

done deal

It gets better on day two.

The Falafels

It’s pretty hard to make a meal out of just tabbouleh so I decided to make a big batch of falafels that would go well with it.

Honestly, this was my first time ever making falafels and I was pretty impressed at how easy they were to make.

I started out by pulsing my onions, garlic, and spices in my food processor until they were minced finely.  Just a few pulses will do the trick.

start

A food processor is your friend.

Then add your drained chickpeas to the food processor and pulse them a few more times.  You should end up with a rough paste.  Remove that from your food processor and add in all your other ingredients!

My mixture was already smelling really good so I knew I was onto something here!

batter

It’s like a batter-dough thing.

Frying the Falafels

Once you have your falafel batter ready, just set up your fry station as you normally would.  As always, I highly recommend using a deep-fry thermometer to make sure you don’t overheat your oil.

Once your oil is at 350 degrees, just start adding your falafel batter in large tablespoon sized balls.  They should only take 3-4 minutes to fry up and turn really nice and brown.

falafel

Nice color on these guys.

These were really flavorful.  Perfectly crispy on the outside and moist and tender on the inside.

bite

Chomp!

I was worried about the falafels keeping okay.  After all, fried food tends to be best right out of the fryer.

It’s true that the falafels were best right away, but they kept fine also.  You could microwave them or I thought they were fine cold.

A few falafel balls plus a cup or so of tabbouleh and some greek yogurt and pita made for a great lunch.

packed up

All packed up!

If you can find a way to cycle in some semi-healthy foods for lunch during the week, I think you’ll be shocked at how much more energy you have in the afternoon.  If I eat something like this, I find I have way more juice than if I chow down on a huge cheeseburger or something.

While it is a bit of work to make these two things, if you can find time to do it on a lazy sunday, you’ll be all set for lunches for the entire week!

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18 comments on “A Middle Eastern Lunch

    1. Yep! Bets wanted to make the switch about a year ago away from plastic containers. I’m actually in love with them. Really sturdy.

  1. Weekday lunches in bulk is a fabulous idea. Each Sunday, I try to make “something” that will last a few days for a manageable take with lunch during the week. During the Winter, soup works really good. Love this idea. Great photos.

    1. I’m actually making a batch of soup today Lea Ann for a sick wife. :(

      Leftovers will be great for lunches though.

      Thanks for reading!

  2. Love this! I’ve been living in Asia for 2.5 years and have fallen in love with Middle Eastern food. I just introduced my 7 year old to it and she too has been bitten by the love bug. Thanks for this great recipe … which will keep us out of the restaurant and into the kitchen!

  3. Nice looking Falafel there Nick! I like to have a bit more parsley and coriander in my tabbouleh, but that’s just me. The only thing I would love to see on these dishes is a bit of the garlic sauce, and maybe some pickled turnips! Okay, now I just made myself hungry. Seems I can’t help myself…

  4. I have bought tabbouleh and other salads like it many times at our local market. I have always wondered what was in it. Now I know and can make it myself! And I am anxious to try falafel, too, so thank you sooo much!

  5. This sounds kind of interesting. I’ll have to see if I can locate some of these ingredients next time I go to the store. We’re always looking to try something different, and we’ve been trying to eat healthier too.

  6. Hi Nick! I’m one of your (many) lurkers and your comment about people wanting to pay you to make their lunches made me walk down memory lane: when I was a music grad student a couple of years ago, my officemate had a friend who would bring homemade lunches (large amount) to her every day for about $4-5/lunch. The food looked really good — homemade Taiwanese/Chinese, so lots of yummy rice, meat, stir-fried veggies, etc. — and was in little useable containers. I thought it was a great deal and very entrepreneurial! Music students are often in classes and rehearsals all day and finding a way to eat healthy food for cheap is always a challenge.

    Thanks for all the great ideas on your website — it’s one of my go-to blogs each day. :)

  7. i remember the first time Alexis told me that she loved Hummus and Tabbouleh and I thought she was speaking a foreign language. Haven’t made falafel in quite sometime, I’ll have to break out the fryer this weekend.

  8. I finally made the taboulleh tonight and it was the bomb! My husband, who is still a little skeptical about Mideastern flavors tasted it and thought it was great! I was pleasantly surprised. I will be making the falafel tomorrow and am anticipating the same reaction. I commented earlier up and I have to say, the flavors in this recipe were sooo much better than in “store bought.” I will never buy it in a store again! That would be fiscally and flavorfully irresponsible!

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