Welcome to the first ever food memory post with memories other than mine woooooo! (I am accepting food memory submissions to share on memo2munch that will inspire the recipes. Click here for info on submitting.)
Today’s memory takes place in Vienna, Austria and comes from one of my most precious friends, my roommate Tori. You may know her from triumphs such as her handmade prop in this post, and as my supplier of authentic chai spices direct from India, in this recipe.
As the chai spices may have indicated, Tori is an impressive traveler. We both studied abroad in Europe last semester (I was in Bologna, and she was in Rouen, France, a small town about an hour outside of Paris), but when I say Tori studied abroad I mean she, like, S T U D I E D A B R O A D.
“Over the course of that half-year, I somehow managed to visit 22 countries in Europe and North Africa, an undertaking that I’m still having trouble wrapping my mind around,” Tori told me. YOU GO GIRL.
In March, we had a reunion of epic proportions in Rome, somehow managing to swing a weekend together with our other roommate who was studying in Germany, plus two of our close friends who were in the midst of a Eurotrip of their own.
It was like some wonderful, strange, sitcom mashup of The Lizzie McGuire Movie and Roman Holiday. But I digress.
Roman reunions aside, Tori did much travelling alone, effectively making her the Planning & Coordination Queen™. Exposure to so many new places and cultures taught her lots of useful skills…
“As a solo traveler, bopping from city to city as much as I did, you pretty quickly learn the ins and outs of European markets.”
Successful Encounters with Feisty European Markets 101:
“Learning how to leisurely browse, avoid eye contact, efficiently make purchases, politely refuse aggressive vendors, and exploit any and every opportunity for a free sample, all at the same time, is a skill acquired only with much patience and practice.”
So here’s a Top Secret Market Trick—->“Find a bulk sweets stand where you have to pay by weight, and ask if you can have two dark chocolate covered almonds.” Tori discovered you can often get them for freeeeee
The food memory Tori shared with me is a perfect example of a European market encounter of the best kind. She was exploring a lively marketplace in Vienna:
“I was on the lookout for grab-and-go lunch to take with me as I walked from the center of the city out to Schönbrunn Palace. Already I had been snacking on some dried mango slices, and scored some free chocolate! Anyway, I stumbled upon a bustling falafel stall offering falafel for just 1€ each! When I asked for just one, the boisterous man behind the counter swiftly scooped up one of the warm, crispy delicacies, dipped it in a fresh batch of hummus, and extended his arm towards me in a single swooping motion.
‘“For you,” he said, and when I held up a euro coin he shook his head and smiled. Surprised and delighted, I expressed my genuine thanks and continued on my way, biting into perhaps the best falafel I’d ever tasted (until earlier this week that is). In the end, I went back to the same stand to order a falafel pita for my walking lunch, and enjoyed every chickpea/cucumber/lettuce/tomato/cabbage/hummus/tzatziki-filled bite.”
The very pita and its glorious falafel:
Ahhhhhh I want to be there, don’t you?! How about this, we tuck into some of our own homemade falafel and google pictures of strudel while Mozart plays in the background. Done.
(Also I didn’t even bribe her to subtly compliment my falafel, ain’t she the sweetest?)
Crispy Baked Falafel
(adapted from Mark Bittman)
Makes: about 21 falafel
1 ¾ cups DRIED chickpeas (they will need to soak for minimum 12 hours, so plan ahead)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
Scant tsp cayenne, or to taste
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp. salt, more as needed
½ tsp. black pepper, more as needed
½ tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
4 Tbsp. olive oil
Chopped cucumber and tomatoes
1. The night before: thoroughly rinse the chickpeas in a strainer and then place them in a large bowl (they will triple in size as they soak). Pour water over the chickpeas until they are covered by 3-4 inches of water. Let soak overnight, or for up to 24 hours.
2. The next day, discard the soaking water and rinse the chickpeas thoroughly with new water. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F/190 degrees C and line a large baking sheet with foil.
3. Place the chickpeas in the body of a food processor along with all of the remaining ingredients except the oil. Pulse until everything is minced but not pureed. Scrape down the sides as necessary. Add a bit of water if the machine is having a lot of trouble. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
4. Grease the lined baking sheet with 2 Tbsp. of the oil. Roll the chickpea mixture into balls about 1.5 inches in diameter and place them evenly on the sheet. Gently press the tops of each to form thick patties. Brush with the remaining 2 Tbsp. oil. Bake 10-15 minutes on each side until golden all over.
5. To serve, spread each pita generously with hummus. Top with 2-3 falafel and the chopped cucumber and tomatoes. Fold and enjoy!