Quinoa "Falafel" with Avocado-Tomato Relish and Yogurt-Tahini Dressing
Late last spring, my mom and I got into a pretty serious fight. It started small, but it eventually escalated to insulting each other’s taste and values, and using embarrassingly loud voices in an otherwise quiet restaurant. We barely ate our dinners, I almost cried, and our waiter was very uncomfortable.
I blame Gwyneth.
Although I was a big fan back in her Shakespeare in Love days, I’ve become significantly less enamored with good old Gwynnie in recent years. I obviously questioned her decision-making skills when she named her daughter after a common fruit, but it wasn’t until she launched her lifestyle website Goop.com, that I really turned on her.
Goop actively stresses me out. How will I succeed at the elimination diet if I don’t have a sauna in which to sweat out my many toxins or an assistant to make my juices when I inevitably become too weak and/or start hallucinating? How will I keep my eye wrinkles at bay if I can’t get to a Parisian pharmacy for French miracle cream this month? How can I get the butt of a 22-year-old stripper if I don’t like exercise and can’t convince any of my best friends to become a personal trainer like Tracy Anderson??? These are the types of questions that Goop forces me to ask myself, and I don’t like it. Not one bit.
While many shared my frustration with Goopy Gwyneth, a lot more peeps joined the anti-Gwyneth camp last spring, when she released her latest cookbook It’s All Good. As some of you may know, there was quite a bit of backlash to this healthy-living tome “written” by the self-proclaimed lifestyle guru. The reviews of the cookbook, which features mostly vegan fare and approximately 37 pictures of Gwyneth looking chicly disheveled in rustic surroundings, were not nearly as glowing as Paltrow’s skin, and both the book and Gywn were much maligned as elitist, ridiculous, and potentially dangerous to people’s health.
Personally, I love and hate Gwyneth for writing It’s All Good, since it inspired this amazing article, which led to the aforementioned fight with my mother. The article, in which the author tries Gwyneth’s elimination diet and ends up with a rash on her face, is one of the funnier things I have ever read, and therefore, I wanted to share it with my mom when I met her for dinner one night last May.
As I walked with my mother to one of our favorite restaurants, I told her I had something hilarious to read her about Gwyneth. With great enthusiasm, she said, “OOOH! I love Gwyneth! Is it about her new book?? I bought two copies. I can’t wait to read it!” Wait, what? This was unexpected and terrible news. Just to make sure I hadn’t misunderstood, I asked my mother if she was, in fact, a Gwyneth fan, to which she replied, “Yes, Serena. Have you seen her skin? It practically glows in the dark!”
Determined to debunk my mother’s complexion-based love of Gwyneth, I informed her that the cookbook was getting terrible reviews, the media and general public were criticizing Gwyneth for her narcissistic and elitist tendencies, and that many believed Gwyn had completely lost touch with reality. She was not convinced. When I explained that Gwyneth often said absurd things like, “Whenever my hands get dry, I just pop over to Paris for this amazing hand cream, etc. etc.,” my mother simply responded, “She lives in London, Serena. It’s a very short trip to Paris.” This was clearly going to be more difficult than I thought.
I’m ashamed to admit that my mom and I spent the next two hours intensely bickering over Gwyneth’s character and philosophies. I would like to say that I won this (completely irrelevant) fight, but I didn’t. My mom ultimately crushed me by pointing out the fact that Gwyneth was inspired to write It’s All Good after suffering a very severe panic attack at a dinner party, and since I have panic attacks pretty much everywhere, I should be more empathetic. After all, Gwyneth’s book might cure me of my anxiety issues, and perhaps I shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Touché, mother.
Since the evening of the great Gwyneth debate, my mom and I have both actively been trying to get the other to admit they are wrong about The World’s Most Beautiful Woman. (We’re not the best at “letting things go.”) For example, my mom recently stocked my fridge with bottles of Aloe Vera juice, which she claimed would improve my digestion and make my skin glow. Obviously, I was intrigued. Despite the jello-like chunks floating in it, the juice wasn’t overly offensive, and I happily drank it because I enjoy free beverages and glowy skin. Upon finishing my healthy cocktail and giving it my approval, my mother dropped the bomb. “You know who drinks this, don’t you???” she asked, pausing for dramatic effect. (I did not respond, realizing immediately that I had been played.) “GWYNETH,” she gloated. “Isn’t she just full of good ideas??” Effff. Walked right into that one.
Determined to one-up my mother in our twisted game, I finally decided to make something from It’s All Good, in the hope of proving that Gwyneth was actually bad. Very bad. Oddly enough, reading the book was shockingly entertaining. I particularly enjoyed Gwyneth’s shameless namedropping and obsession with Vegenaise, which she appears to love more than anything in the world. (This is crazy because if I were Gwyneth, I would love Beyonce more than anything in the world.) Best of all, reading the book reconfirmed my belief that Gwynnie is a nut job, albeit a very chic one.
Honestly, it was difficult to choose something to cook from It’s All Good, since many of the recipes aren’t actually recipes to begin with. I was very tempted to make a “boiled egg” or “avocado toast” for my mom to prove my point that Gwyneth’s book is silly, but I figured that would be a cop-out. So, I settled for the slightly more complicated Millet “Falafel” with Avocado-Tomato Relish and Yogurt-Tahini Dressing.
Unfortunately, my plan backfired. It pains me to admit it, but this recipe is pretty awesome. Although the ghostwriter’s Gwyneth’s instructions are terrible (had I not been such a domestic goddess and decided to pulse the falafel mixture in the blender to form a coarse dough before molding the balls, there is no way those bad boys would have held up in the pan), the taste and texture profile of her recipe is impressive. Ugh.
Gwyn’s crispy little falafel balls are packed with nutrients, fiber and protein, and they’re scarily addictive. (I used quinoa instead of millet because millet is random, but you can use whichever floats your boat.) Full disclosure, I ate all 12 of them in one day. I’m sure Gwyneth would not approve of such gluttony, but I truly was powerless before these vegan nuggets. I even think Logan would go batshit over these. which is saying a lot. (Perhaps I should consider asking Gwyneth to be a celebrity contributor to The Dude Diet?)
The accompanying avocado-tomato relish is simple, yet bursting with flavor, and it perfectly complements the savory and slightly spicy falafel balls. The drizzle of citrus and sesame-flavored yogurt-tahini dressing was also pretty genius on Gwyn’s part. In fact, I would eat almost anything with that dressing. Way to go, Gwyneth.
If you’re not afraid of a little gluten, I suggest piling your falafel, relish and dressing in a whole wheat pita. It makes a pretty bomb sandwich that tastes delicious both hot and cold. I also like the idea of serving everything over mixed greens for a hearty salad. It’s all good.
Blogger’s Note: The success of this recipe has not changed my mind about Gwyneth (I’m far too stubborn for that), but I definitely have more respect for her cooking skills. Oh, and if I suddenly become famous and Gwyneth, Beyonce and I become best friends, I will delete this post and deny ever writing it. Fact.
Quinoa “Falafel” with Avocado-Tomato Relish and Yogurt-Tahini Dressing: (Serves 2 normal people or 4 Gwyneths)
2 normal people/4 Gwyneths
½ cup uncooked quinoa
½ cup cooked chickpeas, crushed
1 clove garlic, minced
4 scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
¼ cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
Zest of 1 lemon (Use a Microplane grater!)
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon Sriracha (optional)
For the Avocado-Tomato Relish:
½ cup cherry tomatoes, halved (I used heirlooms because I love them)
1 ripe avocado, diced
2 scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Fresh ground pepper
For the Yogurt-Tahini Dressing:
2 tablespoons tahini
¼ cup boiling water
1 garlic clove, minced
½ cup non-fat Greek yogurt (you could also use sheep’s/goat’s milk yogurt or Vegenaise)
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Fresh ground pepper
Preparing your Quinoa “Falafel” with Avocado-Tomato Relish and Yogurt-Tahini Dressing:
-Cook the quinoa according to the package directions, and let it cool to room temperature.
-While your quinoa is cooking, prepare the yogurt tahini dressing. Bring ¼ cup water to a boil. Remove from the heat and whisk in the tahini until smooth. Pour the tahini mixture into a bowl and add the garlic, yogurt, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.
-Whisk until the dressing is smooth. Set aside while you prepare your falafel and relish.
-In a mixing bowl, mash the chickpeas using a potato masher, fork, or the back of a large spoon.
-Add the cooked quinoa, garlic, scallions, parsley, lemon zest, olive oil and Sriracha (if using) to the mashed chickpeas. Season the mixture with salt to taste.
-Transfer the falafel mixture to a food processor or blender.
-Pulse the mixture a few times until the ingredients hold together a bit. You don’t want a puree, you just want a coarse “dough” that will stick together.
-Use your hands to form the falafel mixture into tablespoon-sized balls. You should have enough for about a dozen small falafel. Briefly set aside while you make your relish.
-Combine all of the ingredients for the relish in a small bowl. Set aside while you cook your falafel.
-Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the falafel.
-Cook for about 3 minutes per side (you can gently press each ball down with the back of a spatula to form a thick pancake if it makes things easier.) Remove falafel to a paper towel-lined plate to drain any excess oil.
-Serve the falafel warm, topped with relish and yogurt-tahini dressing. If you’re not afraid of a little gluten or judgment from Gwyneth, I recommend stuffing everything in a warm pita and going to town.
*Recipe adapted from It’s All Good by Gwyneth Paltrow.
- ½ cup uncooked quinoa
- ½ cup cooked chickpeas crushed
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 4 scallions white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup Italian parsley finely chopped
- Zest of 1 lemon Use a Microplane grater!
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil divided
- 1 teaspoon Sriracha optional
For the Avocado-Tomato Relish:
- ½ cup cherry tomatoes halved (I used heirlooms because I love them)
- 1 ripe avocado diced
- 2 scallions white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Fresh ground pepper
- Cook the quinoa according to the package directions, and let it cool to room temperature.
- In a mixing bowl, mash the chickpeas using a potato masher, fork, or the back of a large spoon. Add the cooked quinoa, garlic, scallions, parsley, lemon zest, olive oil and Sriracha (if using) to the mashed chickpeas. Season the mixture with salt to taste.
- Transfer the falafel mixture to a food processor or blender, and pulse a few times until the ingredients hold together a bit. You don’t want a puree, you just want a coarse "dough" that will stick together.
- Use your hands to form the falafel mixture into tablespoon-sized balls. You should have enough for about a dozen small falafel. Briefly set aside while you make your relish.
- Combine all of the ingredients for the relish in a small bowl. Set aside while you cook your falafel.
- Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the falafel and cook for about 3 minutes per side (you can gently press each ball down with the back of a spatula to form a thick pancake if it makes things easier.) Remove falafel to a paper towel-lined plate to drain any excess oil.
- Serve the falafel warm with relish and yogurt-tahini dressing. If you’re not afraid of a little gluten or judgment from Gwyneth, I recommend stuffing everything in a warm pita and going to town.
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