Thank God for Sultan's Market. Without them, I would not have known how awesome falafel is. I've been on a quest for the last several years to make as great a meal at home as you can get at Sultan's Market. I'm still a long ways away from that goal, but I've made progress.
If there's one key to that progress, it's this: from scratch is better.
I started by buying packaged hummus, tahini paste, and falafel mix. I thought I was showing mad skillz by making my own tahini sauce from the paste (following the recipe on the side of the bottle).
I took the next step toward "from scratch" by making my own falafel, following this recipe. I used our food processor to make the falafel, without which it would have been much more of a pain. Shallow frying in olive oil doesn't produce quite the same deep-fried deliciousness that Sultan's falafel has. This recipe is quite tasty, though.
The results were good enough to make me want to try again soon. However, I had used up the last of my canned chick peas and the last of my tahini paste. We ran out of hummus long before we ran out of pita. The price tag for these three products (chick peas, tahini paste, and hummus) is higher than I would like: about $1.00 for a can of chick peas, $5.00 for tahini paste, $2.00 for a tiny tub of hummus. I figured I could get better flavor and better value by cutting out a few middle men and moving closer to "scratch."
A 2-lb bag of dried chick peas was only $2.00. For the price of two cans of chick peas (28 oz), I ended up with about 80 oz of cooked chick peas--plenty of raw material for falafel and hummus, with plenty left over. I followed these helpful directions for preparing the dried chick peas.
For some reason, I conflated sesame seeds (the raw material from which tahini is made) with sunflower seeds. So I bought bulk unroasted sunflower seeds for $2.00 a pound. I intended to follow this recipe, but at the roasting stage, I suddenly realized I'd bought the wrong kind of seeds. Fortunately, someone has made this substitution before. My $2.00 investment in sunflower seeds produced the equivalent of $8.00 worth of tahini paste. The food processor did all the work.
The cooked chick peas and tahini paste go together into the homemade hummus recipe. (I followed the second, faster method.) This makes about 2 lbs of hummus for about $2.00 in raw materials. That beats out even the famous Costco hummus, and blows out of the water the teeny 10 oz containers you usually see in the grocery store.
The tahini paste goes into the tahini sauce that I mixed with the Jerusalem salad.
All in all, this is a pretty cheap way to eat. I figure I can easily get 8 meals out of the following ingredients:
$1.00 for chick peas (1 lb dried)
$1.00 for pita (8 loaves)
$1.00 for tahini paste (1/2 lb sunflower seeds + some vegetable oil)
$3.00 for fresh produce(cucumber, tomato, onion, garlic, parsley, lemons)
$1.00 for all the other incidental ingredients (a bit of oil, spices, etc)
That's less than $1.00 per meal.