Blue Hill’s Dan Barber Thinks Oleana’s Spinach Falafel Is Hauntingly Delicious

Oleana's falafel, atop paper-thin lavash and a schmear of beet-spiked yogurt.
Oleana's falafel, atop paper-thin lavash and a schmear of beet-spiked yogurt. Photo: Heath Robbins

Each week on the Food Chain, we ask a chef to describe a dish he or she recently enjoyed. The chef who prepared the dish responds and then picks his or her own memorable meal. On and on it goes. Last time, Daniel executive chef Jean-Francois Bruel raved about Dan Barber’s pork plate at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Now we’re wondering what dish Barber has recently savored. Dan?

Who: Dan Barber, chef of Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, New York
What: Spinach falafel
Where: Oleana in Cambridge, Massachusetts

“The [spinach falafel] was crispy, then smooth, with a tahini sauce that melted into the center. And it was distinctly spinach-y, too. It arrived on a little carpet of lavash, spread with beet yogurt, cress, and some pickles on the side. Who knew falafel could taste like this? Sweet, a little spicy, and hauntingly delicious. It begged to be devoured (no utensils), and so I did. I think about it often.”

Oleana chef Ana Sortun responds:

“Falafel is made a lot of different ways. Ours is a very vegetable-based falafel, sort of crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. It’s bound with onions and chickpea flour that’s cooked in milk. We cook chickpea flour like polenta, and we use tons of spinach. There’s a lot of spices, like cumin, a little bit of allspice, and then we serve it on a piece of paper-thin lavash that’s frosted with this creamy yogurt with shredded beets and garlic. You take shredded beets, garlic, a little bit of lemon, and mix it with labne. It turns into this bright, magenta-colored yogurt. Then we place three little falafels on top of that, and those are frosted with dark tahini sauce. We serve it with whatever we’re pickling in season. Right now we’re pickling fiddleheads and green almonds.”