Monday, September 21, 2015

Falafel

The first time I had a falafel was at a salad bar. I was in high school and a bunch of my friends met up for lunch one weekend. I grabbed a falafel because I thought it was a meatball. When I bit into it, I was met with disappointment, not just because it wasn't the meatball I thought it was, but because it was just a sad, soggy, flavorless, mushy mess.

Fast forward a few years and I met up with a couple of my college friends at Mamoun's in St. Mark's. A, the vegetarian of the group, insisted we all try the falafel and I fell in love. Who knew this meatball-wannabe could be so flavorful?

I have to admit that I once tried to make falafel using canned chickpeas and it was a disaster. But, having played around with dried chickpeas for my Dizengoff hummus recreation and realizing that they aren't so scary, I decided I had to have a go at making falafel too. Even though the resultant product wasn't necessarily the prettiest thing, they tasted amazing and I can't wait to make these again (and again, and again). Seriously, I might need to dedicate an entire shelf/shrine in the pantry to dried chickpeas because they're taking over my life and I love them.
Ingredients [yields 12 to 15 falafel]:
½ lb. dried chickpeas (approximately 1 cup)
1 tablespoon baking soda
3 scallions
3 cloves garlic
5 parsley stalks
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon roasted cumin
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
oil for frying
+ pita
+ tzatziki
+ diced tomato
+ diced onion
+ chopped parsley
+ pickles
+ whatever toppings you like - diced cucumbers, hot sauce, feta crumbles, avocado, etc.

The first step is to soak the chickpeas overnight. Add the chickpeas to a container with baking soda and then top it off with water. Make sure there are a few inches of water above the beans, as they will soak up a lot of moisture and end up lovely and plump and increase in volume by at least 2.
The next day, when you're ready to eat, you'll want to prep a few other items in addition to the falafels. If you're so inclined, make a batch of pita. I subbed in a little whole wheat flour because I've been really liking the texture and flavor of the whole wheat in pita bread lately.
This is also a great time to make some tzatziki, chop up some tomatoes and onions, mince some parsley, and get together any other toppings you want to include with your falafel pitas.
Okay, let's get back to the falafels now. Start by chucking the scallions, parsley, and garlic into a food processor. Give the greens a good pulse until they're finely chopped. Then, add in the chickpeas and pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse sand. Process the chickpeas in batches if necessary and do not overcrowd the machine. I did this in two batches.
Dump the chickpea mixture out into a bowl and add in salt, pepper, cumin, coriander, baking powder, and cayenne pepper. Gently toss with a spatula or spoon until the ingredients are evenly mixed throughout.
Use a cookie-scoop (I used a 1½ tablespoon size) to evenly portion out the chickpea mixture and then use your hands to form little balls or patties. Compress them enough so they stay together but not too hard or they'll be dense.
Heat up a pot of oil to 350F and fry the falafels for 3 to 5 minutes or until they're golden brown and crisp.
Drain the falafels on a paper towel-lined plate to wick away the excess oil.
Serve the falafels while they're still hot with pita bread and all the fixin's. We also had a big bowl of Greek-inspired orzo with cucumbers and feta and tomato and lots of lemon and olive oil.
The falafels are seriously delicious. They're spiced well (cumin is my favorite) and they're crisp and the texture of the chickpeas is so nice. They're kind of tender and crumbly on the inside but the pieces of chickpea still have some bite. You just have to experience it for yourself.

The best part is that this entire meal was vegetarian (and would have been vegan if not for the tzatziki) but it's still really satisfying and filling. I mean, I'm a pretty aggressive meat eater - I feel like I need meat at dinner so that I don't wake up in the middle of night with hunger pangs - but falafels are so hearty, I don't miss meat.
Here's the recipe page:

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