Photo by L.G. Patterson
Crispy deliciousness, drizzled with a tangy sauce; beyond that I am not sure how to describe falafel. Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans (no, I don’t know the difference between a bean and a pea), make up the delicious falafel. OK, I had to look it up, and now I am even more confused. A chickpea/ garbanzo bean is a legume, but not just a legume; it is the edible seed of a legume, making it a pulse. I hope that clears it up. If not, remember the pod is the legume, but the pea inside the pod is a pulse. The soaked chickpeas are mixed with aromatic vegetables, herbs and spices and fried. This makes one of the most delicious savory dishes ever invented. When cooked properly, the falafel has an insanely crisp exterior (chickpeas and chickpea flour are known for their extremely crisp fried texture), as well as a moist and flavorful interior. This Middle Eastern dish can be served alone, with a sauce, or stuffed into a delicious pita bread with complementary accompaniments.
You may want to use canned chickpeas. I always want to, but it does not work. The canned chickpeas are already cooked and waterlogged, and if you add enough chickpea flour to get the mixture to hold together, it is a gummy paste that fries up more dough balls than falafel goodness. Dried chickpeas soaked in cold water at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours makes a world of difference for the final product. They have a nice crisp exterior and a crumbly, yet moist interior. The final grind of the product should look slightly coarser than coffee grounds but finer than gravel.
ONIONS AND GARLIC
Onions, garlic, herbs and spices add life to the falafel. The chickpeas on their own add texture and body, but the smells, taste and even the color come from all the other ingredients. Start with the onions, garlic and herbs in the food processor. To get an even distribution, you want them to be fairly smooth. Grind the herbs and spices first, by themselves. If you have the chickpeas in as well, you could quickly get overly pureed and it might become a gummy mess. Grind the chickpeas for a second, if there happens to be some herbs, garlic or onions left in the processor, it’s fine, you are going to mix them all anyway.
Parsley and cilantro add a nice burst of freshness and color; if you can find mint, it also adds another layer of contrast. The herbs, along with some of the parsley and cilantro stems can be added to the food processor first. This allows them to puree smoothly, and easily distribute through the mixture.
- 1 lb chickpeas, soaked in water
- 4-6 garlic cloves
- 1 small onion, roughly chopped half large onion
- 1 bunch parsley about 1 cup
- 1/2 cup mint leaves optional
- 1 tsp whole cumin seeds, toasted and crushed
- 1 tsp whole coriander seeds, toasted and crushed
- 1 small jalapeno
- 2-3 tbsp tahini
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2-1 juice from whole lemon 1-2 ounces
- Salt and pepper as needed
- Chickpea flour as needed, 2-4 tbsp
- Oil as needed
- Tahini sauce see recipe below
- Soak chickpeas in cold water for 12 to 24 hours at room temperature before use (water should be 4 to 5inches above chickpeas).
- Blend the garlic, onion, herbs, toasted and crushed spices, jalapeno and tahini to smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, using your hand, press down the mixture and discard the excess liquid. Drain the chickpeas and add the soaked chickpeas to the food processor, and pulse several times until the mixture is less coarse than gravel, but more coarse than coffee grounds. Add the blended chickpeas to the herb mixture, then add in the lemon juice and baking soda, and season with salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly and fry a small test patty, taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
- Form the mixture into golf ball-sized disks or spheres. Fry in oil at a temperature of 330 to 350 degrees for about 5 to 6 minutes, flipping or rolling about halfway through. They should be brown and crispy on the outside, and moist, but heated all the way through on the inside. Remove and rest on a rack or paper towel until ready to serve.
- Make tahini sauce (see below), or tzatziki sauce, add tomatoes, cucumber, pickles or other desired accompaniments in a pita, or on a salad as desired and serve.
- 3-4 tbsp tahini
- 1-2 garlic cloves, pasted
- 1 juice of a lemon
- 1-3 ounces cold water
- Pinch Cumin
- Salt to taste
- Mix tahini, garlic paste and lemon juice in a bowl. It will emulsify, thickening the mixture. Depending on the type/brand of tahini you use, you may have to add a few tablespoons to three ounces, maybe more of water to achieve the desired sauce consistency.
- Adjust with cumin, salt and more lemon juice as needed.