First of all, you all need to go check out these awesome pictures of Walter. My recent favorite:
OK. With that out of the way, it’s time to talk falafel.
In Seattle (and in many other cities, I’m sure) it’s pretty easy to find a gyro joint that sells falafel sandwiches. This place is in our neighborhood and is quite good (despite the weirdly ambivalent Yelp reviews), and there’s also the excellent Mediterranean Mix in Pioneer Square. But when it comes to home falafelling, I hadn’t had much luck. There are plenty of recipes online that have you start with canned chickpeas, but these don’t work. Falafel is made from soaked, uncooked chickpeas that have been ground into a paste. If you start with pre-cooked or canned, your falafels will be way too soft, and will fall apart when you fry them.
So what do you do? You think ahead. The night before you want to make these guys, soak some dry chickpeas in lots of cold water. The next day, they’ll be tripled in size but not tender at all – sort of mealy and crumbly inside. Then you blitz them in a food processor or blender with some spices and aromatics and fry ’em up.
A note on the food processor: I don’t have one. If, like me, you only have a trusty immersion blender, here’s a neat trick: instead of draining the chickpeas completely, puree them with their water, then strain the water out. This will also work if you’re using an everyday blender (as opposed to one that can, you know, crush iPads).
I like to serve these in pitas, but they would also be great atop some greens as a quick salad, or even on their own as an appetizer.
makes a whole bunch of little falafels, serving 4-6 in sandwiches
adapted from Mark Bittman’s The Best Recipes in the World
- 2 cups dried chickpeas
- about 15 chives (and/or 2 cloves garlic and 1/2 bunch parsley)
- 1 small onion
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 1/2 teaspoons salt (this seems like a lot — don’t worry)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 egg
- oil, for frying
Soak the chickpeas in lots of cold water overnight (use enough water and a large enough bowl – they will triple in volume).
If you have a food processor: Drain the chickpeas. Combine the chickpeas and everything else but the oil (halve the onion and cut the vegetables into chunks, but you don’t need to do any mincing) in the bowl of your food processor and pulse until it comes together in a chunky puree.
If you have an immersion blender or a regular blender: Mince the chives, garlic and parsley (if using), and onion and set them aside. Do not drain the chickpeas. Blend them with their liquid until everything seems pretty smooth. Drain well in a fine-mesh strainer, stirring occasionally to make sure that most of the liquid is strained out. Combine the chickpeas, chopped vegetables, and the rest of the ingredients except for the oil in a large bowl.
Either way: You should have a pretty dry, crumbly puree. If you have time, refrigerate for a few hours to let it firm up.
Place a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. When it’s hot, place tablespoon-sized balls of batter in the pan (you will have to do several batches). They will seem too crumbly to hold together, but it will all work out. Let cook undisturbed for about 4-5 minutes, or until deeply browned, then carefully flip with two spatulas and cook the other size. Remove to a paper-towel lined cookie sheet and repeat, adding more oil as necessary. When you are done, you will have a bunch of crumbles left in the pan – these are delicious (but oily), and you can drain them on paper towels and sprinkle over rice.
Serve the falafels with pita bread, tomatoes, chopped raw onion, shredded lettuce, and tahini sauceTahini sauce (this recipe looks good – for a more streamlined one, just mix 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup tahini, juice of 1/2 lemon, 1/4 cup yogurt, and a big pinch of salt) or hummus.