Before I tell you about the fun I’ve had with falafel lately, I wanted to bring your attention to an article that really brings home the importance of Meatless Monday. A new study suggests that cutting meat out of your diet for even less than one day a week has a greater impact on reducing greenhouses gasses than eating local 100 percent of the time. I highly suggest you read the full article here, and of course eat meatless on Mondays (or any day that works for you!)
So, now, on to falafel. I love the stuff. What’s not to love about chickpeas, garlic, herbs and lots of oil. Throw it in a soft warm pita with tahini, tomatoes, lettuce and a hearty amount of hot sauce and you get a meatless meal that will make you forget the cows! What can I say, the Mediterraneans really know how to do meatless right.
Even a fantastic falafel needs a few accoutrements. People will get very animated when you ask them what belongs on a falafel sandwich telling you how it’s not authentic unless it includes toppings like pickles, tabouli, harrissa, hummus, cabbage, olives, cucumbers, onions, peppers, tomatoes, lettuce and tahini. I think less is more. I think the more you add, the less you taste the falafel, so I want only a few toppings. I believe any successful sandwich contains four elements; a bread, a protein, a sauce, and a crunch (we could argue this but I’ll win – even pb&j is better with crunchy peanut butter – oh yes it is!). My falafel sandwich uses fresh pita from my local Mediterranean store, a yummy tahini sauce with a hint of garlic in it, lots of warm falafel and a handful of fresh lettuce and sliced tomatoes. If you want to add a little heat, I think a splash of hot sauce is great (even if Crystal Hot Sauce isn’t local to Tel Aviv!). Enjoy!
Joan Nathan is a genius when it comes to kosher cooking and the regional cooking of Israel. I knew I wanted an Israeli style fritter, so I chose her recipe and then made a few changes. You can see her original recipe here: Joan Nathan’s Falafel.
Makes about 20 falafel (enough for 4-5 sandwiches)
1 cup dried chickpeas
1 small onion, roughly chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Oil for frying
You can soak the chickpeas overnight or for twelve hours in cold water like everyone tells you to do, but I never remember to do this the night before and end up following these quicker, easier instructions. Rinse chickpeas in cold water and carefully pick through for stones or debris. Cover chickpeas with cold water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes covered. After ten minutes, turn off the heat and let chickpeas sit in the hot water for one hour. Drain and use in any recipe that calls for canned or reconstituted chickpeas.
In the bowl of a large food processor, combine onion, chickpeas, garlic, parsley, cilantro, cumin, salt, pepper, and cayenne using the pulse setting.
Process about 15 pulses, or until uniformly combined, and the texture is small pieces (kind of like the texture of the minced garlic they sell in jars). Be careful not to over process, you don’t want a chickpea paste!
Refrigerate until cold (three hours or more). Add 1/4 cup of flour and 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and stir until just combined. Scoop out about two tablespoons at a time of falafel and roll into balls.
Heat 1 1/2 inches of oil in a dutch oven or deep pot and heat until a small drop of falafel bubbles immediately. Add enough of the falafel balls to fill the pot with about two inches of space between them.
Fry until the bottom side is dark golden brown and turn over. Once both sides are dark brown, remove to a wire rack over a sheet pan. I keep the rack and pan in the oven set to warm to keep everything hot until I’m ready to put together my sandwiches.
Tahini, or sesame seed paste is the perfect complement to falafel, but plain tahini can be a little cloying. This sauce brightens the flavor with the addition of lemon juice and garlic. This sauce only takes a minute to make, but needs to be used right after making or it will separate. The recipe for the tahini sauce is based on this recipe.
1/2 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup water
In a blender or small food processor combine the tahini, the garlic, the salt and the lemon juice. With the machine running, slowly add the water and continue to mix for another five seconds. Use immediately.
Building the Sandwich
Of course you can pile on any toppings you want, but I stick with a select few. To build my falafel sandwich I start with a large pita and slather on a few tablespoons of tahini sauce. I then add a handful of mixed greens and several slices of tomato.
On top of all of that I place four or five falafel and several glugs of hot sauce. Then all that’s left is wrapping it up and chowing down!
The blueberries are coming, the blueberries are coming…
Oh, and before you go, I need your help. The first of the blueberries have hit the farmer’s market and I’m just a little more than excited about it. Can you help me figure out what to make with the season’s first berries, I’m just overwhelmed by the choices (but at 5.00 a pint they are not exactly a budget meal)? I’ll post whatever ends up winning.