I have eaten falafel in Paris . . . in Florence and London . . . but more often at a little hole-in-the-wall place in U.City across from the now defunct Saleem’s (where garlic was king) when I worked at Craft Alliance. If I happened to stay and eat the falafel sandwich there, I always came back to work reeking of garlic and grease (in a good way). Each and every time, it was crumbly chickpeas mixed with spices and lots of parsley (and cilantro?) fried to dark brown perfection. I attempted to recreate it at home using mixes and recipes, but it never came close to what I had experienced near and far until . . .
I had the nerve to try My Favorite Falafel from Epicurious. Why did it take nerve? Raw chickpeas, of course. I was very skeptical of soaking rather than cooking dried chickpeas. I thought the crumbly little bits would be hard as a rock . . . inedible. They are not. Soaking rather than cooking (and using bulgur wheat as a binder) gives the falafel the structure I was looking for. The mixes and recipes that called for canned chickpeas resulted in a mushy chickpea cake that could indeed be awful, awful.
Falafel – the not awful, awful version
adapted from Joan Nathan’s My Favorite Falafel
makes enough for about 8 sandwiches
1 cup dried chickpeas (soaked for at least 8 hours. I started soaking them when I got up in the morning instead of overnight like the original recipe instructs)
1/2 large onion, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon baking powder
4-6 tablespoons fine-medium bulgur wheat (you can also use flour)
Vegetable oil for pan frying (Traditionally falafel is deep fried. I don’t do much deep frying so I pan fry them with good results)
Chopped dill pickle
Harissa or Sriacha (if you like spice)
Tahini yogurt sauce (I make 1/2 a recipe)
Pita bread, warmed
1. Put the chickpeas in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover them by at least 2 inches. Let soak overnight or over the course of the day, then drain.
2. Place the drained, uncooked chickpeas and the onions in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the parsley, cilantro, salt, hot pepper, garlic, and cumin. Process until blended but not pureed. It should be the texture of tabouli.
3. Sprinkle in the baking powder and 4 tablespoons of bulgur or flour, and pulse. You want to add enough bulgur or flour so that the dough forms a small ball and no longer sticks to your hands. Turn into a bowl and refrigerate, covered, for 1 or more hours.
4. Form the chickpea mixture into balls about the size of walnuts and flatten a bit. Mine look like flying saucers.
5. Heat a scant 1/4 c. of oil in a large frying pan (I use cast iron) over medium high heat. If the flying saucer falls apart, add a little flour. Then fry about 6 balls at once for a few minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Repeat until all the mix is used. Stuff half a pita with falafel balls, chopped tomatoes, onion, and dill pickle. Drizzle with yogurt tahini sauce and sriracha or harissa if you like some spice.
I served it with cole slaw.
Alia: A (She liked the pita and falafel, but the toppings and slaw, not so much.)