Meatless Monday: First-Rate Falafel
I know I urge you to try everything I share with you in this space, but I really, really, really think you should try making falafel. For a long time, I considered the Middle Eastern bean patties one of those kitchen untouchables -- too difficult to make worth my while and better left to the pros manning the street carts.
Truth be known, falafel are much easier and straight forward to put together than they seem, and as a result, feel like a tremendous accomplishment. Everyone is impressed when they hear you’ve just whipped up falafel, which is why they’re great for entertaining. (Super Bowl snacks, anyone?)
If you’re worried about the “fry” factor, let me share a few thoughts -- the patties are swimming in a pool that’s about 350 degrees, which means quick cooking -- about two minutes tops -- and fairly little oil absorption. The patties can also be made in advance and kept warm in a low oven until guests are ready to eat, which means you don’t have to stand over a hot stove while everyone else is having a good time. You can also make the batter and shape the patties a day in advance, as long as you promise to make them the next day (baking powder will conk out after 24 hours).
Besides, how could your body say no to legumes seasoned with garlic, herbs and spices, then drizzled with a zesty sauce of sesame paste, more garlic and lemon? With this lineup, you’re taking good care of the human engine. My preference is to do a sandwich, with either pita, lavash or naan, but falafel also loves to be part of a salad. At this time of year, I go for something heartier, like escarole, and I must confess, I broke down and bought a cucumber flown in from Mexico.
Now, go on, there’s no more time to waste. Soak those chickpeas tonight, and you can thank me in the morning!
Adapted from "Olive Trees and Honey" by Gil Marks
2 cups dried chickpeas (option: substitute fava beans or use a mixture of both)
6-8 scallions, minced, or 1 medium onion, finely chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup fresh cilantro or parsley (or 1/2 cup each), chopped
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Vegetable oil for deep frying (I like grapeseed, peanut or safflower oil)
Cover chickpeas in water and soak for 24 hours. Drain and set aside.
Using a food processor, pulverize chickpeas, but only until they form a paste -- too smooth, and the batter may fall apart when cooking. Add the rest of the ingredients (except the oil) and mix to combine. Batter should be grainy, speckled with herbs, and a shade of pistachio green. Taste for salt.
Refrigerate batter about one hour, until firm. Remove from fridge and shape batter into 1-inch balls (a tablespoon measure is helpful). Don’t fiddle too much with dough. Place on a baking tray and cover with plastic wrap. Return to fridge and chill for an additional 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the tahini sauce (see notes below).
When ready to fry, heat at least one inch of oil (you will use just shy of one quart) over medium heat until
bubbling, it reaches about 350 degrees.
Gently drop patties into hot oil in small batches and fry until golden brown on all sides, about three minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels for draining. Keep warm in a low-heat oven while frying remaining patties.
Serve with pita and tahini sauce and any or all relishes/condiments including raw onions, cucumber, chopped parsley and tomato.
Makes 24-28 falafel patties
In a medium bowl or a food processor, mix together the following:
1 cup tahini paste, stirred well before using
1/4 to 1/2 cup lemon juice
1 to 2 cloves garlic, mashed
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
1/2 cup plain yogurt or water
Blend until smooth; add extra water to make a pourable sauce. Keeps in fridge for a few days.
Makes about 2 cups of sauce.
By Kim ODonnel |
January 26, 2009; 9:05 AM ET
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