Falafel

falafel

I preached at church this morning and feel exhausted afterward.  I joked up there that being shy isn't one of my issues (clearly), so I don't think I'm tired from stress. Probably from communicating in the gung-ho way I generally do.  Restraint and subtlety have never been my strong suites.  And still, eyes droopy, I'm here to talk about food, which is surely a sign of my food-always-on-the-brain disorder.

preaching prep

My friend Priya, most loyal In Praise of Leftovers fan, said I should consider NOT posting so many bean recipes in a row. Though I make a living teaching people how to give and receive feedback, I'm going to ignore hers.  She's right--BORING!--but this blog goes how my life goes, so you'll have to hang in there.  And didn't we just have a week of chocolate?  I suppose there are some bloggers who might alternate beans and chocolate like a string of beads, but they are kinder, better people.

We ate these falafels 3 nights in a row last week, and they were perfect--crunchy and golden on the outside, fluffy and garlicky inside. One night, wrapped in warm pita.  Another, in tortillas cause the pita was gone.  And then I made little mini-burgers with them--smashed two falafels on a toasted roll slathered with mayo and some Sambal Oelek, added arugula, mint, and tomato from the garden. Lord, those were good.  Then, my sister and her family happened to be here at lunchtime, and I used up the rest for them and promised the recipe.

mini falafel burger

In the early '80's, growing up in Bellingham, there was a falafel and frozen yogurt place our family went to.  I have a feeling it was called Mulberry's--is that right, Mom?  It was all hippie in there and right about the time it was becoming more mainstream to to eat carob and whole grains.  (Thankfully, carob has fallen out of fashion and whole grains have stayed). My mom used to buy falafel mix from the co-op.  Does this explain a lot about me?  No cream of mushroom soup in my house.

Now, I love to go to University Avenue and re-live my college days, perched on a stool in one of those falafel shops, impossibly loud Middle Eastern music in the background.  Those are good, but these are better.

Falafel
Adapted from Epicurious.  Of course, I used dried chickpeas and soaked them overnight.  I can't vouch for how they'd turn out if you use canned ones.  I think if you do, just make sure they're not too wet when you add them.  Rinse them, then drain really well.  Also, you MUST refrigerate your mixture before forming them into balls.  They'll fall apart otherwise.

I made a double batch of these--that's how we got four meals out of them!  One batch makes about 20 fritters.  If you're scared of deep-frying, I hear you.  These are almost greaseless, though, and pretty hard to screw up.  I have a candy thermometer, which I stuck in the oil to make sure it was around 350.  If you don't have a thermometer, look for your falafel to sizzle when you throw it in, making a little ring of bubbles around it.  They should take about two minutes per side.  If they're getting dark before that, it means your oil is too hot.  Test one before you do the whole batch.

1 cup dried chickpeas or 1 15 oz. can chickpeas
1/2 large onion, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon salt
1/2-1 teaspoon dried hot red pepper
4 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon baking powder
4-6 tablespoons flour
Soybean or vegetable oil for frying

Possible accompaniments/garnishes:
Greens

Sliced tomato and cucumber
Feta cheese
Plain yogurt mixed with Tahina sauce, lemon juice, and salt
Greek olives
Warm pita bread
Chopped parsely
Hot sauce

Put the chickpeas in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover them by at least 2 inches. Let soak overnight, then drain. Or use canned chickpeas, drained.

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.

Sprinkle in the baking powder and 4 tablespoons of the flour, and pulse. You want to add enough flour so that the dough forms a small ball and no longer sticks to your hands. Turn into a bowl and refrigerate, covered, for several hours.

Form the chickpea mixture into balls about the size of walnuts.

Heat 3 inches of oil to 375 degrees in a deep pot or wok and fry 1 ball to test. If it 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.

Serve with accompaniments on a platter, or make a salad or sandwiches.