Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Falafel Dinner - part one - baked falafel

I've been struggling to figure out how to post this one.   It's a meal with a bunch of recipes, and it's too much to fit in one post, because several of the recipes would stand on their own.   So we'll do a multi-parter.

This is pretty exciting (if you're me) because we successfully made baked falafel, pita bread, hummus (not that exciting, I make it all the time) and other accessories for a full on falafel dinner.  So I think we'll do this in parts.  Today, falafel.

I never really had falafel until I went to Temple, where it was easily accessible on campus.  Then I didn't have it again until I moved to Philadelphia.   I'm a sucker for Maoz and The Pita Pit and all the other Center City falafel joints.  Sous Chef Brian's experiences with falafel were all about some time he spent in Europe in the late 90s, until I took him to Maoz a couple years ago.

I had imagined making falafel would be difficult, but it was not.

I read a ton of falfel recipes in preparation.  The thing is, everyone seems to have their own way.  Some use breadcrumbs, some use egg, some use breadcrumbs and egg, and some just use chickpeas and seasonings (I'm not even getting into the fava bean approach).   Of course, my way is to not follow any particular recipe, so I was torn.   Which of the many elements I saw should I incorporate?

I decided simpler was best - these were delicious but there's definitely an element of fail that I'll get into later.  Still, this is a "recipe" I'll re-use and an approach I'd recommend.

I started with canned chickpeas, simply because I didn't plan ahead.   I think it's always best to use dried beans, but in reality, I use canned fairly often.   I had a 25oz can, and from it I took 2 cups of chickpeas and reserved the others for the hummus you'll see in a couple of days.

 And I grabbed a big pile of both cilantro and flat leaf parsley (my house smelled so good!).

I can't tell the difference between the two of these without smelling them.  So I'm the girl in the grocery store sniffing the herbs.  I'm sure if you're one of those anti-cilantro people you could just use more parsley.   

and chopped them up.

I realize now I spent some time chopping these when they were going to go into the processor anyhow.  Just take the stems out and throw them in your stock bag.

I rough chopped some onion

And peeled some garlic (hit it with the side of a knife).

Then I looked at my bowl of food, and at my "food processor" and sighed.

So in several batches, I pulsed it until it was all chopped to about the same level of tiny.   This took SEVEN BATCHES in my tiny processor.  You could also use a mortar and pestle, if you want to do it faster than I did.  

This is what the texture looked like when I decided I was "done."

You want it to be more textured than just paste, but shapable.

Then I added spices.  Paprika, cumin, salt, dash of cayenne.

and a teaspoon of baking powder.

and three and a half tablespoons of flour - I used whole wheat. 

I mixed everything together well, and tested whether it would form a ball.

It did. So I covered it and put it in the fridge for a bit, while I made other things. This is, apparently, controversial. Some recipes say to spread it out to dry at this point, others say to use it immediately, but as with everything, I figured it'd be more convenient to let that sit and address something else, so that's what worked for me. It was in the fridge almost two hours. I bet just getting it cold would be fine. 

When I was ready to cook them, I rolled them into small balls, about the size of a ping-pong ball.

And here's where the fail came in.   I tried to fry them.   It didn't work.   They fell apart.  So they're healthy by default.   I had to bake them.   I honestly don't think the baked falafel are missing anything, so I'm glad it worked out this way.

I read a lot of recipe reviews that talked about them falling apart.  Maybe that's why you use egg and breadcrumbs?  Just bake them.

Once I recovered from the frying, I set my oven to 375.  It was already pre-heated from the pita bread I'll show you in the next couple of days.   I put a silicone mat on a rimmed baking sheet and brushed the mat liberally with olive oil.   I laid out the remaining falafel (still plenty for three of us for dinner, even after the frying incident) on the baking sheet in the oil.   After about 15 minutes, when the underside was brown and crispy, I flipped them over and gave them another 15.

That's it - crunchy on the outside, creamy in the middle, full of flavor and healthy.  

You can dip these in your favorite sauce, or make a sandwich - I'll post sandwich goodies in the next couple of days, but you could use lettuce, tomato, cabbage, pickled anything, hot sauce, tzatziki sauce, feta, whatever works for you.

Pictured here with roasted cauliflower, yogurt sauce and hot sauce.
I'd recommend a different recipe, if you're frying them, but why fry when they're awesome baked?

Are you falafel fan?  Fried or baked?  What are your required falafel sandwich toppings? Let me know in the comments.

print recipe

Baked Falafel
A less oil, less mess way to get crispy falafel
  • 2 cups chickpeas
  • 3/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 3/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 large onion, minced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 1/3 tablespoons whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Put everything except the oil in a food processor. Whirr until minced finely, but not pureed. (I do this in batches).Test consistency by shaping a ball with the mixture. If a ball doesn't form, add more flour (if too wet) or a bit of water (if too dry). Once ball forms, place mixture in refrigerator for at least 1 hour.Preheat oven to 375.Oil a baking sheet liberally (I did it on a silicone mat) and form ping pong ball sized falafels. Set the balls on the oiled pan and bake 15 minutes, or until bottoms are brown and crispy.Flip and bake another 10 - 15 minutes until browned and crispy on both sides.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 5-6 servings

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