I was first introduced to falafel, as I imagine many girls from suburban Long Island are, in college. One of my girlfriends lived in the East Village in a cozy little studio (way cooler than the dorm rooms and shared bathrooms I endured until I was 20) where she also happened to live around the corner from one of the best falafel shops.
The little vegetarian balls of goodness were perfectly golden and crispy on the outside, and soft, fluffy and a little spicy on the inside. Five dollars got you a pita heaving with falafel, salad, tahini and chili sauce to go. The perfect dinner prior to a night out with the girls.
I’ve made a few attempts at my own non-fried version. I’ve tried baking them, using both cooked canned chickpeas and dried but soaked chickpeas; and sauteing them using different binding agents and methods.
This has been my favorite attempt yet.
While these don’t quite hit the mark on crunch-factor (but let’s be real, that’s a hard thing to achieve without a deep fry) but the taste is perfect – zesty, fresh, and a little spicy.
Add a warm pita, good tahini spread and some hot sauce and I’m transported back to my younger days of frolicking around lower Manhattan with my favorite ladies.
Falafel with Fixings
recipe adapted from Just a Taste
- 1 cup roughly chopped green onion
- 6 garlic cloves
- 1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas, drained
- 1 cup lightly packed parsley leaves
- ½ cup lightly packed cilantro leaves
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1.2 teaspoon red chilli flakes
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ cup spelt flour
- Olive oil
For the tahini sauce:
- ¼ cup tahini (sesame paste)
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2-4 tablespoons warm water
- 1 garlic clove, grated on a microplane or crushed
- salt & pepper
- Pita bread
- Chopped tomato, cucumber and red onion salad
- Tahini Sauce (above)
- Hot sauce (I prefer Franks Red Hot Sauce on such occasions)
Place green onion and garlic in a food processor and pulse just until they are finely chopped. Remove the mixture and set aside.
Add chickpeas, parsley, cilantro, salt, chili flakes, and cumin to the food processor and pulse until they are roughly chopped but not pureed.
Return the onion mixture to the food processor, along with the baking powder and just enough flour so that when you pulse the processor, the mixture begins to form a small ball and is not sticky. (You can add more flour if the mixture is too wet.)
Transfer the falafel mixture to a bowl, cover and refrigerate it for 1 hour.
While the falafel mixture is chilling, prepare the tahini sauce by whisking together the tahini, lemon juice, garlic and water. Add more water if necessary, you want a slightly runny/spreadable sauce. Season it with salt and pepper and place it in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.
Once the falafel mixture has chilled, use a spoon to form the mixture into balls, about 2-3 tablespoons each. (You can also add additional flour at this point, if the mixture is too wet to scoop.)
Heat a large pan over medium heat with a generous glug of oil to well-coat the pan. Allow the pan to fully heat up (about 3 or 4 minutes) then add the falafel one by one, browning them on the first side for 3 minutes, then flipping them once and browning the other side until the mixture is cooked throughout.
Transfer the falafel to a paper towel-lined cooling wrack and immediately season them with salt. Repeat this process until you have cooked all of the falafel.
Place 2 or 3 falafel inside a halved, warmed pita with tahini sauce and chopped salad. (And hot sauce, if desired.)