Every now and then, my husband and I get a craving for falafels (Middle Eastern chickpea fritters best smothered in a spicy tahini sauce and served on a thick pita). I’ve been hearing rumors about a falafel joint coming to Hudson, NY. Until it materializes, we’ll have to make our own to get our fix.
The first thing about making falafels that struck me was that you don’t use cooked chickpeas. In fact, if you try this recipe with cooked chickpeas, it will most likely fall apart. Dried chickpeas are key. You can usually find dried chickpeas in bulk sections of health food stores.
Chickpeas’ nutritional claim to fame, like other beans, is that they are an excellent source of dietary fiber, which helps to lower cholesterol. They are also an excellent source of folate and magnesium and a good source of iron. I like to toss in turmeric for its anti-inflammatory properties and flax seeds for a dose of brain-healthy omega 3s.
Most falafels are fried. I don’t have a problem with fried food, as long as it is fried in good oil (like coconut oil or ghee), but I prefer to bake falafels. Instead of frying a few at a time in batches, I can place all of the patties in the oven and work on the tahini sauce (or the dishes!) while they are baking.
Falafels are traditionally round balls. I find that flat patties work better, especially if you aren’t using a deep fryer. Plus they are easier to eat. Flat falafels are less likely to bust a seam in your pita. Nobody likes busted pita bread!
This recipe is adapted from a Tyler Florence recipe (his version is fried).
2 cups dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
6 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon cumin seeds (substitute ground cumin)
1 tablespoon coriander seeds (substitute ground coriander seeds)
1 tablespoon turmeric powder (optional)
1 tablespoon ground flax seeds (optional)
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 pieces of whole wheat pita bread
Mixed greens, chopped tomatoes, chopped cucumbers and diced onion for garnish (any combo of these will do).
- Place dried chickpeas in a large bowl, cover with water and soak them overnight (or up to 24 hours). Add more water, if needed. Drain and rinse thoroughly.
- Place cumin and coriander seeds in a heavy bottom pan (I use a cast iron frying pan). Heat over medium-high heat until fragrant (3 to 5 minutes). Grind in a spice or coffee grinder.
- Place the soaked chickpeas in a food processor and pulse to coarsely grind.
- Add the baking powder, onion, garlic, spices and herbs; process until the mixture is pureed.
- Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate for 20 minutes (this can be made a day in advance).
- Heat oven to 400º F.
- Generously coat a baking sheet with olive oil (three tablespoons). The oil will give it a nice crust.
- Form small patties with falafel mixture and place on prepared baking sheet.
- Bake for 10 to 15 minutes on each side. You want a nice golden brown crust.
- Open the pita bread halves to make pockets (careful not to split all the way) and place two to three falafel patties into each. Drizzle with the tahini sauce and/or hot sauce and top with greens, onions, tomatoes and cucumbers.
Makes 10 to 12 patties.