Clearly the muse of cooking (there’s one of those, right? ;)) was holding a grudge against me as she did not inspire me to make falafel until this week. I haven’t been this excited about something I’ve made in a long time. They’re like falafel you could get at a restaurant. Except I made them. :)
Of note: Falafel are not made with cooked beans. Who knew? And in many places they are made with fava beans instead of chickpeas. (Ah, the internet–I’m an expert already.) Although the beans are not cooked, they are soaked, so you need to plan ahead.
I didn’t want to mess with deep frying. (Too much oil, and I was a little leery after reading that many people had difficulties.) I pan-fried half and baked the other half.
- 2 cups dried chickpeas, picked through
- 1 small onion, roughly chopped
- 5 cloves of garlic, smashed
- 1 cup of fresh parsley leaves
- 1/4 cup za’atar
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- Place the dried chickpeas in a large bowl or pot and cover with cool water. Soak for 18 to 24 hours. Dump and replace the water a couple times during that period. The beans should double to triple in size.
- When beans are ready, drain off the water. Place the beans plus the rest of the ingredients into a food processor. Pulse until mixture is coarsely ground, but not pureed. Adjust seasoning if necessary.
- Chill mixture in refrigerator for 15 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a large cookie sheet.
- Remove chilled chickpea mixture from the refrigerator. Form into patties/balls and place on cookie sheet.
- Bake for around 20 minutes, until heated all the way through.
- Remove and serve.
- Remove chilled chickpea mixture from the refrigerator. Form into patties/balls. Set aside.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1-2 tablespoons of oil.
- Once oil is shimmering, gently place falafel in the skillet. Allow falafel to cook for a few minutes, until brown on the bottom. Flip and cook a few minutes more. Repeat until all falafel have been fried. Serve.
(Makes about 30 falafel)
The ground chickpea mixture is not very sticky. You will be thinking “there’s no way this is going to work, these are going to fall apart” the whole time you’re trying to form the patties. Just handle them gently and try not to sweat it.
About za’atar: It’s complicated. It’s used to refer to certain herbs, but also used to refer to herb mixtures made out of those herbs. It’s one of those things where everyone has their own way of making it. The mix I have includes sesame seeds, sumac, oregano, thyme and savory. (Which I got from my awesome sister-in-law who sent me an “esoteric grab bag of spices” a while back, thanks lady!) You can try to find those things, or try and find a za’atar mix, or skip it completely and go for more typical falafel seasoning of coriander and cumin.
Have all your accompaniments ready. You want to eat the falafel while they’re hot. I made a salad out of diced cucumber, red bell pepper and red onion. I also made a lemon-tahini sauce using almost-equal parts tahini, lemon juice and plain yogurt (a little more tahini and lemon, a little less yogurt). Thin with a little water and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Both cooking methods worked just fine. And they both were tasty. With pan-frying the trick is to let the falafel sit once they hit the pan so that they form a nice crust that holds them together.
With baking, there aren’t really any tricks. The baked version had less browning. When I make them again I’ll probably pan-fry them all. (Oh how I love you Maillard reaction.) But if you’re more health concerned, baking is probably for you.