I love it when I learn how to make something I’ve never made before, especially when it’s dead easy, and even good for me.
I was grumpy when I got home. I didn’t have a plan for dinner. I wanted so badly to order Inglewood Pizza. As is often the case, my mind was changed by wilting produce – in this case a bunch of cilantro in the fridge that was worth about 58 cents. One of my biggest pet peeves is buying produce, letting it go slimy in the fridge, and throwing it in the compost bin.
I had the idea about a week ago to stuff a chicken with crumbled falafel, and the thought has been rattling around in my head ever since. I’ve only ever made falafel with a mix, so I looked up a recipe on epicurious. Turns out it’s as easy to make falafel as it is to make hummus. Of course – why wouldn’t it be? I just never really thought about it. This particular recipe called for fresh parsley and cilantro, and I just happened to have both. I’m sure you could get away with using either, or neither.
The recipe I used was a good one, all it required of the cook was a few pulses in the food processor, but we found it far too salty. (It called for a full teaspoon of salt, and canned beans are always saltier than dried – rinse them well to get rid of as much sodium as possible.) As I was patting myself on the back for making falafel from scratch in under 15 minutes, I came to the line: “Turn into a bowl and refrigerate, covered, for several hours.”
So as any sane person would do, I ignored it. The falafel turned out perfectly. They might have been better after a rest, who knows. I put out a plate of them with some whole wheat pita, tzatziki, chopped tomatoes and cucumbers. They were too garlicky and salty for W, but worked for us. (The original recipe called for a full teaspoon of salt – in this version below I’ve cut it down to 1/4 tsp.)
1 19 oz. (540 mL) can chick peas, rinsed and drained
1 small onion, chopped
2-4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. salt
pinch dried chili flakes
1/4 cup all-purpose or whole wheat flour (plus extra, if needed)
1 tsp. baking powder
canola oil, for frying
Put the chick peas, onion, garlic, parsley, cilantro, cumin, salt and chili flakes in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until combined but not smooth. Add the flour and baking powder and pulse until you have a soft mixture that you can roll into balls without sticking to your hands. Add another spoonful or so of flour, if you need to.
Roll the dough into meatball-sized balls, and if you like, flatten each into a little pattie. I like doing this for maximum surface area, which equals more crunch. (They also cook through more quickly as the distance between the middle to the exterior is shorter.)
In a shallow pot or skillet, heat about 1/2″ of canola oil until it’s hot but not smoking. Test it with a bit of falafel mixture or a scrap of bread – the oil should bubble up around it. Cook the falafel for a few minutes per side, without crowding the pan (which will cool down the oil), until they are golden. Transfer to paper towels. (You could get away with using just a skiff of oil – if you do this, best to leave the falafels round, so that you can roll them around in the pan to brown all sides.)
Serve in pitas with tzatziki, chopped cucumber, purple onion and tomato.
Makes about 20 falafel balls or patties.
Regular yogurt, preferably thick Greek yogurt, is far superior to the runny low fat or fat free varieties that are most commonly found at the grocery store. Even ‘full fat’ yogurts generally only contain about 3 grams per half cup, and it’s much more delicious and satisfying.
1 small English cucumber, unpeeled
1 – 2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 cups good quality plain yogurt, preferably Balkan-style
Salt & pepper to taste
Grate the cucumber with a box grater onto a double thickness of paper towel. Gather up the cucumber in the towel and squeeze out as much excess water as you can. (If you don’t mind runnier tzatziki, you can skip this step.)
Combine cucumber, garlic, yogurt, salt and pepper in a bowl and stir until well blended. If you like, add a squeeze or lemon. The garlic flavor will intensify the longer it sits.
Makes 2 1/2 – 3 cups.
Per 1/3 cup: 45 calories, 1 g total fat (0.6 g saturated fat, 0.3 g monounsaturated fat, 0.1 g polyunsaturated fat), 3.5 g protein, 5.6 g carbohydrate, 3.7 mg cholesterol, 0.3 g fiber. 20% calories from fat.