Move Over, Big Mac

Middle Eastern food is pretty much the best thing that has ever happened as far as I’m concerned.  Each individual dish is so simple and unassuming, and yet when presented together with other dishes, Middle Eastern food creates a beautiful and harmonious spread like no other cuisine I know.  Skewered and grilled lamb with herbs and olive oil, ground walnut stew with pomegranate, tangy salads of tomatoes, cukes, onion and citrus, and the quintessential Middle Eastern food, falafel.

For me, a falafel sandwich is as good if not better than the best American burger. Thought to have originated as a meatless meal to be offered during Lent, falafel has become a sought after street food all over Europe and the U.S. And can you blame us? It’s healthy, it’s cheap, and it’s incredibly delicious.

Learning to make falafel at home is incredibly rewarding because there is simply nothing else like it. Buy your favorite pita, add your favorite sauce, and dress it up with tomato, cukes, sprouts, pickles, olives, and whatever else you like.

Falafel

For the falafel:

2 cups cooked garbanzo beans, either from one 28 oz. can or from approximately 1 cup dry beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 onion, large dice

2-3 cloves garlic, chopped into a few pieces

2 tsp. cumin

2 tsp. coriander

2 tsp. curry powder (optional, but I really like it)

1 1/2 tsp. salt

handful of Italian parsley leaves

1 C. garbanzo flour or garbanzo/fava bean flour.  I like Bob’s Red Mill brand.

juice of 1 lemon

1/4 cup cold water, more if necessary

Olive oil for pan-frying

Pulse the cooked, rinsed garbanzos in the food processor until roughly chopped, 6-10 times.  Transfer to a large bowl.  Pulse the onion, garlic, spices, salt, lemon juice and parsley in the food processor until finely chopped.  Transfer to the same bowl with the garbanzos.  Add the garbanzo/fava flour and the water and mix thoroughly.  The consistency should be like a soft cookie dough – sticky, but it will hold together in a ball.  Add more water or garbanzo flour if necessary to achieve this consistency and then refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 24 hours.  The cold dough will be much easier to work with.

When you are ready to cook your falafel, heat a wide nonstick pan over medium high heat.  Once hot, swirl in a layer of olive oil.  Use enough that it thoroughly coats the bottom of the pan when the pan is just sitting untouched – 1/8” – 1/4” of an inch.  Moisten your hands with cold water.  This will make the dough much easier to handle. Form the falafels into small disks or burger shapes, about 1/2” thick and carefully place them into the oil.  Fry on both sides, turning once, until deep golden brown, about 1 1/2 – 2 minutes per side. Transfer to paper towels to cool slightly. You will need to add a little more oil to the pan between each batch.

Serve the falafels in pitas, on buns, or on their own. Drizzle with a simple tahini sauce (just tahini, lemon and salt), or try them with tsatziki or eggplant spread. A simple salad of tomato, onion, olive oil, and salt is perfect alongside.

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