This summer I tried cooking something new. Falafel, made from chickpeas, is a mainstay in the cuisine of the Middle East. But they are new to me. My inspiration comes from the tiny but innovative New Orleans’ restaurant, “1000 Figs,” and their food truck, “The Fat Falafel.” The falafel was soft and flavorful, elegantly served. I was inspired to make my own. Here’s how the cooking adventure turned out.
Falafel is made from chickpeas which are lentils. They are very healthy; high in protein and fiber. They fit into the Mediterranean meal pattern, too. While falafel is found on menus of local Lebanese and Greek restaurants, I’d never paid much attention to them. The New Orleans restaurant, “1000 Figs,” features falafel as the mainstay of their menu. When we ate at the restaurant this summer, it provided a new perspective on this food. The falafel was very tasty and elegantly served with interesting pickled vegetables and dips.
Falafel: Middle East Fast-Food
From everything I’ve read and heard, falafel is the fast food and staple of the Middle East. It is served in some variation in every country–Lebanon, Israel, Egypt and others. Street vendors sell falafel for lunch. My daughter attests to this. During a visit to Israel last year, she ate falafel every day for lunch; purchased from a street vendor.
Now I have several comparisons and know sort of what I’m aiming for.
Chickpeas or Garbanzo Beans
Falafels are made from chickpeas–the same thing as garbanzo beans. I first encountered garbanzo beans on a salad bar. Crunchy, sort of nutty–they add a little sustenance to a salad.
Falafel is made from dried chickpeas which have been soaked overnight. The beans are not cooked further–apparently cooked chickpeas are soft and mushy and don’t work in falafel. The black specks in the pot are parts of the washed off skin. Most of the recipes that I reviewed on the internet claimed that canned chickpeas won’t work. So I went with the recommendations and used dried beans.Here are the ingredients for my first version of falafel. The seasonings to go along with the chickpeas are onion, garlic, cloves and parsley. The spices that I’m using are cumin, coriander and red pepper flakes. The chickpeas are rather bland, and they can accommodate spicy seasonings.
The ingredients are blended in a food processor. The chickpeas should be pulsed until they are ground up finely, but not pureed. A little flour helps hold the beans together and often baking powder is added to help them “poof up.” I tried using self-rising flour.
I served them with pickled vegetables and a sauce. The 1000 Figs restaurant included finely sliced and pickled beet and carrots. I made my own; and will share the recipe in another post.I thought I could do better with the falafel recipe, so for a second try, I used canned garbanzo beans and added more baking powder.I pulsed the mixture to a paste. These held together without chilling.
And here is my final recipe which is a combination of several sources. The canned garbanzo beans/chickpeas worked well, so they are included in this recipe.
Falafel by MayleesKitchen
- 2-16 oz cans garbanzo beans/chickpeas, drained (3 cups)
- 1 small white onion (1/2 cup)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
- 2 Tbsp flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- Peanut oil for frying
- Pickled vegetables, Tzatziki sauce, hummus, pita bread (optional)
Method and Steps
- Drain the garbanzo beans/chickpeas and set aside.
- In food processor, pulse onion and garlic until finely chopped.
- Add garbanzo beans, parsley, flour, salt, ground cumin, ground coriander and red pepper flakes. Pulse and chop until a paste consistency.
- If the mixture does not hold together, refrigerate for a hour.
- Then, form into balls using a 2 Tbsp measuring cup or tablespoon.
- Heat peanut oil, an inch or two deep, to 325 degrees, in a deep skillet, wok or deep fat fryer.
- Fry a several falafels at a time until golden brown, avoid overcrowding the oil. Turn over after a minute. Fry for about 2 minutes total time.
- Remove from fryer and drain. Let fryer return to temperature and continue frying batches.
- If desired, serve with pickled vegetables, Tzatziki Sauce (yogurt/cucumber sauce), hummus and pita bread.
So, now I’ve tried a new food and recipe, thanks to our adventures in dining in New Orleans. The falafel is tasty — especially with the yogurt sauce and pickled vegetables. A very healthy vegetarian meal.
If you visit New Orleans, I suggest this restaurant, 1000 Figs.