Let’s Cook Something New: Falafel

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 and Pickled Vegetables - 2 - IMG_8945

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.Israel Falafel - Street Vendor - photo 6

The falafel was placed in a pita bread sandwich along with french fries, hummus and spicy vegetables. She’s not sure what the spicy vegetables were but loved the sandwich.Israel Falafel - Lunch in Israel - photo 1

Here is my daughter and friend on their trip to Israel visiting Masada.Caroline and Friend at Masada Mountain - IMG_1662So I have an authentic falafel taste tester. Israel Falafel - photo 2

Our favorite Greek – Lebanese lunch diner, Serops, includes falefel on their lunch menu. Serap's Falafels - IMG_8960_1

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.Soak Chickpeas - IMG_8925Here 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.Ingredients for Falafel

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.Chickpeas processed in food processor - IMG_8931

Let refrigerate for several hours. These did not hold together without chilling. Press into balls about the size of a walnut and refrigerate a little longer.Falafel ready for frying - IMG_8938

Fry at 350 degrees. I used a wok.Frying Falafel - IMG_8940

Here are the finished falafels. When I compared these falafels to the ones from the Greek/Lebanese restaurant, mine were more course and very crunchy. The flavor was fine. Finished Falafel and falafel ready to fry - IMG_8941

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.falafel-and-dipping-sauce-with-pickled-vegetables-img_8954I thought I could do better with the falafel recipe, so for a second try, I used canned garbanzo beans and added more baking powder.ingredients-for-falafel-2nd-try-img_1230_1I pulsed the mixture to a paste. These held together without chilling.falafel-2nd-try-img_1237_1

This time I used a deep fat fryer for frying – very convenient. Some turned out nicely but others exploded. Next time I’ll omit the baking powder.fried-falafel-2nd-try-img_1238_1

Here are the nice ones. I served these with Tzatziki Sauce (yogurt sauce — see recipe in post from September 2015). This sauce blended well with the falafel.falafel-with-yogurt-dip-img_1241_1

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

  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 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

  1. Drain the garbanzo beans/chickpeas and set aside.
  2. In food processor, pulse onion and  garlic until finely chopped.
  3. Add garbanzo beans, parsley, flour, salt, ground cumin, ground coriander and red pepper flakes. Pulse and chop until a paste consistency.
  4. If the mixture does not hold together, refrigerate for a hour.
  5. Then, form into balls using a 2 Tbsp measuring cup or tablespoon.
  6. Heat peanut oil, an inch or two deep, to 325 degrees, in a deep skillet, wok or deep fat fryer.
  7. 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.
  8. Remove from fryer and drain. Let fryer return to temperature and continue frying batches.
  9. If desired, serve with pickled vegetables, Tzatziki Sauce (yogurt/cucumber sauce), hummus and pita bread.

falafel-with-yogurt-dip-img_1244_1

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.1000-figs-restaurant-3-img_9005_1

If you visit New Orleans, I suggest this restaurant, 1000 Figs.

One thought on “Let’s Cook Something New: Falafel

  1. Pingback: Let’s Cook Something New: Falafel – gazzetta

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