Monday, June 6, 2011

Falafel with Tahini Sauce

I've made falafel at home about a half dozen times, from as many recipes, and it's never really turned out right. While most of my patties tasted fine, few of them actually had the right texture or held together. Some of these falafel fails are on me, though. I thought I could make baked falafel as crunchy as the stuff cooked in a deep fryer, and that falafel "fried" in a nonstick skillet seasoned with a measly teaspoon of oil would surely result in a wonderfully crispy exterior. Nope, not at all. This week I tried yet another recipe, and I'm happy to report that my minor tweaks didn't end in disaster. 

A quick Google search for "authentic falafel" (because if it's authentic I can't mess it up, right?) led me to this recipe by Mordehai (Moti) Zadik. Next to the recipe is a picture of it's creator, Moti, and I could see in his friendly and wise face that he had the secret to the perfect falafel (but don't trust me, you be the judge of his apparent culinary wisdom). 

Feeling good about my decision to trust Moti's expertise, I read the recipe instructions carefully, and then proceeded to do the usual -- do things slightly differently. I couldn't be bothered to soak dried chickpeas overnight (mainly because I almost always buy them canned, gasp!) so, as Moti reluctantly suggests in the recipe, I used a can. He also instructs readers to let the mixture sit in the fridge for at least 2 hours. Well, it was a weeknight and we were hungry so one and half hours would have to do. I fried up the falafel in a generous amount of oil and they turned out exactly how I'd hoped, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. My falafel fail streak is officially over.

Adapted from Mordehai (Moti) Zadik's recipe 
Makes about 8-9 falafel balls
  • 1 15 oz / 425 g can chickpea, rinsed and drained
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 6 tablespoons whole wheat (or all purpose) flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro
  • 1 small onion, very finely chopped
  • About 1/2 - 1 cup canola (or other vegetable oil)
  • Optional: 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
 1.  Toss the chickpeas, garlic, baking powder, flour, spices, and salt in the food processor and pulse until the chickpeas are broken down and a dough starts to form, scrapping down the sides of the bowl if necessary. Add in the fresh herbs and pulse a few more times until they're chopped small, but not so much that they completely blend into the dough. 

2.  Transfer the chickpea mixture into a bowl, add the onions and mix them in using your hands. At this point, you should be able to take a small hand full of the dough, form a ball and have it retain its shape. My dough came out just the right, but all it takes is a particularly juicy or dry onion to offset that delicate moisture balance. If the dough is too dry, add a tablespoon of water at a time. If the dough is too wet, add more flour 1/2 of a tablespoon at a time. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, put it in the fridge and let it rest for at least 1 1/2 hours, although 2-3 would probably be even better. Letting it rest will make it even easier to form dough balls and have them stay together.

3.  Put enough oil in a small pan so that it comes up about 1/2 inch. Heat the oil over medium to medium high heat, making sure not to let it smoke. When you drop a bit of dough in the oil and it sizzles immediately you're ready to start frying. Divide your dough into 8-9 portions and roll them into balls. Flatten them slightly and drop them in 3-4 at a time. Once the falafel are golden brown on their undersides, which should take about 3 minutes, flip them and cook them for another 3 minutes or so. When they're browned on both sides, transfer them to a plate lined with a couple paper towels. Serve them hot, with a generous drizzle of tahini sauce. I ate mine over greens but you can also stuff them in a pita with tomatoes, greens, and whatever other vegetables you'd like.

Tahini Sauce
Makes about 3/4 cup

  • 1/4 cup tanihi
  • 5 tablespoons water
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon minced parsley
Put all the ingredients except the parsley in the food processor (a mini one or a Magic Bullet works best for this) and blend until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the parsley. Drizzle over falafel, use as a veggie dip or a salad dressing.

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