Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Since the falafel I made recently is mostly composed of dried chickpeas, one could look at it as a season-less food. I, however, always serve it with a yogurt sauce with fresh cucumber, and fresh cucumber means summer. So do the fresh herbs that go into the mix. And as long as I have a bottle of frying oil left over from all those fried squash blossoms I made earlier this summer (I don’t mind re-using it a few times), falafel officially becomes a summer food.

This falafel is from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman, and is the most successful falafel recipe I’ve tried. In fact, it’s so successful, both in method and in flavor, that I see no reason to ever try another falafel recipe. Ever.

Before, I had tried recipes for falafel that called for cooked chickpeas. They were a pretty big mess, with puddles instead of patties that were hard to turn as they were frying and didn’t hold together very well when they were done. This recipe is more traditional, I later learned, but the method was new to me. It starts with chickpeas that have been soaked in water for 24 hours. That’s it. You don’t cook them. This was a revelation! An absolute, cloud-splitting beam of sunlight, accompanied by angel chorus revelation!

The falafel patty mixture is simply a processed mush of those soaked chickpeas, onions (I used scallions), herbs and spices, and a splash of lemon juice. It forms nice, tight patties, especially if you pat it together until the outside is fairly smooth. The patties fry up crisp on the outside and firm and flavorful on the inside, but, since they have no starchy binders, they’re not heavy or gluey. The flavor is mellow, sort of nutty from the chickpeas and scented with the herbs and spices. I love this stuff, and I don’t know what the heck is keeping me from making it more often! Maybe falafel shouldn’t just be a summer food!

I like to serve these falafel patties in pocket pitas drenched in a cucumber yogurt sauce. I went pretty basic with the thrown-together sauce recipe I give at the bottom of this post. To make it even better, you could use thick Greek-style yogurt, or drain regular yogurt to make it thicker. I don’t mind my yogurt sauce (also known as tzatziki) a bit on the chunky side, but you could shred the cucumber instead of dicing it. I also think it’s great with a tablespoon or two of fresh dill, but I didn’t have any when I made it for these photos.

You can garnish your falafel “sandwich” however you like. All I seemed to have was some more cucumber, which I sliced and stuffed into the pitas with the patties. Sliced tomato would have been great, and I think some alfalfa sprouts and/or lettuce would be good, too. You could also serve the falafel as an appetizer. Just form the mixture into small balls instead of patties and fry them until they’re golden brown. The tzatziki then becomes a dipping sauce, so you probably should shred the cucumber, or make a different yogurt sauce if you prefer.

Adapted from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman

1 ¾ cups dried chickpeas
2 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
½ cup chopped scallions
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 small fresh chile (or half of a large one), finely chopped
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
1 teaspoon coarse (kosher) salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
canola or other neutral-tasting oil for frying
pocket pitas for serving
garnishes such as sliced tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, lettuce, or sprouts
Cucumber Yogurt Sauce (see recipe below) for serving

1. Rinse the chickpeas well and sort out any dirt or other debris. Place the cleaned chickpeas in a large pot or bowl. Cover them with water by 3 to 4 inches. Cover and let stand for 24 hours.

2. Drain the soaked chickpeas. Place them in the bowl of a food processor. Add the remaining ingredients and process until a coarse paste is formed. You will likely need to stop the processor and scrape down the sides and rearrange the processor contents several times. The whole procedure may take several minutes. Taste the paste and adjust seasonings as needed.

3. In a cast iron skillet, pour the canola oil to a depth of about 2 inches. Heat the oil over medium heat to about 350 F. (You could also use an electric frying pan.) A small amount of the chickpea mixture should sizzle immediately when added to the oil.

4. Scoop a portion of the chickpea mixture about the size of a golf ball. Flatten the ball into a disk about ½ inch thick. Pat the outside of the disk to make a smooth surface.

5. Carefully add the patty to the heated oil. Repeat with a few more portions of the mixture, but do not crowd the pan. Cook until golden brown, about 1-2 minutes. Flip the browned patty over with a spatula. Cook until the other side is also golden brown, about 1-2 minutes more. Remove from the oil and drain on a paper towel lined plate. Repeat with the remaining mixture. (The mixture can also be covered and refrigerated for a few days to be fried on demand.)

6. Serve in pita bread pockets with desired garnishes and Cucumber Yogurt Sauce.

Makes about 6 servings.

Cucumber Yogurt Sauce
You could drain the yogurt for a thicker sauce if you have the time.

1 small garlic clove
¼ teaspoon coarse (kosher) salt
1 cup yogurt
½ cup finely diced or shredded peeled and seeded cucumber
2 tablespoons minced onion
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill (optional, but tasty)
a few grinds of black pepper

1. Finely chop the garlic and make it into a paste with the salt.

2. In a small bowl, combine the garlic-salt paste, yogurt, cucumber, onion, dill if using and pepper. Stir together. Cover and chill until needed, or for a day or two. Serve with Falafel.

Other recipes like these: Black Bean and Corn Croquettes, Lentil Barley BurgersCilantro Cream Dipping Sauce, Lime-Herb Dipping Sauce

One year ago: Spicy Sesame Cabbage and Zucchini

Two years ago: Zucchini Buttermilk Bread with Pecans

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