If you have never had falafel, you are missing out on a gastronomic treat. Falafel purists will argue whether it’s better from a particular country (my brother swears by the falafel in Egypt) or whether the Greek version is superior. I cling to the notion that it’s not the origin that matters, but how you make it. Case in point: an attempt was made recently using the “Fantastic Falafel Mix” by Fantastic Foods. Despite following the instructions to the letter, it turned out a deep-fried crumbled mess. Fantastic? No, crap-tastic was more like it.
Being undaunted by one deep-fry failure, I went hunting for a recipe worthy of a homemade falafel effort. I found a good falafel recipe on Epicurious.com, and decided to adapt it to my own spicy needs. My recipe includes:
2 cans (15.5 ounces) chickpeas/garbanzo beans, drained
1/2 large onion, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Tim’s 10-pepper flakes from Volcanic Peppers
4 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon baking powder
6-8 tablespoons flour
vegetable oil for frying
Tzatziki sauce from Hades
10-12 ounces Greek yogurt
1/4 cup skim milk
1/2 tsp kosher sea salt
1 tbsp 7-Pepper Sambal from Race City Sauce Works
Mix ingredients in a medium-size bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.
Tomato and cucumber relish
9-10 medium vine-ripened tomatoes, diced
1 English cucumber, diced
2 tbsp minced fresh parsley
6 tbsp minced fresh cilantro
4 tbsp olive oil
lemon juice from 1/2 fresh lemon
salt and pepper to taste
This is not in the recipe. This is ouzo. It is an anise-flavored aperitif from Greece. It will not help the recipes, but it will make you feel better as you cook. Drink a shot, or maybe 4. Opa!
Place the drained, uncooked chickpeas and the onions in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the parsley, cilantro, salt, hot pepper, garlic, and cumin. Process until blended but not pureed.
Sprinkle in the baking powder and 4 tablespoons of the flour, and pulse. You want to add enough bulgur or flour so that the dough forms a small ball and no longer sticks to your hands. Turn into a bowl and refrigerate, covered, for a couple of hours. You can use this time to now make your cucumber-tomato relish, Tzatziki sauce from Hades, and drink more ouzo.
Form the chickpea mixture into balls about the size of walnuts, or use a falafel scoop. Since most people, ourselves included, don’t actually OWN a falafel scoop…we used a large soup spoon. Heat 3 inches of oil to 375 degrees in a deep pot or wok and fry 1 ball to test. If you own or use an electric stove and don’t want to use a thermometer for the oil, that was about 6/10 on the amount of heat you can do. If your test falafel ball falls apart, add a little more flour to the mixture and re-test until it fries as expected. Then fry about 6 balls at once for a few minutes on each side, or until golden brown.
When done, drain on a paper towel. If possible, drink more ouzo.
Where you go from here is up to you. You can either stuff everything into a pita or do as we did and just add your ingredients to the outside of a large pita and roll it like a big taco or burrito. We also made some tabouli salad to use as well. Add it all together and you have a fantastic SPICY version of your fave Greek/Arab falafel classic.