The other day a friend of mine asked me if I had any good recipes for falafels. So I started looking through my library and found some really good recipes. My quest got me hungry for falafels too, so I decided to make them for dinner. Falafels are a great dish for vegetarians or vegans because they are so high in protein. You can easily eat them on their own, or as a side dish to go with something else. They are almost always served in either a pita or with a flatbread, and tahini sauce.
About the only thing people agree upon about the origins of falafels is that they originated somewhere in the Middle East and are typical Middle Eastern foods. Other than that, who knows. All of the countries in the Middle East claim them as their own. One of the most accepted theories, however, is that they originated in Egypt about 1000 years ago. Falafels are made from either dried, ground fava beans or chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans. They originated as foods to eat on the go, so are most often found in either round balls, flat patties, or doughnut shaped balls. Once they are formed, they are fried until they are crispy. The name falafel is believed to have come from two sources. The first is the word falafil, which is Arabic for crunchy, and the second is from the Egyptian word ful, which means fava bean. Falafels are the second most popular dish made from chickpeas, following another Middle Eastern/Mediterranean favorite, hummus.
This dish is super easy and quick to make, and only requires a few ingredients. As I have said many times, simple is often best.
Falafels with Tahini Sauce
1/2 white onion
1 TBSP garlic
1 can garbanzo beans, drained, or 2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained
1 cup parsley
1 cup cilantro
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
3/4-1 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
canola oil for cooking
pita bread or flatbread
In a food processor, pulse the onion and garlic until they are finely minced, then remove them from the bowl and set aside.
Next, add the chickpeas and all the rest of the ingredients and pulse until it makes a paste.
Add the garlic and onions back into the mixture, and pulse once again until everything is well blended. Then form the mixture into either balls or patties and place them on a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Let them set in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before frying them.
While the falafels are setting, make the tahini sauce. Again, this is a very easy sauce to make, and only takes a couple of seconds in the food processor.
1 1/4 cups plain yogurt or a combination of yogurt and mayonnaise
1/4 cup tahini or sesame paste
2-3 TBSP lemon juice
Mix everything together in the food processor until you have a smooth creamy sauce. I did not have enough yogurt, so I mixed the yogurt I had with some mayonnaise and it came out just perfect. I interchange yogurt and mayonnaise quite often. I also like my sauce a bit more lemony, so I made it with 3 TBSP of lemon juice. Chill the sauce until ready to use.
Once the falafels are ready, fry them up. You can deep fry them or pan fry them until they are golden brown and crispy. I prefer to pan-fry things if I can, since it is usually slightly less fattening because things are not completely saturated in the fat. But it is really just a personal preference.
I chose to have my falafels as a side dish, and served with some pork chops marinated in lemon juice, garlic, herbs and olive oil, with some asparagus topped with tomatoes, mushrooms and garlic and pita bread. And of course there was wine. I served it all with a cool, crisp Verdicchio. I felt like I was dining in the middle of the Mediterranean or somewhere exotic in the Middle East.