One of the things that makes falafel different from other bean fritters is that it’s made from uncooked beans. It’s best when the beans are soaked for a full day in plenty of water; the result is a wonderfully textured and moist interior with a crisp, browned exterior. The spices and aromatics add to the fabulous bean flavor, and it wouldn’t be unheard of to double or even triple the amount of garlic if you like. Serve falafel, as I do, on their own with a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of salt, on top of a green salad, or in a pita with all the fixings (lettuce, tomato, cucumber, tahini sauce, etc). And if you really want to go all out, you can even make your own pita (click here for the recipe).
Makes: 6 to 8 servings
Time: 1 hour, plus 24 hours to soak the beans
1 3/4 cups dried chickpeas or 1 cup dried chickpeas and 3/4 cup dried split fava beans, rinsed and picked over
1 cup chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
1 small onion, quartered
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
About 1 scant teaspoon cayenne or 2 teaspoons mild chile powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Good-quality vegetable oil for frying
1. Put the beans in a large bowl and cover with water by 3 to 4 inches. (They will triple in volume as they soak.) Soak the beans for 24 hours, checking once or twice to see if you need to add more water to keep the beans submerged.
2. Drain the beans well and transfer to a food processor with the parsley, garlic, onion, lemon juice, cumin, coriander, cayenne, salt, pepper, and baking soda. Pulse until almost smooth, scraping down the side of the bowl as necessary. Add one or 2 tablespoons water if necessary to allow the machine to do its work, but keep the mixture as dry as possible. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt, pepper, cayenne, or lemon juice as needed.
3. Pour oil to a depth of at least 2 inches in a large, deep pot. More is better; the narrower the pot, the less oil you need, but the more oil you use, the more patties you can cook at the same time. Turn the heat to medium-high and heat the oil to about 350°F; a pinch of the batter should sizzle immediately.
4. Scoop out heaping tablespoons of the batter and shape into balls or small patties. Fry in batches, without crowding, until nicely browned, turning as necessary; total cooking time will be less than 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to paper towels to drain (they can be kept warm in a low oven, if you like, until they are all cooked). Serve hot or at room temperature. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator; reheat in a 350°F oven until hot and crisp, about 15 minutes.
I love this flavor combination: In Step 2, add 1/4 cup sesame seeds and 3 tablespoons tahini.
Falafel with Za’atar
Tang from the sumac, nuttiness from the sesame seeds: Use parsley and add 1/4 cup Za’atar in Step 2.
Lots of good texture from the chopped nuts: Replace 1/2 cup of the beans with walnuts, almonds, peanuts, or hazelnuts (don’t soak the nuts). Omit the garlic, cumin, and cayenne. Use parsley, or substitute 1 tablespoon or so fresh thyme leaves for the herb.