you know when people call in to radio shows, how sometimes they say, "hi this is johnny x., long time listener, first time caller..."? well that is how i've always felt about falafel. i've loved it for as long as i can remember, but have never tried my hand at actually making it. sure, there were a few hapless stints with dry mix from the box, but they paled so in comparison to the cheap and delicious wares from saad's or mama's, that i'd always just say "ahh, forget it, i'd rather spend 3 bucks on the real thing." sigh...how often i have bowed to the false god of convenience.
but today, with warm spring sunlight flooding the kitchen, ryan and i made falafel from scratch, and it was an experience worth repeating. there are a number of steps, but it's as easy as chopping some vegetables and using your food processor, i mean it.
the falafel experience: cobbled together from vegan with a vengeance (p. 98) and an old minimalist recipe from mark bittman
- in your handy dandy food processor, pulse 2 cups chickpeas (you can use canned ones, or dried ones that were soaked overnight - i used a little of both) with a tablespoon of bread crumbs and another table spoon or two of flour. you want to achieve a crumbly texture but NOT a puree. never a puree with falafel.
- then throw in a chopped onion, a few minced cloves of garlic, and a massive handful of italian parsley (the kind with the broad, flat leaves). also at this point, also add one teaspoon sea salt, a teaspoon of cayenne pepper, and heavy pinches of ground coriander and cumin. you can certainly use pre-ground spices but i highly recommend toasting and grinding your own.
++ how to ++ take some cumin and coriander seeds and throw them in a dry pan over a high flame. keep your pretty eye on them so they don't burn. toss the pan around occasionally, and toast them until they are fragrant. if shit starts popping, immediately turn the flame off! let the seeeds cool for a moment, then, pulverize into oblivian with a mortar & pestle. this mix is gonna smell incredibly good so close your eyes, breathe deeply, and pretend you're in a spice market somewhere exotic, like bangkok or bombay.
- okay, back to the contents of your food processor. pulse everything (chickpea mixture, onions & garlic, spices, salt and parsley) until it is well combined, but again, NOT pureed.
- with a spatula, scrape your falafel mix out and transfer to a ceramic bowl. refrigerate for at least 20 minutes. this helps the mix stay together once you attempt to drown it in hot oil.
- you can use a deep fryer here, but man those things are a pain in the ass. instead, i suggest filling a small-ish non-stick pan 1/2 way up with vegetable oil. get it hot. bittman suggests 350 degrees F. if you don't have a thermometer (or just don't bother with all that), let the oil get pretty damn hot, then toss a piece of batter in it. if it sinks to the bottom, bubbles gather around it, and it quickly rises back to the surface, it's ready!!
- with your hands, shape the falafel mix into balls - whatever sized balls you prefer (no snickering!!). throw them into the oil, and don't touch them for 5 minutes. after that time elapses, flip each one over carefully with tongs. you will almost faint with delight when you see the transformation: