Monday, July 13, 2015

Baked Falafel

I can remember when I had falafel for the first time, it changed my life. I was 22 and living in Bloomington, IN (such a wonderful place to live, by the way). I was starting to try more and more ethnic food and found that the possibilities were endless when you stepped outside Italian (what I grew up eating) and American style cooking. My husband and I grabbed lunch at a Lebanese restaurant and after perusing the menu, falafel sounded like something we'd like. They were absolutely amazing, crunchy with so much flavor! I immediately went home and tried to recreate them with canned chickpeas. I attributed the mushy texture to the fact that I baked them rather than fried them. From then on I decided it was best to just buy falafel.

Fast forward a few years to my husband and I watching Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives before bed one night. It's our guilty pleasure, what can I say? I wouldn't eat half the things showcased, but there are occasional gems and we always try to make it to those restaurants when we are in a new city. Guy was at a falafel joint and as the chef was showing him his falafel recipe it all made sense - you don't use cooked chick peas! You start with dried, soak for 12-24 hours, and throw them in the food processor to get the little nutty bites. My mind was blown, and it made total sense! The only problem? I had the world's worst, loudest, and smallest food processor in the world. So I mostly continued to buy falafel.

Then last December for our 7th wedding anniversary, my parents bought JJ and me the mother of all food processors. I was elated, finally a chance to make proper falafel! Since then I haven't looked back, they're a weekly staple in our home. And the baked version tastes almost as crisp and flavorful as the fried, a win in my book! I serve these with many different sauces and sides, such as baba ganoush, tahini sauce, tzatziki or chutney (pictured here).

Baked Falafel

1 3/4 c. dried chickpeas
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small onion, quartered
1 tbsp. cumin
Cayenne to taste
1 c. flat leaf parsley
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 c. olive oil

Place chickpeas in a large bowl and cover with about 5-6 c. of water, cover and periodically check on the beans for 12-24 hours, until soft enough to squish with your fingers.
Preheat the oven to 400*
Drain chickpeas, place in a food processor with the garlic, onion, cumin, cayenne, parsley, salt, pepper, baking soda and lemon juice.
Pulse until the ingredients are finely minced, but not pureed. 
Stop and scrape down sides as needed, add 2 tbsp. olive oil.
Taste and adjust seasonings
Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment, grease with olive oil.
Use a 1/4 or 1/3 measuring cup, pack the mixture in then release into your hands to roll into a patty, place on the baking sheet and continue until you're out of chickpeas. 
Brush the tops of the patties with oil then place in the oven.
Bake for 10-15 minutes, then flip and bake for another 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the falafel.
Remove from the oven and serve with pita and accompaniments.

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