90’s Flashback – Making Falafel
From about 1990-1995 I managed a small fast food place in a downtown office building. It was originally called the Greek Garden. We did gyros, salads, spanakopita, and other Greek/Middle Eastern foods. We also did burgers, grilled never fried, fresh-cut fries, and fresh-squeezed lemonade. About early 1992 we changed the name to Twin Cities Fry and Grill. Kept the gyros, salads, and a few other things, but burgers and fries were the bulk of our sales.
I even designed the logo… did that using GeoDraw under Geos2.0 on one of my first PCs. When we made the change over, one thing we kept on the menu was falafel. Falafel is made from ground chick peas, parsley, garlic, and a few other things… it’s ground up, fried, and usually used in making a sandwich in pita bread with a tahini sauce. I also enjoy it using tazitki, the cucumber sauce you usually get on gyros.
There are many, many recipes out there for this, mine is based on the one we used in the restaurant, just a smaller batch. And we did use dried beans that were soaked to soften them up vs canned. I’ve made it that way, and you can get a … grainier… texture. Canned beans tend to be pretty soft and will blend up easier, and can get a bit finer texture.
Honestly, this isn’t a dish I was a huge fan of at the time, but my tastes have changed on so many things over the years… this is just another on that list.
A food processor works really good for this, I think the wider bowl makes a difference. But a good blender will do in a pinch. If you’re using a blender, working in small batches can make it easier as well. Traditionally, these are made in to small balls and fried, but I’ve had plenty of good falalfel that I’ve simply cooked in a hot pan with just a bit of oil brushed on, through granted, you don’t get quite the crisp exterior you would with frying. If you want to try frying, use a home fryer or a deep pan with even just an inch or so of oil and flip them over as cooking. If you can cook them as full ball size, there’s something satisfying about “squishing” them in to your sandwich as you prepare to take a bite.
Once mixed, it can be stored in the fridge for a few days, probably even up to a week, cooking up as needed. Or form it in to balls or patties and freeze for later use. And they do refreeze pretty well after cooking as well.
If you don’t have, or do not want to get tahini paste for making the sauce, try almond butter or even peanut butter. Tahini sauce is basically “sesame butter”, so while the flavor will be different, it should work rather well. It’s all about being flexible in the kitchen. In fact, my most recent batch was made with lime juice in stead of lemon, because that’s what I had on hand. But, if you do get some tahini, you can use it for making your own hummus as well.
You could try other sauces as well, from the afore mentioned tzitki to ranch or even salsa for a Mexican flair. Heck, I didn’t have any pita so I went with a tortilla with my most recent dinner.
This makes about 12 falafel balls, and the recipe is easily doubled. For myself, It will give me 3-4 meals, and I used the rest of the parsley to make some tabbouleh salad using freekeh instead of the traditional Bulgur… I’ll share that recipe soon as well.
- 1 15oz can garbonzo beans
- 1/2 bunch fresh parsley
- 1/2 medium onion
- 4-6 cloves fresh garlic
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp sesame seeds
- 3-4 tbsp fresh bread crumbs or flour
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup tahini paste
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 2-3 cloves fresh garlic chopped
- 1 medium lemon juiced
- salt to taste
- Drain the beans, but reserve the liquid. Rinse the beans and put in your food processor. Wash the parsley, use a salad spinner to dry if you have one, then pull the parsley leaves from the stem. About half your typical batch of parsley you get at the store should work. It is about 1 cup of loosely packed leaves or so. Roughly chop up the onion and add that (I happened to use some green onion recently, bout half-dozen of the, white and greens) along with the garlic, cumin, sesame seeds, salt and pepper.
- Pulse your food processor/blender until the ingredients start to incorporate with each other a bit, then as you continue to pulse, drizzle in some of the reserved liquid from the bean (or just some water if using dried). You are looking for a thick, almost paste like consistency.
- Once fully blended, move to a medium mixing bowl. You want them to hold shape when formed in to ping-pong ball sized portions. If the mix seems too dry, stir in some additional liquid. If too wet, stir in the bread crumbs or flour, about 1 tablespoon at at time until you get a good consistency. Once mixed, chill it in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
- When ready to cook, set a heavy bottomed skillet over medium high heat, lightly brush with oil when hot. Form about 2-3 tablespoons of the falafel mixture into a ball and drop on the hot skillet, flattening out slightly as it starts to cook. Let cook about 4-5 minutes until browned.
- Flip and cook on other side another 4-5 minute. You don't want them too thick, or the middle will never heat up properly.
- Remove from the pan and serve with pita bread, some shredded lettuce, maybe some diced tomato and tahini sauce.
- Blend the tahini paste, water, garlic, and lemon juice in a small bowl. It will thicken up as it is mixed. Add salt to taste. This can be done by hand, but doing so in a blender or food processor will yield a very smooth sauce.