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  • What's Sr Gregor Eating Now? - Falafel

    Falafel are one of those things that, when done well, can be amazing, and when done badly, can be utterly horrid: too dry and gritty, or too wet and mushy. When I was 10, my family moved back from Germany to the US, and we spent a couple weeks in New York City. It was in one of those oft-heard of, but rarely actually-experienced delis that I first came across both gyros (donner kebabs to you Brits) and falafel. I'll tackle gyros some other time, if I can work out a good way to do them, but I've been in the mood for some falafel for some time now. The big challenge, in my mind, was to capture the flavors I first experienced over twenty years ago: with strong seasonings and a good texture. I did mine up with a creamy cucumber-dill sauce and in a pocket sandwich, but, to be honest, they were pretty darn tasty all on their own.

    I'll give the falafel recipe first, but for prepping up everything, it'd be best to do the sauce first on the day you're serving, because it needs time to chill and develop its flavor.

    For the falafel:

    • 2 cups of dried garbanzos (chickpeas)
    • 1/2 red onion, chopped
    • 6 cloves of garlic
    • 1/2 cup of fresh Italian parsley
    • 2 eggs
    • 4 tsp of ground cumin
    • 2 tsp of dried coriander seeds, crushed
    • 1 tsp of salt
    • 1/2 tsp of black pepper
    • 1/2 tsp of cayenne
    • 1/2 tsp of fresh lemon juice
    • 1 tsp of baking powder
    • 4 Tbsp of olive oil
    • 1.5 cups of bread crumbs

    To start with, you'll want to soak your garbanzos (I love the word "garbanzos". Like Carlin has said, it sounds like a circus act: "The Flying Garbanzos!!!"). It's usually recommended to soak them in cold water overnight, I went for a straight eight hours. They start out like hard little pebbles, and after those eight hours turn semi-soft but firm. Some recipes recommend using canned garbanzos, but I feel like they end up too mushy.

    After they've soaked, mash them up with a fork or potato masher. In my opinion, the best texture is achieved by crushing about two-thirds of them into small pieces, and leaving about a third broken into large pieces. Next, run your red onion, parsley, and garlic through the blender and mix into the beans to chop them up fine and mix their flavor, then stir it into the beans. Finally, take the egg, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, cayenne, lemon juice, olive oil and baking powder, and scramble them all together. Pour into the bean mixture, and work all the flavors together with fork thoroughly.

    Now, take your bread crumbs, and stir it in to the mix. The goal here is to get a blend that isn't goopy and sticky, but still has enough moisture to allow you to form balls of the mix. If you add too much, the whole thing will crumble in your hand, so I recommend starting with a cup, and slowly adding until you get the right texture. You'll want them to be just large enough to fit in about a third of your hand. Some people recommend flattening them in order to cook them all the way through, but I believe they're missing the point in doing so.

    Fry your falafel in about an inch of olive oil, rolling them so that you get an even, dark brown coloring to the outside of them, and let them rest in some paper towels to drain off any excess oil. If you want to test one, cut it in half; the inside should be moist but have lost any "goopiness" to it, and colored slightly darker than it originally sat in the bowl.

    The cucumber-dill sauce is fairly simple:

    • 6oz container of plain yogurt
    • 1/2 of a cucumber, skinned and diced
    • 3 Tbsp of fresh dill
    • 1 Tbsp of mayonaisse
    • salt and pepper to taste

    Stir all of the ingredients together and let rest in the fridge for at least half an hour.

    For plating the sandwiches, I used some honey-wheat pita pockets, romaine lettuce, sliced tomato, and sliced the remainder of the cucumber and onion from the two recipes, served alongside some bing cherries. It's a bit of work, but your end result is a flavorful meal with lots of fresh veg. The measurements above gave enough mix for 20 falafel balls, only half of which we ate that night. Any falafel you don't finish off can be stored in a tupperware container with some paper towel (to absorb any excess moisture and oil), then reheated in a toaster oven to restore the crispness.