Oh, falafel. I do [heart] you so. It’s fried food that’s healthy! Yaaay! Woo-woot!
Okay, you caught me in a frenzy of denial. Fried food isn’t really healthy. But, as fried food goes, falafels are probably healthier than, say, your average french fry. Loaded with protein, thanks to chickpeas and my own addition of split peas — one of my favorite legumes — falafels are filling, economical and oh-so-tasty. And they’re vegetarian without being in-yo-face vegetarian.
When your family sighs and slumps at the thought of Meatless Mondays, feed them falafels.
A quick whirl in the food processor is all that’s needed to whip up a batch for frying. Filling, economical, and super easy. Score! For a fast weeknight dinner, set the chickpeas and split peas to soak the night the before. Mix the ingredients and store in the fridge the next morning. Then fry them up when you get home from work. (Split peas don’t actually require a full overnight soaking, but it won’t hurt them to do so.)
Served stuffed in pita bread with your favorite veggies, or as appetizers to dip into traditional tahini sauce or (my favorite) tzatziki with avocado.
Chick & Split Pea Falafels
adapted from epicurious.com
Prep Time: One day (for soaking the chickpeas)
Cook time: 20 minutes
Yield: about 24 small falafels
3/4 cup dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
1/4 cup dried yellow or green split peas
1/2 large onion, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon baking powder
4-6 tablespoons flour
Peanut or vegetable oil for frying
1. Place the chickpeas in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover them by at least 2 inches. Let soak overnight (or 8 hours). (You can use canned chickpeas, drained, rinsed and patted dry, in a pinch and skip the soaking, but dried are noticeably better.)
2. An hour before you’re ready to start, place the split peas in a medium bowl and cover with water to soak. (Or, if there’s room, you can add them to the chickpea soaking bowl and top off with water.)
3. Drain the uncooked chickpeas and split peas and place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add onions, parsley, cilantro, salt, hot pepper, garlic, cumin and coriander. Pulse until blended but not pureed — the bulkier ingredients should still be very lumpy.
4. Sprinkle the baking powder and 4 tablespoons of the flour over the mixture, and pulse. Scrape down the bowl as necessary. You want to add enough flour so that the dough forms a small ball and no longer sticks to your hands. I find this usually takes the full 6 tablespoons of flour. Don’t overprocess to the point of puree — the final texture should be very grainy, even if it’s still slightly sticky. Turn into a bowl and refrigerate, covered, for several hours.
5. Form the chickpea mixture into balls about the size of walnuts. I like to flatten them slightly so they’ll fit better in the pita pocket.
6. Heat 1 inch of oil to 375 degrees F in a deep pot or dutch oven. Fry the falafel balls in batches, leaving at least an inch of space in between. It should take only a few minutes per side to reach a golden brown. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain while you continue frying the remaining.
7. To serve, stuff half a pita with falafel balls and top with your favorite sauce (tzatziki is particularly nice, as is tahina) and chopped vegetables.