Falafel

When I was in High School, I lived in Amherst, MA. It was a very liberal college town, and there were a lot of hippies. I was one of them. One of the things that I remember are the Amherst CO-OP, where you could buy an extremely dense bagel with some cream cheese, and that thing would fill you up for the whole day. I have no idea what was in it, but I remember thinking that it was not at all an authentic bagel. It was most definitely one of the hippie-earthy-crunchy foods of the day. There were a lot of people wearing Birkenstocks, although I was not one of those – I went barefoot as much as I could while the weather allowed. Another food that I always associated with Amherst was Falafel. There was a guy with a street cart that sold it. I remember trying it once, and not thinking much, although I remember many of my hippie friends going nuts over it.

Fast forward many years to 2009. I was working for a furniture manufacturer in the Design District. Food trucks were a new thing in those days, and on Wednesdays, a place called Liba Falafel would park just outside our office. We all quickly became regular customers. It was the first really good falafel I had.

Fast forward again to 2020 and the pandemic. With my cooking classes on hold, I began focusing on my meal delivery side-business. Over the course of that year, the business evolved and grew. It gave me a chance to experiment with new dishes, one of which was falafel. Turns out, this vegan (!) dish is easy to make at home! Yes, that’s right, I said vegan. The only thing that changes it to vegetarian is the sauce that accompanies it, but you could easily make that vegan by using a vegan yogurt. The only downside is the mess from deep-frying. I love fried foods, but don’t love making them at home because of the mess, and my small apartment ends up smelling like grease for days. But, now that I have an air-fryer, I can make these more often with no mess at all! The best part is that you can make a bunch of these and freeze whatever you won’t eat right away.

Of course, I like to make homemade Pita Bread to go with them, but you can certainly use store-bought. I mostly used the recipe from America’s Test Kitchen, but with some modifications. I hope you give these a try for your next Meatless Monday, or any day!

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Falafel

Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Garbanzo Bean Soaking Time8 hrs
Total Time8 hrs 40 mins
Course: First Course, Main Course
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Servings: 24 falafel

Ingredients

  • 8 oz dried chickpeas rinsed
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves and stems
  • 1 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • ½ onion coarsely chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves smashed
  • 1 ½ tsp ground coriander
  • 1 ½ tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt
  • ¼ tsp cayenne
  • canola oil spray for air frying

For Tahini Sauce:

  • cup tahini
  • cup Siggi's plain yogurt
  • 1 Myer lemon juiced
  • 1 lime juiced

For Serving:

  • ½ cucumber diced
  • 1 tomato diced
  • romaine lettuce shredded
  • Homemade Pita Bread

Instructions

Day One:

  • Place chickpeas in large bowl, cover with water by 2 to 3 inches and add baking soda. Soak at room temperature for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours. Drain well.

Day Two:

  • Whisk flour and ⅓ cup water (or ½ cup water if using chickpea flour) in bowl until no lumps remain.
  • Microwave, whisking every 10 seconds, until mixture thickens to stiff, smooth, pudding-like consistency that forms mound when dropped from end of whisk into bowl, 40 to 80 seconds. Stir baking powder into flour paste. Set aside.
  • Process cilantro, parsley, onion, garlic, coriander, cumin, salt, and cayenne in food processor for 5 seconds.
  • Scrape down sides of bowl. Continue to process until mixture resembles pesto, about 5 seconds longer.
  • Add chickpeas and pulse 6 times. Scrape down sides of bowl. Continue to pulse until chickpeas are coarsely chopped and resemble sesame seeds, about 6 more pulses.
  • Transfer mixture to large bowl and add flour mixture. Mix together until thoroughly combined.
  • Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Form mixture into 24 balls and place on parchment. Refrigerate for 10 minutes to firm up. At this point, Falafel may be frozen directly on the sheet pan. Once frozen, transfer to a ziplock bag.

While Falafel chills, make Tahini Sauce:

  • Whisk tahini, yogurt, and Myer lemon & lime juice in medium bowl until smooth.
  • Whisk in water to thin sauce as desired. Season with salt to taste; set aside.
  • Heat air fryer to 400°F. Place Falafel in a single layer in fryer basket and spray all over with canola oil spray. Cook for 10 minutes, turning halfway.
  • Serve with diced cucumber & tomato, shredded lettuce, and plenty of Tahini Sauce.

Cooking Falafel, conventional method:

  • Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat to 325 degrees. Add half of falafel and fry, stirring occasionally, until deep brown, about 5 minutes. Adjust burner, if necessary, to maintain oil temperature of 325 degrees. Using slotted spoon or wire skimmer, transfer falafel to paper towel–lined baking sheet. Return oil to 325 degrees and repeat with remaining falafel.

Cooking Falafel, Air Fryer method:

  • Place the AirFryer Basket onto the Baking/Drip Pan and spray liberally with nonstick cooking spray. Transfer the chilled falafel to the assembled basket in a single layer. Spray evenly with oil. Place the assembled tray into rack Position 2. Set to AirFry at 400ºF for 10 minutes and cook, turning halfway through, until evenly browned.

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