Falafels, or “small tasty things” in Arabic, are thought to have originated in Egypt before spreading north to the Middle East. It is a delicious vegetarian dish that was originally though to have been created as a replacement for meat during Lent. They are made from ground chickpeas or fava beans that are traditionally formed into balls or patties and fried. They are usually served in a pita pocket, known as a lafa, and topped with a salad mixture, pickled vegetables and some sort of sauce.
Total cost: $18.50
1 (15 oz.) can chickpeas, drained
1 tbsp of olive oil
2 tbsps sesame seed oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 serrano chile, chopped
2 green onions (white and green part) finely chopped
1.5 tbsps chopped parsley leaves
1.5 tbsps chopped mint leaves
1.5 tbsps chopped cilantro leaves
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
Scant 2 tsps baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Tahini-Pepper Yogurt Sauce
1 cup thick Greek yogurt
1 roasted red pepper (left over from my last recipe!)
1 tsp smoked sweet Spanish paprika
4 tbsps tahini paste
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp grated lemon zest
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 slices of pita bread
For the Tahini-Pepper Yogurt Sauce (can and should be done in advance)
Combine all the ingredients, except salt and pepper, in a blender until smooth. Season with salt to taste, and then transfer mixture into a bowl. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, covered, so all the flavors are incorporated into the yogurt. This is an important step! The Greek yogurt adds a great texture, but the sour flavor can be overpowering to the falafels if you don’t let it sit! If you don’t like Greek yogurt, you can use an equal amount of feta cheese instead!
For the Falafel
Drain the chickpeas through a colander, then place on a baking sheet lined with paper towels to absorb any excess moisture.
Preheat oven to 425 °F. While the oven is coming up to temp, heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and the Serrano chile, and cook until soft. This takes about 3 minutes.
Transfer the drained and dried chickpeas to a food processor. Add the garlic/Serrano chile mixture along with the parsley, mint, cilantro, lemon juice, cumin, coriander, baking powder, salt, and pepper and process until the mixture is finely ground. Transfer this mixture to a bowl.
Form this mixture into ping-pong sized balls, and place on a greased cookie sheet. Brush each falafel ball with sesame seed oil. Bake for 15 minutes. Flip falafel balls, brush with remaining sesame seed oil and bake for an additional 15 minutes until falafels are crisp and golden brown.
Falafels are traditionally deep-fried. While this gives a more even crispy texture, it obviously raises the fat content of the dish significantly. By brushing each falafel ball with sesame seed oil before putting them in the oven, you retain the moisture, taste and texture of a fried falafel ball while cutting down on almost 10 grams of fat per serving. Falafels are an excellent source of protein, complex carbohydrates and fiber. Chickpeas are also naturally low in fat and sodium, and they contain no cholesterol!
This is a hearty and satisfying dish that can be eaten on any diet, with only about 600 calories per serving, and a total fat content of around 13 grams!