How to make the best falafel

By Shannon Sarna, The Nosher
If you’ve never made falafel from scratch, I’m here to say it’s possible and it’s delicious. I was intimidated by the task until I jumped right in. But I couldn’t have done it without following a few expert tips.

Ditch the canned chickpeas.
Every expert falafel fryer I spoke with agreed: You must use dried chickpeas to achieve the best, most authentic falafel. The easiest way to do this is to soak them overnight. Cookbook authors Vicky Cohen and Ruth Fox also suggest adding baking soda to the soaking chickpeas.

“Adding baking soda helps soften the beans and is gentler on the stomach,” they shared with The Nosher.

When you’re ready to begin putting your falafel mixture together, rinse the chickpeas well before processing.

But one important note: Make sure to reserve some of the soaking liquid to use in the falafel mixture in case it is a tad dry.

Use a food processor.
While you may not need any fancy tools for making falafel, you will need a decent-quality food processor to create the right consistency.

Add lots of bright herbs.
Don’t be scared of lots of fresh herbs in your falafel mix. Cookbook author Samantha Ferraro recommends using a mix of cilantro, parsley and mint for color and flavor.

Let it rest.
When you make matzah balls, it’s always crucial to allow the matzah ball mixture to rest in the fridge before rolling into balls and simmering. The same applies to falafel. After the mixture has come together in the food processor, empty into a bowl or container and allow to sit for 30 minutes before frying.

Fry a test batch.
My Mom taught me to fry a small piece of meatball before frying all the meatballs to make sure the taste and consistency are right. And this rule also applies to falafel. To make sure your falafel will fry up, hold together, and is seasoned well, fry up a small piece before jumping in.

Taste, and then adjust accordingly. If the falafel is not holding together, add some of the chickpea soaking liquid, one to two tablespoons at a time until the mixture holds together more firmly.

OK, get frying (but you can actually bake them, too).
You don’t need a deep fryer or any special tools to properly fry up falafel. You can use a cookie scoop, a large tablespoon or just your hands to shape into balls.

Food writer Susan Barocas actually prefers to make her falafel into patties, which are easier to serve on their own as bite-sized appetizers, or for stuffing into fluffy pita pockets. She also swears you can bake your falafel instead of frying: Line the baking sheet with parchment, spray that with olive oil, and then put the patties on. Spray oil a bit generously on each patty and bake at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes or until crisp, then flip, spray a little more oil and bake another 12 to 15 minutes until crisp on both sides.

Joan Nathan’s Falafel Recipe
Reprinted with permission from The Foods of Israel Today (Knopf).

2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh cilantro
Chopped tomato for garnish
Soybean or vegetable oil for frying
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley
4-6 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup roughly chopped onion
1 tsp. cumin
1 cup dried chickpeas
Diced onion for garnish
1 tsp. salt
Diced green bell pepper for garnish
1 tsp. dried hot red pepper
Tahini sauce
4 cloves garlic

Put the chickpeas in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover them by at least 2 inches. Let soak overnight, then drain.

Place the drained uncooked chickpeas and the onions in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.

Add the parsley, cilantro, salt, hot pepper, garlic, and cumin. Process until blended but not puréed.

Sprinkle in the baking powder and four tablespoons of the flour, then pulse. You want to add enough bulgur or flour so that the dough forms a small ball and no longer sticks to your hands. Turn into a bowl and refrigerate, covered, for several hours.

Form the chickpea mixture into balls about the size of walnuts or use a falafel scoop, available in Middle Eastern markets.

Heat 3 inches of oil to 375 degrees in a deep pot or wok and fry one ball to test. If it falls apart, add a little flour. Then fry about six balls at once for a few minutes on each side or until golden brown.

Drain on paper towels. Stuff half a pita with falafel balls, chopped tomatoes, onion, green pepper and pickled turnips. Drizzle with tahini thinned with water.

To read the complete July 2019 Dayton Jewish Observer, click here.


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