The more that I experiment with new recipes and ingredients, the further I seem to travel around the world via my stomach (and is there any better way to travel?) So far we’ve traveled as far as Italy and Thailand, and just last week we made a stop in India when I made my Chai Tea Concentrate, so today I’d like to share a super delicious recipe all the way from the Middle East: Falafel!
I was eating falafel before I even knew what it really was and as a child I actually believed I was eating some type of meat. My family and I would often make stops at this little hole in the wall restaurant in Greenwich Village called Mamoun’s Falafel at 119 MacDougal Street to indulge in one of these pita pockets of deliciousness. From the tangy tahini sauce on top, to the crunchy lettuce and tomato in the middle, to the pièce de résistance, the crispy, flavorful falafel all the way at the bottom, it all came together into the most perfect bite.
I think that each time someone from out of town comes to visit I take them to Mamoun’s because not only is it super cheap (I believe under $3 for one falafel sandwich), but it is so damn delicious. Many times it is also their very first time trying falafel and I definitely think that taking them there is the best introduction. When it’s not too cold we’ll take our pita sandwiches over to the nearby Washington Square Park, find a nice sunny spot to sit, and dig in.
Being that I’d eaten falafel for as long as I can remember, I thought it’d be neat to try making it myself, the trick was first finding the perfect recipe.
A few weeks ago I decided to give it a try and let’s just say that this attempt was a complete bust. Many of the recipes required the chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans) to be soaked overnight and I just did not have to patience to wait. So I thought I’d skip that step and used canned beans instead…BIG MISTAKE!! After combining all of the ingredients in the food processor and forming them into little balls, I was super excited to begin frying, but after placing the very first one into the oil to test, to my utter dismay it completely fell apart. I tried several more times to the same results, even adding more flour to try and hold it all together, and nothing worked. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. The next time I tried making them, I knew I’d do it the right way and soak the dried beans, and here are the awesome results: As I got ready to fry, I was just a little apprehensive the moment the first falafel touched the hot oil, but it held together and I was definitely relieved. I quickly added more falafel to the oil, varying between a ball shape and patty shape, and my heart sang with glee as each falafel fried to perfection.
Moral of the story: Don’t skip the necessary steps when preparing a recipe because you’ll be losing way more time than you’re saving. I also prepared my own tahini sauce (a sesame seed based sauce) from scratch which I’ll also share.
Falafel and Homemade Tahini Sauce
Homemade Tahini Sauce:
- 1 cup sesame seeds
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 lemon
- 4 garlic cloves
- 2 Tbsp. water
- 1 tablespoon parsley (for topping)
Adapted from Tori Avery
- 1 pound (about 2 cups) dry chickpeas/garbanzo beans
- 1 small onion, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 3-5 cloves garlic
- 1 1/2 tbsp flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- Pinch of ground cardamom
- Vegetable oil for frying (grapeseed, canola, and peanut oil work well)
Homemade Tahini Sauce:
- Toast sesame seeds for no more than 5 minutes and allow to cool down.
- Place toasted sesame seeds into food processor along with the olive oil, minced garlic cloves, and lemon juice.
- Pulse all of the ingredients together until desired consistency (adding more oil if smoother consistency is what you are looking for).
- Sprinkle chopped parsley on top once sauce is removed from food processor.
- Place chickpeas into large bowl and cover with water overnight.
- Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans well. Pour them into your food processor along with the chopped onion, garlic cloves, parsley, flour, salt, cumin, ground coriander, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and cardamom.
- Pulse all of the ingredients together until it begins to just stick together. Be sure not to overpulse, however.
- Once mixture is removed from food processor and placed into a large bowl, refrigerate for about one hour.
- Remove mixture from refrigerate and heat oil in large skillet. As the oil is heating, form mixture into small balls or patties.
- Place falafel balls/patties into hot oil and fry for about 2-3 minutes on each side.
- Remove from oil and allow excess oil to drain on paper towels.