The 3 Bean Posts – #1 Garbanzos: Falafel and other funny words
I have been craving chickpeas. Literally. I’m going mad wanting chickpeas in everything right now. I think it’s because they are a relatively new ingredient discovery for me. You know when you learn a new word or phrase and then suddenly you hear it everywhere? That’s what happening right now with me and chickpeas.
Sitting down to watch the movie Cold Souls, which has been on my list of must-watch for a while because my beautiful and very talented friend Beth Mickle was the production designer for the film (and her work is always amazing). I wasn’t expecting to find out that Paul Giamatti’s soul is shaped like a chickpea. What is life trying to tell me?
I spent the last week getting to visit my oldest friends. Always amazing supporters of mine they had recently purchased my servitude through pledging to my kickstarter fundraiser. Because of their amazing generosity I owed them a dinner party. I wanted to use some of my blog recipes, since they deserved an olive oil cake at the very least, so with the dessert choice already on the table we decided on a Greek theme for their dinner. Bring on the chickpeas, right?
Of course when you sit down to plan a Greek dinner party starting with some hummus and an olive plate is a pretty basic place to start. In the past that’s all chickpeas had been for me – the base for hummus. That was before I put them in my couscous salad and started going crazy for them. That’s how it starts. A recipe blows my mind that I haven’t used something before and I’m starting a new ingredient obsession. Like balsamic reduction sauces and pork loins I think I’m about to start using chickpeas in everything. Could be worse.
People who are used to putting chickpeas into foods with regularity can probably see where this is going from a mile away, because, other than being in the title of this blog post, falafel is the chickpea’s next most popular recipe to be in after hummus. Who doesn’t love falafel? Well actually I was surprised by the overwhelming answer of no one. Every person answered with “oh I love falafel.” Something I’d rarely eaten and had no solid opinion on I had to do some research. When something can be made from a box mix and people still like it – it must be pretty stellar when made from scratch.
Anyway, as it turns out, like most things made from a box mix, making falafel from scratch is so easy that using a box mix wouldn’t even save you much time. Just mash up some chickpeas with an egg to bind it, flour to balance the batter and add your flavoring. Kind of just a garbanzo bean burger. Well I still can manage to “mess up” a recipe that’s even that simple.
I love when life chooses to broaden our horizons. I think I’ve been intimidated by Middle Eastern cooking because of the spices I had yet to use with great regularity. Maybe I’ve been living under a rock, but cumin hasn’t been a go-to spice for me in the past. It’s taken me a long time to figure out that I totally like cumin. I just hadn’t used it. Just a step away from the path I’ve been wearing down is a new world of beautiful wonders to add to my life – all I have to do is break my routine.
While cooking for my friends’ I was also babysitting my nephew, their 7 month old son. To say that this child is an extrovert is a bit of an understatement. He really needs people in view at all times, so even though I had his high chair and pack-n-play dragged into the far end of the kitchen, whenever I ran to the living room to double check recipes I was using online he was kind of upset with me for leaving. I started to push the limits on remembering lists of ingredients and instructions and may have started putting ingredients from my roasted eggplant spread into my falafel.
I knew that jalapeno went into something. Oh well – it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I may make overly bold food sometimes, but I never make bland food, so of course I wouldn’t notice that ingredient doesn’t belong.
As I was balancing the toddler’s patience with moves from the pack-n-play to the highchair to eat puffs and grapes to the floor where he could get into the kitchen cupboards (with the dog) under my feet back to the pack-n-play, I decided to use as few dishes to cook with as possible.* I didn’t want to have to clean up more than was necessary. So rather than putting the chickpeas into the food processor to make a meal, I threw them in the pan with everything else until they were soft enough to mash with the back of a spoon. I have since decided that I prefer this texture and will pretend from now on that it was an educated decision from the start.
I think the most exciting part of falafel is that it’s fried yet you feel like it’s healthy. Frying foods is also something I never seem to do and it was so easy! Since falafel isn’t spongy it doesn’t absorb much of the oil you use, hence I’m pressed to believe it’s not all that bad for me either. Love how this one recipe is expanding my routines.
I couldn’t keep running to the computer for recipes so I just made up a yogurt sauce from the general idea (I think I had been planning a tahini sauce, but I don’t know how to make up one of those without looking at instructions). Super lemony and fresh, I knew that this combo would make it to the blog as soon as I could get at my computer without worrying that someone was going to start chewing on the cables while I was working (7 month olds are so fun. And cute. And exhausting. My hat’s off to all you mom’s out there right now. I’m still tired and I only babysat him for 2 days!).
Finally arriving home after a long journey I set out to make some more falafel to photograph for you guys to see (What? I couldn’t get photos done while cooking with that pack-n-play scenario going on?! I know I’m a wimp. haha). I decided to play around with a few of the ingredients (poblanos for smokiness instead of that “on-purpose” jalapeno) and was shocked that this recipe got even better. In fact I find this falafel recipe mind-blowingly good. A bit spicy for those who are used to traditional falafel, but incredibly tasty and full of flavor. I hope you guys enjoy and find some routine’s breaking in the making of it.
- 1 can of chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 1 small red onion (diced small)
- 1 red bell pepper (diced small)
- 1 poblano pepper (diced small)
- 5 cloves of garlic (I like flavorful food if you couldn’t tell)
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- salt + pepper (don’t be scared of salting starchy foods – they hold a lot more before becoming too salty)
- fresh cilantro
- fresh parsley
- 1 egg
- 1/3 cup flour (give or take)
- Canola oil for frying
Heat your olive oil in a medium sized frying pan over medium heat. Add your onions, bell pepper and poblano and sweat them out until the onions are clear but not really browning. Add your garlic cloves crushed and chopped fine. You want all your veggies diced really quite small to keep the texture of your final falafel even. It’s a bit more work but it’s totally worth it.
When your garlic is starting to smell good add your chickpeas and stir the whole things together. Put in your spices and keep it over the heat until the beans are warm, then turn off the burner while you smash the beans with the back of your spoon. Taste the mixture for salt and spice levels. At this point it should be flavorful and delicious already. Transfer the mixture to a bowl that will fit in your fridge.
Pile a handful of parsley leaves and a handful of cilantro on your cutting board and chop them together. Put about half of this mixture into the bowl with your bean mixture (the rest is for the yogurt sauce) and add your egg. Mix by hand. Start adding flour until it comes to a nice dough consistency. It will still stick to your hands, but that is a small price to pay for the tender texture that these falafel will hold onto with less flour. Put the whole mixture into the fridge to chill until you’re ready to serve.
When everyone is about to sit down heat your canola oil in a clean frying pan at medium heat. I only needed about 1/3 cup. The oil will bubble around your falafel so you don’t even need enough oil to come up half way on the patties. Test the temperature of your oil by dropping just a spot of water into it. When that sizzles you’re ready to go.
I like to make small patties from the chilled dough and make more appitizer sized falafels. You can make them any way you like, but flattened patties work best. After you drop them in the pan check that they move freely and aren’t sticking. Flip them when you start to see a golden brown edge forming (about 1-2 minutes). When they’re done put them on some paper towels and crack some fresh salt over them. They don’t really need more salt – but all fried food is better with a little fresh salt on their fried edges.
Serve them with the yogurt sauce and enjoy.
- 1 small container of Greek-styled plain yogurt
- juice of 1 lemon
- fresh cilantro
- fresh parlsey
- salt + pepper (I never give actual measurements for this as I feel it’s so much to an individual’s tastes)
Mix together the yogurt, lemon juice and chopped herbs (left over from the above recipe). Then add salt and pepper to taste. Should be a bright clean flavor. If not balance in a little more lemon.
*(Yes Papa – I know – ironic for me to not use every dish in the house to cook a meal, but you weren’t there to do the dishes)
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