Falafel is a tasty middle eastern vegetarian dish. The main ingredient is ground chickpeas, seasoned, formed into patties or balls and fried. It is traditionally served in pita pockets with tahini, or sesame sauce.
There are a few variations on how to make it. I will start by saying this is not the only way to make it! Ethnic recipes are especially personal and subjective and one person’s best way is another person’s wrong way! This is simply the way I prefer to make it.
This is one recipe which cannot be made with canned chickpeas. They have to be dried. You will soak them, but you will not boil them.
The difference soaking makes is quite visible. Not only do they swell to 2-3 times the size, but a warm golden color comes to the surface as well.
Drain the soaked chickpeas and puree in a food processor with a coarsely chopped onion, and two coarsely chopped cloves of garlic, a rounded teaspoon each of cumin and coriander, and a full bunch of parsley. Add about a teaspoon of salt for a pound of dried chickpeas, and black pepper and cayenne pepper to taste.
Puree this all together to the point that it resembles a coarse grain.
Form the mixture into small patties. They should be about the size of a small cookie.
Heat vegetable oil for frying. A deep fryer is handy here, but a frying pan is just as effective. Fry the patties to golden brown.
Tahini sauce begins with sesame paste, or tahini. It is blended with yogurt, lemon juice, garlic and spices. Often I find it dry because the sesame paste soaks up all the moisture from the yogurt.
I blend the tahini with yogurt, water and lemon juice until it is the consistency of creamy salad dressing. don’t be shy with the lemon juice because it will be a nice counterpoint to both the sesame paste and to the fried falafel patties.
If you have seasoned the falafel well, the only other thing the sauce needs, in my opinion, is salt and pepper, and possibly a pinch of cayenne pepper.
The traditional way to serve falafel is like a sandwich, stuffed in a pita pocket with lettuce and tomatoes and drizzled with tahini sauce. In the picture below I have created a slightly de-constructed version with fresh cucumbers, garnished with cilantro and feta cheese.