Falafels

Monday, April 20th, 2009 7:00 pm by Neal
A gallon freezer bag full of falafel balls. Click photo to enlarge.

Here’s the latest from the southchild kitchen: Yummy, yummy falafels.

Here are the steps with details:

1. Soak a one pound bag (2 cups) of dried garbanzo beans 24-36 hours.

Details: Pour a one pound bag of dried beans onto a cookie sheet, scatter about and inspect to remove any rocks or non-bean stuff. Rinse beans well in a strainer. Put the beans in a big bowl and cover with water a good 4 inches above the beans (they will soak up a bunch of water!). Add 2 Tablespoons salt and stir. You can leave the beans out for many hours, but you should probably refrigerate them overnight.

2. Get all the stuff together to make the falafel batter.

(You can do this step and the next ahead of time and refrigerate the batter which keeps for many days in the fridge.)

Details:
- Drain the garbanzo beans and rinse just a little. Set aside.

- Roughly chop one, yellow onion (I prefer “sweet”) and lightly crush 3 large cloves garlic (or 4 medium). Set aside.

- Mix the following spices in a bowl:

  • 1 Tablespoon salt (table salt is fine, if you use kosher, use maybe a third more.)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons freshly-grated black pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon ground coriander powder
  • 2 Tablespoons ground cumin powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper powder (or a pinch more, to taste).

Set bowl aside.

- Prepare fresh parsley: This is Italian, flat-leaf parsley, not the curly stuff. On average, I use a little more than half a “supermarket sized” bunch. Pick off the leaves and tender stems, rinse and dry in a salad spinner. Finely chop enough parsley to measure at least 1 1/4 cups when gently packed. A little more parsley may even be better. Don’t be shy.

- Squeeze the juice out of two lemons into another bowl, separating out seeds. Get all the juice out of them possible (within Geneva Convention regulations, of course). You guessed it, set bowl of lemon juice aside. I bet the folks who invented falafel didn’t use this many bowls!

3. Make the falafel batter. Get out the food processor.

My food processor is small — 9 cups thereabouts — so I make my batter in two batches, each with half of all the ingredients, then I mix them together in a bowl.

Details: Put half the onion, garlic, parsley, garbanzos in the food processor and blend a good 15-20 seconds. Scrape down the sides and add half the spices and half the lemon juice. Continue blending, three or four times, stopping every 10 seconds or so to scrape down until the mixture is well-blended and slightly grainy. Do not over blend this into hummus! The batter should be slightly wet and sticky, but not drippy. You shouldn’t need to add any water when blending, but if it’s too dry, you can add just a little.

Pour mixture in a bowl and repeat blend with other half of ingredients. Combine mixtures and stir together well.

4. Fry the falafel balls.

I don’t own a deep fryer, so I use the smallest stainless steel pot I have (1 quart pot) and fill it approximately 2 inches deep in canola oil (may alternatively use peanut, grapeseed, or corn. Olive oil can’t take this heat, and soy oil? Bleh. Use canola.)

Details:
Prep the takeoff area by setting a draining rack over some paper towels. Your deep-fried falafels will drip and cool here.

Prep the fryer: Be careful! If you have a deep fryer, use it. Otherwise, my 1 quart pot fryer works well. Feel free to use a bigger pot if you’re not an oil cheapskate like me; although, I can cook 75 falafels in half an hour in that tiny pot! Heat the oil over medium heat, and employ a candy thermometer to ensure you hit 350 degrees Fahrenheit. (If you don’t own a candy thermometer, well, buy one. $10 tops, and I’ve had mine 20 years. Plus it’s great for making candy.)

Prep the balls: Using a teaspoon, scoop a healthy teaspoon-plus amount of batter into one hand. Toss batter into a ball in your hand, then place on a pan of some sort (I use one of those flimsy, plastic cutting “boards”). Since I’m using the “cheap-pot” fryer, I can fry 5 balls at a time, so I place the prepared balls in rows of 5. Adjust according to your fryer’s capacity.

Fry: Make sure you have a slotted, metal spoon to fish out your falafel balls. When oil hits 350+, carefully drop 5 prepared balls into the fryer (again, adjust according to your fryer’s capacity). They should sink and then float. If they don’t float, the oil isn’t hot enough. Cooking time is 1-3 minutes, depending on the size of the balls and how brown you like them. Brown is good: I think a darker brown color is better than a lighter brown. Try out both and decide for yourself! When done, fish them out with the slotted spoon and place on the rack to drain.

WARNING: If using the homemade “fryer”, danger time is when you first drop the balls into the hot oil. If you’ve used too much oil (or add too many balls), the oil can boil out of the pot. This can burn down the house, so turn off the burner, remove the pot from the burner, and call your wife/husband to help with the fire and/or cleanup.

Keep the heat on the oil throughout the frying sessions since oil cools down whenever you add a batch of batter…I let the oil have 15-30 seconds between batches to heat back up.

5. Lemon-tahini Dressing

Mix this ahead of time. It keeps in the fridge at least a week.

Details: Put 1/2 cup yogurt and 1/2 cup smooth sesame tahini in a bowl. Add a big pinch of salt, freshly-ground black pepper, and cumin powder. Add 1/2 clove minced garlic, and the juice of 1 lemon. Blend well. (If you’ve got some chives you’d like to use up, add a minced tablespoon.) CAUTION: Can also add some minced parsley if you’re not sick of it by now!

6. Shepherd’s Salad.

Also make this ahead of time, as it gets better the longer it marinates. Good for several weeks, if yours lasts that long.

Details: Finely chop and add to a bowl the following: 1 small onion, 2-3 roma tomatoes, and 1/2 – 1 cucumber (peeled and seeded). Basically, add equal parts of each. Add pinch of salt, pepper, 2-3 Tablespoons olive oil, and 1-2 Tablespoons vinegar (red wine is best…red cider works well also). Add a Tablespoon or two chopped parsley (see Caution above).

7. Construction.

In addition to all that stuff above, you’ll need some pita bread (home made is best, but we’ll save that for a later installment), plus some romaine lettuce.

Details: Nuke each piece of whole pita about 9 seconds just to soften. Cut in half and carefully open pocket. Put a piece or two of the romaine lettuce in the bottom of the bread like a liner in the keel of a ship. Lightly spread sauce over the lettuce. Add 3-4 warm falafel balls in a row. I slightly squish each ball to make for a better fit and stable end-product. Dribble a little sauce between and around the balls. Add a generous helping of shepherd’s salad, followed by more sauce on the top.

8. Eat and enjoy!

9. Leftovers.

This recipe normally will make 70-80 falafel balls. I cool the leftovers on the rack and store them in a gallon freezer bag in the fridge (or freezer if longer than a week). With the already made bread, falafels, sauce, salad, and with some lettuce in the spinner, it’s falafels for lunch all week! Heat the falafel balls up in the microwave for 20-30 seconds. They don’t have the same crunch as fresh, but the flavor and smell are all there.

Also, don’t throw out the leftover oil. Instead, use a funnel and a strainer to filter the oil into a clean bottle. Save the used oil for the next time you make falafels!

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