Friday, July 9, 2010

And When U See Me In Dat Pita U Kno That Im Super Fresh

Ya, I just quoted Soulja Boy, what?

Saw these amazing pods of amazingness at the Dekalb Farmer's Market last weekend:

Fresh chickpeas! In the shell! COOOL. I bought a pound. And took them home, steamed them for about 30 minutes, and deshelled them. And ended up with about one cup of chickpea.

Sweet. So, what to do with these? Falafel, obviously! My FAVORITE of all street food. Like many falafel-obsessed NYC kids, I long ago declared my undying love to the notorious Oasis sammich (Mamoun's ain't bad, just not my style). In Charlotte, there's nothing to compare to either of those sammies, but Jerusalem's wins the local title, with Middle East Deli's and (on a good day) Cedarland's coming in a close second (Kabob Grill's ain't too shabby, but 7 bucks? That's obscene).

I digress. We're doing homemade. So let's.

I've always used the recipe from this cookbook when cooking up a batch at home, varying ingredients and herbs based on what's in my garden and fridge. Today, I went with:

1 cup fresh chickpeas
1/3 vidalia onion
3 tablespoons chives
3 tablespoons parsley
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp baking powder
2 tablespoons (or less, or more, depending on how moist your mix is) lemon juice

Oil for deep frying

Baking powder, which is kinda sacriligious for Falafel purists, is awesome. It puffs the ball up a bit, helping it to steam the interior while the outside crisps in the oil, so you don't end up with pasteballs that are fried to a crisp exterior. Trust me on this.

So, I cook without a food processor. I do have a manual that I thrifted last year:

Using the medium disc, I grated my 'peas into a mix resembling coarse breadcrumbs. You can use a normal food processor to achieve this as well. Go ahead and grate your onion on the uncleaned blade. And garlic, too.

Put it all in a bowl. Add your chopped herbs, salt, baking powder, pepper, and cumin. Mix gently. Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, mix again, and try forming a ball with your hands. If it holds together easily, without crumbling, you're ready to go. If it's too dry and fragile, add another tablespoon of lemon juice and try again.

You'll end up with 6-7 balls of delish in the end.

Enough for two sammiches.

Heat oil to 375f (or high, if you aren't using a thermometer, but you should be! tsk). Test by sitting a chopstick in the oil for a sec - you want to see lots of tiny bubbles coming off the wood.

Carefully place them in the oil. Let them fry until deeply browned (3-4 minutes) and drain on paper towels.

Zomg, green! Gorgeous. Very beany, almost nutty flavors. And a delicate sweetness. Worth it, what with all the steaming and shelling? Absolutely.

Obviously, there are many ways to eat these legumey dumplings. How I do it:

1 large pita (not whole wheat!)
2 tablespoons hummus
2 israeli pickles
3 tablespoons tomato-cuke salad (recipe at bottom)
2 tablespoons tahini sauce (below as well)
2 leaves of sturdy lettuce, torn into sixths
3 falafel balls
Hot sauce to taste

Toast your pita until it firms up a bit. Cut the top 1/4 off, trim the pieces corners, and shove it into the bottom of your pita (liquid barrier, yay!). Spread your hummus all over the interior of the pita. Crush your falafels into the bottom and sides of the pita, add lettuce, pickles, salad, tahini sauce, and finally hot sauce. Wrap that thing in foil, and twirl it a bit, to get everything mixed and well into the pita. Open and go to town!

Tomato Cuke Salad for Falafel

1 large tomato, diced
1/4 vidalia onion, diced
1 medium cuke, diced and deseeded
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced parsley
1 tsp salt

Mix it all and refrigerate. When using, leave the watery sauce at the bottom of the bowl - you want your falafel to hold together 'till the end, don't ya?

Tahini Sauce for Falafel - straight outta Jaffrey's awesome book

1/4 cup tahini
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled
4 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
3 tablespoons cold water

Mince or press your garlic into a small bowl, and use a spoon or pestle to crush them to a paste. Add tahini and beat it with a fork. As you stir, add the lemon juice, mixing thoroughly. Add the salt. Now, trickle the COLD water in as you continue to stir. Taste and add salt if needed. Use immediately.


  1. I love fresh chickpeas. I just pan fry them in a little olive oil, then add a sprinkle of sea salt. It makes for an addicting finger-food that's great with cocktails or beer.

  2. Sounds awesome. Yeah, as much as I enjoyed them combined with falafel-y flavors (cumin, onion, garlic, etc) I found myself curious what they'd be like all by their lonesome. If I'm lucky, they'll show up around here somewhere and I'll get to try your technique.

  3. help, my falafel has melted in the pot while deep frying!!!

  4. Argh, this happened to me the first few times I made falafel. Frustrating. The key is very hot oil - you want the oil bath hot hot hot, almost smoking. Another tip - keep your mix as low moisture as possible. If your uncooked falafels are super-wet, they'll steam themselves apart as soon as they hit the oil. Good luck!!

  5. When you made your own falafel instead of using a mix, did you still add the eggs and extra spices before waffling?

  6. Would be drier and make better falafel balls if you hadn't steamed them before shelling.

  7. Looks yummy! I'm not a fan of deep-frying, so I grill (broil) my falafel instead. Works much better than baking.

  8. I am upset with this recipe. I spent over an hour laboriously shelling peas then chopping everything fine by hand, since my food processor is on the blink. But what could possibly have inspired me to follow the directions for an entire teaspoon of salt plus another teaspoon of baking powder? The result is criminally salty. Horrible, horrible, horrible. Please warn others.