Monday, July 26, 2010

Vegetarian Week, Part One: Homemade Falafel

In case you haven't noticed yet, I am definitely a carnivore, and have always enjoyed my place at the top of the food chain. Growing up in the Midwest, I was a steak-and-butter child, and always looked down on vegetarians with a mixture of disdain and pity. In fact, I even took a picture of this rather humorous t-shirt to send to my recently vegan friend:

However, due to popular request, I decided to give some vegetarian dishes a try. And was pleasantly surprised.

Vegetarian dishes CAN have flavor, are less expensive, and are generally easier to make (after all, you can't get salmonella from under-cooking veggies.) So for this week, I will share some great recipes with you.

It all starts with my Homemade Falafel, or chickpea fritters. I first tried these delightful gems when I was in Israel, and I fell in love. Though they are a bit time consuming to make, they are well worth it. Enjoy!

Food Porn Description: Take a bite of my falafel with pita, and descend through a layer of flavors, each building in intensity....first the warm, toasted pita bread....then the crisp romaine lettuce....then the tangy, creamy hummus....and finally, just when you think you can't stand any more flavor, you are transported to a Middle Eastern market. An array of warm spices folded into tender mashed chickpeas, all fried to golden perfection.....

  • 15 oz. can of chickpeas, drained. Also called garbanzo beans, which I have always found strange.
  • 1 onion
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. coriander
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup plain dry bread crumbs
  • Oil for frying. I used vegetable oil, enough to cover the falafel in the pan.
This makes about twelve falafel. You can enjoy them atop salads, or make a pita sandwich slathered with your favorite hummus and topped with some lettuce and tomato. Go crazy!

NOTE: If you don't own a blender or food processor, you can get physical with it and mash everything yourself. You really should at least own a blender though. How else are you gonna make margaritas?


Peel and chop up your onion into pieces. They can be large since you will be putting everything in the food processor anyways.

I started off using a blender but my blender sucks, so I switched to a small food processor. Double the clean-up....yay! I would recommend a food processor if you have one. Anyways, first process the onion, parsley, garlic, and chickpeas until combined, but still thick.

Add the rest of the ingredients and process until the mixture is smooth and sticky, but still with a lot of nice texture. After all, you're not making baby food here. Then roll the mixture into ping-pong ball sized balls and press flat. It's fun!

NOTE: Take the blade out of the processor before reaching in, or take the mixture out with a spoon! I cut the shit out of my finger with the blade and ended up having to roll my falafel balls with my one non-bloody hand (that's how baller of a chef I am) (get it? baller? no?)

Oh, and Phil helped, too. Phil is a young twenty-something, sports-watching, frozen-dinner eating guy friend of mine, and if he can roll falafel, anyone can.

Heat about two inches of oil in a pot until it is bubbly. Then carefully drop your falafel patties into the oil. Hey, I never said this recipe was healthy. Ironic that this was both my first foray into vegetarian cooking AND deep frying? I think yes.

After a few minutes, check to see if the bottom of the falafel are toasty brown. Then carefully flip them over to fry for a few minutes on the other side.

Take the falafel out and put them on a paper towel to soak up the excess oil. Repeat as many batches as necessary (don't overcrowd the pot).

Slather some hummus in a warm pita pocket, stuff with lettuce or any other toppings you might like, and stick a couple of falafel in there. Delicious and vegetarian!

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