Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Ode to a Falafel

If my posts were written in the order of my affection for particular foods, then this post would be long overdue. Since becoming vegan, falafel has become my favorite food. Don’t get me wrong; I have always enjoyed falafel, but I was inclined to mix it up with grilled chicken or lamb, spanakopita, or a gyro. Falafel was only one of the many kinds of Mediterranean food I enjoyed. But, since embracing a plant-based diet, the falafel has been elevated to a new status. I think this is because the falafel, more than other available foods, does not seem to be lacking for its vegan-ness. When attempting to find vegan options in restaurants, I frequently feel alienated and high-maintenance. Ordering nachos at my local Baja Fresh always throws the employees for a loop: “No meat, no cheese, no sour cream, no guacamole, thank you very much!” I usually end up with a plate of chips, and beans if I’m lucky. But, the falafel is already vegan! And so is hummus! And pita bread! Hooray! So, falafel has become its own food group in my eating life, and as such, I figured I should learn how to make it myself.

This recipe comes from Ellie Krieger, a healthy cooking host on the Food Network. I still enjoy her show, although she is far from vegan; her recipes are frequently adaptable, and healthier versions of things you already love (like her killer onion rings). Krieger bakes her falafel to boost the health quotient, but don’t worry, there is no loss in flavor. Of course, falafel aren’t a meal just in themselves, so I serve mine with homemade hummus, whole wheat pita bread, and tabbouleh salad. You can also wrap everything up in a whole wheat tortilla for an awesome and portable lunch the next day!

Baked Falafel

15 ounce can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
¼ cup onion minced
2 cloves garlic minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup cilantro
¼ cup parsley
2 tablespoons olive oil

Heat oven to 400ยบ. Combine all ingredients save one tablespoon olive oil in food processor. Process until combined but still coarse, scraping down the edges as necessary. Form into 16 balls. Pay attention to the proportion; if they are too small, they will be dry; too large and the outside won’t be crispy. Place on baking sheet, and brush with remaining olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes, flip and bake twenty minutes more. Serve immediately!


This recipe comes from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian and is my vegan bible. Whenever I find unusual greens or beans at the farmer’s market I always turn first to Bittman, and he has classically good versions of all vegetarian staples.

15 ounce can chickpeas drained and rinsed; reserve liquid
 ½ cup tahini (I’ve also used peanut butter or almond butter, if I don’t have any)
2 cloves garlic peeled
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and Pepper
1 tablespoon ground cumin

Place all ingredients in the food processor and blend until smooth. Add more salt, pepper, lemon, juice, or tahini as needed, and add chickpea liquid, or water if the mixture is too thick. Garnish with parsley, olive oil, paprika or cumin if desired. I like to freeze any leftover hummus in individual containers as they make an excellent lunch alongside raw vegetables and pita bread.


Also from Mark Bittman.

½ cup bulgur
3 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice
Salt and Pepper
2 cups parsley chopped roughly
1 cup mint chopped roughly
4 medium tomatoes diced
½ cucumber diced

Soak bulgur in hot water until tender, 15 to 30 minutes. Drain very well, removing excess moisture. Toss with remaining ingredients. Serve immediately or refrigerate for later.

A side of raw veggies goes nicely with this meal, whether in the pita with the falafel for a little crunch, or just on the side dipped in hummus.

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