Lynda Balslev: Falafel cravings |

Lynda Balslev: Falafel cravings

Lynda Balslev

I love falafel, but they can be messy and oily to deep-fry. The solution? Pan-frying. Not only does pan-frying require much less oil, but the flattened patties have more surface area to brown. The edges become crumbly and crisp, and the little bits that break off are good enough to eat on their own — just saying.

When making your own falafel, you must begin with dried chickpeas, which yield the right crumbly and mealy texture. Falafel should not be soggy or mushy, which is what will happen when you use canned chickpeas. So begin your falafel-making process the night before cooking by soaking the chickpeas overnight in water. The next day, the chickpeas will have tripled in size and will be firm yet tender to the bite. Drain, rinse them well, and pat dry. Then simply blitz them with the remaining ingredients until you have a sticky, mealy texture.

Now, I understand that the overnight soaking defeats any cravings demanding instant gratification — as most cravings do. With this in mind, I recommend soaking more chickpeas than you need. This way, you can refrigerate or freeze any unused chickpeas for later use. Or make a double batch of the falafel mixture and freeze some of that, instead. Then you will be set the next time the craving for falafel strikes — because you know it will.

Falafel Fritters

Active Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes, plus overnight soaking and 1 hour chilling time

Yield: Makes about 24 patties

1 pound dried chickpeas

1 small onion, chopped, about 1/2 cup

4 garlic cloves, chopped

1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded, chopped

1/2 cup (packed) Italian parsley, leaves and tender stems

1/2 cup (packed) fresh cilantro, leaves and tender stems

1/4 cup (packed) fresh mint leaves

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Grapeseed oil for pan-frying

Yogurt Tahini Sauce:

1 cup whole-milk yogurt

1 tablespoon tahini

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 teaspoons Sriracha

Pinch of salt

The night before making, place the chickpeas in a large bowl. Cover with 3 inches of cold water and let stand overnight. The next day, drain the chickpeas and rinse well, then spread on a kitchen towel and pat dry.

Place the chickpeas in the bowl of a food processor. Process until finely chopped with a consistency of coarse sand. Transfer half of the chickpeas to a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients to the food processor bowl and process to form a coarse paste. Add the reserved chickpeas and pulse to finely blend. The overall consistency should be slightly sticky but not mushy, with small pieces of the chickpeas evident. Transfer to a bowl and taste for seasoning. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Gather the falafel mixture, about 2 tablespoons at a time, and gently form into 1 1/2- to 2-inch patties. Add to the skillet and gently press in the center and around the edges with a spatula to compact. Pan-fry until the fritters are deep golden in color on both sides, 6 to 8 minutes, using the spatula to carefully flip. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel and repeat with the remaining mixture.

Whisk the Yogurt Tahini Sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Serve the falafel with the sauce, lemon wedges and additional Sriracha if desired.

Lynda Balslev is a cookbook author, food and travel writer, and recipe developer based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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