Who can say no to savory baked falafel? Not me, that’s for sure. I like to make a double batch of these babies, which yields forty small falafel. They freeze beautifully and heat up in the microwave in one minute, max! You can serve them as the main attraction of a meal, as part of a salad, or as the filling for a falafel pita sandwich, which is my favorite use for them. They are also easy to make and inexpensive, considering you can serve ten people a whole pita sandwich or twenty people if you serve half-pita portions.
Yesterday I had an amusing conversation with a friend of mine. Sabbah owns a Mediterranean restaurant in a nearby city that I frequent whenever I’m in the area. Rich and I love to order from his soup and appetizer menu where we can always find WFPB options like hummus, baba ghanoush, eggplant salad, tabbouleh, and lentil soup. On weekends he sometimes serves an eggplant, okra, or green bean stew that is plant-based. Otherwise, vegan options are slim pickings.
I’ve had Sabbah’s delicious falafel, too. It is a gift of food that appears at our table almost as an amuse bouche expression of his affection for us. This is a decadent treat that I never order from the menu because I am aware that Sabbah’s falafel are fried in oil, the way they are traditionally prepared in the Middle East. I try to stick to a low-oil, if not an entirely oil-free diet. However, when Sabbah sends a plate of his prided falafel to me as a gift, you can bet I’m going to eat those suckers! They are sin-sational morsels of goodness, a party in the mouth! Sabbah has generously shared with me his recipes for hummus and baba ghanoush, which we enjoy on a regular basis, albeit without the oil.
Over the years, we have gotten to know Sabbah, which is not his real name. This was the name imposed upon him by his previous employer, Saddam Hussein. I kid you not. For twenty years, Sabbah was personal chef to Saddam Hussein, the former dictator of Iraq. When he first went to work for him, Hussein noticed him in his kitchen. “Hey, baldie!” Saddam exclaimed. “Come over here. What’s your name?” Evidently, my friend’s real name was too complicated for the former ruler to remember, so he said, “I’m going to call you, Sabbah. Is that okay with you?” So, Sabbah he became, and that is what I call him today. It’s a little joke between us that never fails to make him laugh. As a Christian, Sabbah had to flee Iraq with his family before the second Gulf War to avoid religious persecution. He recently became an American citizen and is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet.
So, what does that have to do with falafel? Yesterday, I showed Sabbah a photo of my latest falafel pita creation over which I was immediately subjected to a minute interrogation as to my ingredients and process. He expressed considerable skepticism over my policy of baking but otherwise was satisfied that I got the ingredients and the process right.
So, there you have it! A Sabbah-approved falafel recipe that is just about as Middle Eastern as you can get. Check out my recipes for Whole Grain Pita Flatbread, Tzatziki sauce, and Mediterranean Hummus to complete the meal. They are also quick, easy, and inexpensive.
Carefully inspect dried chickpeas for dirt and debris. Wash and drain, then cover the chickpeas with three times water to bean ratio for twelve full hours and up to twenty-four hours.
Drain and discard liquid. Allow the beans to sit in the strainer or colander for several minutes to completely drain. Pat the bottom of the strainer with a paper towel or kitchen towel to remove excess water. Transfer to a food processor.
Wash the parsley and shake out the excess water. Set aside.
Peel a small onion (about one and 1/2-inches in diameter) and cut into chunks. Peel two cloves garlic.
Transfer beans to a food processor and pulse until they are the consistency of fine gravel. You want them thoroughly minced and moist, but not creamy. Transfer to a medium-sized bowl and set aside.
If you don’t have a kitchen scale, make a ball about one and 1/2 tablespoons in size.
I like to flatten mine out into disk-shapes because they fit better into pita pockets this way. However, if you are serving them in a salad or as a main course, you may roll them into a ball. If you choose to flatten them, be sure you tidy up the edges by pressing them in a little. Jagged edges will cause your falafel to become crumbly and they may fall apart during cooking, so be sure to take the time to press them into tight, clean edges.
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You can probably find organic chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans) at your local health food store, Whole Foods, or EarthFare, at a better price. Shipping fees tend to drive the price up. These chickpeas are convenient if you don't have the time or desire to do comparison shopping.
Coriander is the dried seed of the herb cilantro. It can be purchased whole or more commonly in the ground form.