Oh, Colorado. Two weeks ago I feared frostbite from the -10 degree F temps while waiting for the express bus to work in the morning. Yesterday shirtless Cameron and I ran along the Highline Canal in Cherry Hills, dodging ice patches and mud puddles, and may have gotten our first sunburn of the year. It was an almost-perfect ending to a lovely Valentine’s Day weekend. The perfect ending?
Mediterranean Night at Chez Middleton and Turner. Cameron would never really leave me for a plate of homemade hummus and falafel (right, Cameron?), but mediterranean food is one of his favorite kinds of cuisine. After the kickbutt birthday celebrations he coordinated for me last weekend, I decided to up my game for this year’s Valentine’s Day with Friday happy hour at Dazzle Jazz downtown, a low-key evening viewing of abstract expressionist art at the Clyfford Still Museum, and then dinner at True Food Kitchen.
But, for me, Valentine’s Day isn’t a one-day event made to remind me to be nice to my partner-in-metaphorical-crime in February. It’s a reminder that finding someone we love who loves us is quite a gift and that we should relish that gift as much as possible.
Enter, vegetarian Mediterranean night and a very happy husband and wife. We finished off hefty plates of falafel, hummus, tzatziki, flatbread, and lemon-dressed salad greens while watching a couple of episodes of How I Met Your Mother (thanks, Netflix). A perfect send-off to a most lovely weekend.
Below you’ll find the recipe for made-from-scratch falafel. Homemade falafel isn’t difficult to create, but it does take planning. You’ll need to soak the dried chickpeas overnight to prep them for the recipe, and you’ll need to allow time for the falafel mixture to sit before frying them up. Since I made a few recipes that needed downtime before the finished products were ready to be eaten, I recommend putting together a meal like this over a weekend when you don’t need to rush to the dinner finish line.
Made-From-Scratch Falafel (a Shiksa.com recipe)
Makes 30-34 falafels
– 1 lb (about 2 cups) dry chickpeas/garbanzo beans
– 1 small onion, roughly chopped
– 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
– 3-5 cloves garlic
– 1 1/2 tbsp flour
– 1 3/4 tsp salt
– 2 tsp cumin
– 1 tsp ground coriander
– 1/4 tsp black pepper
– 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
– Pinch of ground cardamom
– Vegetable oil for frying (I used grapeseed oil.)
1. Pour the chickpeas into a large bowl and cover them by about 3 inches of cold water. Let them soak overnight. They will double in size as they soak – you will have between 4 and 5 cups of beans after soaking.
2. Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans well. Pour them into your food processor along with the chopped onion, garlic cloves, parsley, flour, salt, cumin, ground coriander, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and cardamom.
3. Pulse all ingredients together until a rough, coarse meal forms. Scrape the sides of the processor periodically and push the mixture down the sides. Process till the mixture is somewhere between the texture of couscous and a paste. You want the mixture to hold together, and a more paste-like consistency will help with that… but don’t overprocess, you don’t want it turning into hummus!
4. Once the mixture reaches the desired consistency, pour it out into a bowl, and use a fork or your fingers to stir; this will make the texture more even throughout. Remove any large chickpea chunks that the processor missed. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
5. Fill a skillet with vegetable oil to a depth of 1 ½ inches. I used grapeseed oil since it has a high smoke point. Canola oil would work well, too. Heat the oil slowly over medium heat.
6. Meanwhile, form falafel mixture into round balls using wet hands or a falafel scoop, using about 2 TBS of mixture per falafel. You can make them smaller or larger depending on your personal preference. The balls will stick together loosely at first, but will bind nicely once they begin to fry.
Note: If the balls won’t hold together, place the mixture back in the processor again and continue processing to make it more paste-like. Keep in mind that the balls will be delicate at first; if you can get them into the hot oil, they will bind together and stick.
If they still won’t hold together, you can try adding 2-3 TBS of flour to the mixture. If they still won’t hold, add 1-2 eggs to the mix. This should fix any issues you are having.
7. Before frying the first batch of falafel, fry a test one in the center of the pan. If the oil is at the right temperature, it will take 2-3 minutes per side to brown (5-6 minutes total). If it browns faster than that, your oil is too hot, and your falafels will not be fully cooked in the center. Cool the oil down slightly and try again. When the oil is at the right temperature, fry the falafels in batches of 5-6 at a time until golden brown on both sides.
8. Once the falafels are fried, remove them from the oil using a slotted spoon. Let them drain on paper towels. Serve the falafels fresh and hot; they go best with a plate of hummus and tzatziki.
I’ll be sharing the recipe for tzatziki later this week, and if you haven’t tried the hummus recipe I posted here, I highly recommend it. I slow-cooked dried chickpeas this time, and the hummus was still great! Don’t forget the pita or flatbread.