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Caught: Falafel

Posted in : Main Courses, Recipes on by : Rosemary Cheese Chaser Tags: ,

Alexander’s Great Falafel

When I was in college, I fell in love with falafel. Not just any falafel, though. Alexander’s Great Falafel, sold out of a little food cart on the edge of the University of Oregon campus.  I sometimes studied with the proprietor’s daughter, and, one night after a study session, I drove her home. I don’t remember what we had been studying that night, but I remember the family dining table, covered with jalapenos and onions and garlic cloves and chick peas in huge bowls as the family prepared the falafels and salads that would be served to students the next day. During my university days, Alexander’s Great Falafel was my favorite lunch and, more often than I care to admit, it was my only real meal of the day.  I always ordered mine slathered in jalepeno chutney and tahini sauce, and, in my rose-colored memories, every bite was taken in the shimmering late-afternoon sunshine of a perfect spring day.

Alexander’s Great Falafel was my first falafel love, and I thought all falafels were like Alexander’s Great Falafels. I was deeply disappointed to discover that falafel recipes are as unique as the chefs who create them, and that most were not great. In the years after I left Eugene, whether I was traveling or exploring my current ‘hometown’, I would seek out Mediterranean food vendors, trying to satiate my fiendish desire for Alexander’s Great Falafel. While I certainly haven’t tried every falafel in the country, I’ve tried falafel in towns from coast to coast, and, in my opinion, Alexander’s Great Falafel is still the Greatest.

After having eggy falafels and mealy falafels and burnt falafels and falafels that were undercooked in the middle and even falafels that could very well have been hush puppies, I decided I needed to learn how to make a great falafel.

My first few attempts were a miserable failure. I made mashed chickpea crumbles soaked in fry oil at least a half dozen times. I added flour. I added corn meal. I turned the heat up. I turned the heat down. I used less of this and more of that, but I could not make any fried falafel, let alone a great one.

The Secret Ingredient

It turns out that I had one very important ingredient all wrong: the chick peas.  All of my early attempts at making these delicious little bean balls started with cooked (often canned) chick peas.  I think the first time that I heard the chick peas should not be cooked, I was left with the impression that I should just use dried chick peas, and I didn’t believe it. I was curious, though, and quickly learned that the hint I’d received was correct – the chick peas should not be cooked – but they should be soaked. Ever since I’ve learned this trick, I’ve enjoyed making these Alexander’s Great Falafel inspired falafel patties in my home kitchen.

Falafel recipes are as unique as the chefs who make them; use your family’s favorite seasonings to turn them into Your Great Falafels!

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Rosemary's Great Falafel

These aren't as great as Alexander's Great Falafel, but they might be better than your local falafel place!  Serve with flatbread, hummus, tahini, and jalapeno chutney.

Servings 12 2" patties
Author Rosemary Cheesechaser

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried chick peas pre-soaked but not cooked
  • 1/3 large bunch cilantro (coriander leaf)
  • 1 large well-ripened jalapeno
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil for frying, actual amount depends on the pan you use
  • salt to taste

Instructions

  1. Place all ingredients except oil in a food processor and process to the consistency of rough corn meal. 

  2. Chill blended falafel mix for at least 2 hours (Mix can be prepared several days in advance)

  3. Pour about 1/4 inch of oil into the bottom of a pan and preheat the oil over medium heat.

  4. Scoop out the falafel mix by heaping teaspoons and form into patties.
  5. Place patties into the hot oil and fry on each side until golden brown (3-5 minutes)

  6.  Place patties in a coffee filter-lined sieve to drain excess oil. 

Recipe Notes

After cooking, you can keep the falafel warm in the oven until ready to serve.

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