Fun with Falafel

In much of Israel, falafel stands are as common as hot dog stands in New York City, except that instead of a pushcart the vendors stand next to a vat of boiling oil. It’s one of my favorite street foods from all my travels. Luckily, they are extremely easy to make and tasty to eat.

I purchase premade falafel mix: just add water and voila! You’re ready to drop balls in the deep fryer. I like to scoop the powder mix from the bulk food bins at Wild Oats, but have purchased this boxed mix as well and can say it’s good: Casbah Falafel Mix.

It’s great to have an electric deep fryer for heating oil. Deep frying works best when the oil is at a specific temperature — hard to maintain when you’re heating it on the stovetop. If the oil is at the right heat, then the food will instantly develop a crust to keep the insides oil-free while they cook. Oil that is too cold will seep into the food and make it greasy. We generally use canola oil, sometimes mixed with peanut oil, to avoid the heavy dose of saturated fats associated with deep-fried food fried in lard. We just have a basic deep fryer like this one: Presto 05420 FryDaddy Electric Deep Fryer

falafelI wanted to make this really kid-friendly, so I put all the fixin’s in little bowls and let them build their own pita sandwich. I used a melon-baller to make fun-sized balls.

Traditionally, falafel pita sandwiches are dressed with lettuce or cabbage and chopped tomatoes with a yogurt-dill-chopped cucumber mixture and tahini (sesame paste). Often a Tabasco-like hot sauce is sprinkled on top.

This night I chopped up broccoli, cabbage, cucumbers and carrots, because that is what I had. Instead of tahini, we used Annie’s Naturals Goddess Dressing, which has a sesame base and is unbelievably tasty. For a kick, the adults sprinkled on Golden Toad Chipotle Pepper Sauce, my absolute favorite hot sauce. Yum! The kids loved customizing their own pita — it’s always popular when they can help make the food! Everyone scarfed it down, even the 2-year old, and I sent leftovers in the lunch boxes the next day.

  1. MamaLeece at |

    HiJan. I read your question for Elizabeth and thought I’d add my own tip to help you out. I have yet to try this with falafel, however, I make a Romanian dish, deep fried Saur Kraut balls, that are very similar to falafel in the way they are prepared and the consistency of the ingredients is nearly identical. The Kraut Balls are supposed to be deep fried, and as Elizabeth mentions, if the oil is nice and hot, at the right temp, the balls will crust over quickly and prevent the oils from seeping into the balls. That IS one very tried and true method, however, there are a few tricks you can try to spare your arteries.

    1.) After preparing the falafel balls the preferred way, try dipping them in beaten egg whites, then coating with bread crumbs. The egg whites form a barrier between the balls and the oil and prevent oil from seeping in.

    2.) My preferred trick is to simply place the balls on a nonstick cooking sheet, spaced 1/2 inch apart so they brown all over. Preheat the oven to 450 trust me thersgoodreason for this as I’ll explain). Once the oven is preheated to 450ou quickly and ightly spray a canola or olive oil spray over the balls, coating them lightly with the spray-on oil. Place them into the oven imediately then reduce the heat to 350 degrees. The high heat will crust over the outside of the lightly oiled balls, and the reduced heat will then cook them to perfection. I can’t tell you how long to cook the balls in the oven as the size and ingredients will make the time vary, so watch them closely until you feel they are done.

    Good luck!
    Mama

    Reply
  2. Jan DeCourtney at |

    Hi Elizabeth, The falafel looks wonderful, and the picture makes me hungry.

    Does falafel have to be fried? Can it be baked instead? I really like falafel but eating a lot of oil is not a good idea for me.

    Also I’d just like to say that everyone I give your book to absolutely LOVES it. My sister especially was very excited. I have yet to hear how she likes the recipes, but I have no doubt that she will be thrilled. My mom has cooked two so far and was very happy.

    Best wishes,
    Jan

    Reply

Leave a Comment