Sunday, August 7, 2011

Everybody loves falafel. Everyone, that is, other than kid me. My parents used to bring home big bags of them from the amazing Sunrise Deli in San Francisco, and I could never muster up much enthusiasm. I wanted the pita and the hummus. And the carrot and cucumber spears and the hummus (my parents were hippies). And the things on the dinner table that weren't falafel. I know, all kids are supposed to like fried foods, but what can I say (my parents were hippies).

And then at a certain point, my relationship with falafel changed. At a certain point, it became very unlikely that the bag of falafel from Sunrise Deli made it home to the dinner table because it got devoured by those of us in the back seat of the car. And at a certain point, in college, I began to make them on my own.






My hands down favorite way of making falafel is based on a Gil Marks' recipe, which shouldn't surprise you too much if you're acquainted with his book Olive Trees and Honey.  Gil Marks is a rabbi whose cookbooks have been nominated for James Beard awards. He has cooked with bubbies from all over the world and has talked them into teaching him how to make things like yufka (a phyllo-like dough) by hand. The research process for him must be a riot.  

These falafel are packed with green herbs and spices, and though they are absolutely what you would identify as traditional falafel, they are considerably brighter in flavor. Other than challah, its the thing I've most often been asked to teach people how to make. Last week I made falafel for 50 people for a benefit concert, and I had to physically kick people out of the kitchen, snatching falafel out of their hands so that there would be any left over for the event. I also made a tahini sauce which I think of as being pretty essential to falafel. I like adding some yogurt in to give it additional tang and creaminess. Before my Israeli cousins jump all over me, I will say the following: 1. Tahini sauce is not made with yogurt in Israel. And just to get it out of the way: 2. Falafel are NEVER eaten with hummus in Israel. Or feta cheese. Or many of the condiments often offered in the states, which is not to take away from their deliciousness in my opinion, but my cousins would beg to differ. No matter; just make sure to make them, and eat them with any condiments you like; they are a thousand times easier to make than everyone thinks, and about a million times better than the box mix kind. Self-proclaimed carnivores will down them like nothing. Just make sure to make enough. The recipe below makes enough for 5 hungry people. Or any people, for that matter. As I said, everybody loves falafel. 

Falafel

1 lb. (~500 g.) chickpeas (dried)
½ c. cilantro, very finely chopped
½ c. parsley, very finely chopped
6-8 scallions, very finely chopped
6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped (optional)
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. baking powder
black pepper
2 tsp. salt
vegetable oil for frying

Leave the chickpeas to soak in cold water overnight. Drain them and grind them (still raw) in a food processor just until you have a paste. Add in the rest of the ingredients (except the oil) and pulse just to combine. Taste for salt. Form 1-in. balls (use a light hand and don't worry if they aren't perfect) and leave them for 15 min. to rest in the fridge. In a medium-sized pot heat several inches of oil to 350ºF. Fry the falafel in batches until golden brown. You can keep the falafel warm in a foil-covered dish in a low oven while you continue to fry the rest. Falafel are far and away at their best hot, but can be eaten at room temperature too. Just don't reheat them in the microwave as they will lose their texture; better to heat them in the oven. 
The batter keeps well-covered in the fridge for about a day (or you can save it already formed into balls); after that the baking powder loses it power.
Serve with tahini sauce, pita bread and vegetables-- I'm particularly fond of eating it with a chopped salad of cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes dressed with lemon and salt. Makes ~30 falafel.


Tahini Sauce

4 oz. sesame seeds
¼ c. olive oil
juice of a lemon
pinch salt
¼ c. of plain yogurt
water


Toast the sesame seeds in a small pan over low heat, stirring frequently so they don't burn, until they are golden but not brown (keep an eye out because they begin to darken very quickly once they start turning color). Grind them in a small food processor or spice mill until they turn into a paste (the oil from the seeds should help this happen). If after grinding the seeds as fine as possible, you are left with a fine powder instead of a paste, add the olive oil bit by bit, grinding well with each addition, until you have a paste that is smooth and thick. Add the lemon juice, grind it well again, and add a pinch of salt. Add in any olive oil you hadn't added in beforehand and grind well. Add in the yogurt if you like (though not traditional, it's awfully tasty). Begin to add in water, a tablespoon at a time, grinding with each addition, until you have a pourable sauce. Check for salt. Keep any leftovers in the fridge.

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Falafel

500 g de garbanzos (secos)
½ taza de cilantro, picado muy chiquito
½ taza de perejil, picado muy chiquito
1 tallo grande de cebolla larga (verdeo), la parte verde incluida, picado muy chiquito
6 dientes de ajo (opcional)
2 cucharitas de comino molido
2 cucharitas de semillas de cilantro molido (en Cali se consigue las semillas en La Galeria)
1 cucharita de polvo de hornear
pimienta negra
2 cucharitas de sal
aceite para freir

Deja los garbanzos en remojo desde la noche anterior. Escurrelos y muelelos (todavía crudos) en una procesadora (en tandas si tu procesadora es pequeña) hasta que estén bien molidos y justo estén covertiendose en una pasta. Si pudiste moler todo de una, agrega los demás ingredientes menos el aceite y pulsa hasta que todo esté incorporado. Si la procesadora es demasiado pequeña, transfiere todo el garbanzo molido a un recipiente grande y mezclalo bien con todos los demás ingredientes menos el aceite. 
Fijate que la mezcla este bien de sal. Forma bolitas de 3 cm. y dejalas reposar 15 minutos en la nevera. Caliente el aceite y frielas, sacandolas a una bandeja con papel de cocina cuando esten doraditas tirando hacia cafes. Puedes mantanerles caliente en un horno bajito tapadas con papel aluminio mientras terminas de freir las demás. Saben mejor calientes, aunque se pueden comer a temperatura  ambiente. Calentarlas en el microndas hace que pierdan su textura; mejor calentarlas en el horno.
Se puede guardar la masa, ya formada en bolitas si quieres, bien tapada en la nevera durante un dia; después el polvo de hornear pierde su poder.
Sirveles con salsa de tahini, pan arabe (pita) y verdura-- a mi me gusta comerlas con una ensalada picada de pepino, tomate y pimentón con aderezo de limón y sal. Rinde ~30 falafel.


Salsa de Tahini

¼ libra de ajonjoli (sesamo)
¼ taza de aceite de oliva
jugo de un limón
una pizca de sal
¼ taza de yogur natural (sin azúcar)
agua


Tuesta el ajonjoli en una sarten chiquita sobre fuego bajo, revolviendo para que no se queme, hasta que esté doradito pero no café. Muelelo en una procesadora chiquita (o un molino de especias) hasta que se vuelva una pasta (la grasa de la semilla debería causar esto). Si, después de haberlo molido totalmente, se queda como una harina finita, echale el aceite de oliva poco a poco, procesando bien cada vez, hasta que tengas una pasta suave y espesa. Echale el jugo de limón, procesalo bien, y echale una pizca de sal. Echale el aceite que quedó (si quedó), procesa bien, echale el yogur procesa otra vez (el yogur no es tradicional pero es una adición muy rica). Ahora, agregale agua, cucharada por cucharada, procesando con cada adición, hasta que tengas una salsa espesa.
Guardala en la nevera.

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