Can we talk about beans (ie, legumes) for a second? I know they’re good for you and they, quite often, serve as a fantastic vegetarian equivalent for meat. They’re chock full of protein and when you mash them up, you can form them into patties and make burgers out of them. (As an aside, why is it that people are always trying to make vegetarian dishes sound better by comparing them to their meaty brother and sister counterparts? Can’t a bean be good on its own without feeling like it needs to live up to a hamburger?)
Well, I’m certainly a fan of all things pattied, and when I made falafels for Ben eons ago, he was amazed at 1) how good they tasted and 2) how filling they were. Now, I know I’m completely going against exactly what I said three sentences ago, but if you’re really patient and fry these falafels up until they’re a perfect golden brown, these wonderful chick pea patties are reminiscent of chicken tenders. Sorry, I know I’m now one of those meat-dish-comparing people! But seriously, give these a try. Although I don’t have kids, as I was crunching into these earlier this week, I couldn’t help but imagine that kids would flip for these.
I’ve tried to make these a bunch of different ways over the years. Through much trial and error, I realized there are two secrets to getting the texture right.
To nail down the texture, one must first master the mash.
1) Do not use a food processor. In order to mash up the chick peas, I found it best to use a potato masher (or hell, even a fork will work if you have the patience of a saint). Why not a food processor? Because as the blessed blade spins around, about 60% of the chick peas get stuck under the blade (out of reach), so they never get mashed up. After lugging that thing out of the closet with the sole intention to mash up chick peas, and you realize you could have more easily gotten the job done with a $5 potato masher that was sitting on your kitchen counter, you get slightly (OK, incredibly) peeved.
The next step is all about the fry.
2) Make sure the falafels are thoroughly golden brown and crispy on each side before you flip them. You don’t want lightly golden. You’re really going for chicken-tender golden. (There, I did it again. I think I’m beyond help. Sorry!) If you don’t get a good crust, the falafels will just taste like hummus, which is absolutely wonderful but not what you’re going for here. If you want to see a nice frying technique, check out the first recipe I ever posted (yikes!) – my latkes.
Consider using the chick peas as a blank canvas here, and add any old flavors you’d like to the mix. If you like it spicy, add some cayenne or jalapeno. I kept it relatively simple with some scallions, garlic, cumin, paprika, and parsley. Seriously, feel free to do it up however your heart desires. I won’t tell, unless I was invited over your house for falafels and they tasted better than mine. In this case, yes….yes, I would tell.
In the interest of full disclosure (Do I tend to say that a lot, by the way?), I had to cut the falafels in half in order to fit them into the pita pockets I bought. I’m not trying to deceive or offend, just merely pointing out the facts here. And if you wanted to throw in some cherry tomatoes and slather on tzatziki sauce, well, that would just sound pretty spectacular. What time is dinner?
Who knew fried chick peas could taste so good? These falafels are simple and if you follow my two tricks to getting the texture right, you'll have a perfect weeknight dinner.
- 1 15.5 oz. can of chick peas, drained and rinsed
- 1 large egg
- 1 scallion, chopped (about 3 tbsps)
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2 tbsps parsley, chopped
- 3 tbsps all-purpose flour, plus more (1/4 cup) for dusting
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/8 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Put the drained and rinsed chick peas into a large bowl, along with the egg and 3 tbsps of flour. Make sure the bowl doesn't have sides that are too high, or mashing might be challenging. Using a potato masher, mash up the chick peas with the egg until they're combined and form sort of a paste. This will take a few minutes. The mixture will be chunky, but no whole chick peas should be left unmashed.
- Add the garlic, parsley, scallions, salt, pepper, cumin, and paprika. Mix to combine.
- Place 1/4 cup of flour on a plate (I used a paper plate). Wet your hands, and begin to form patties out of the chick pea mixture. Each patty is approximately 1 1/2 inches in diameter by 1/4 inch thick.
- Once formed, coat each patty entirely in the flour. Don't forget the edges, too! This will help hold things together as you fry them up.
- In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat until it begins to ripple. To test and make sure the oil is hot enough, throw a few specks of flour in the oil. If the flour immediately begins to bubble and fizzle, the oil is ready.
- Add the falafels, being sure not to crown the pan too much, and cook on the first side for about 8-10 minutes, until you get a golden brown crust. Then flip the falafels and cook another 4-6 minutes on the other side.
- Evacuate them to a plate with paper towels and serve with pita bread and tzatziki sauce immediately.