Falafel. Vegetarian comfort food at its best! Balls or patties of garbanzo-y goodness, the crispy-crunchy exterior gives way to a fluffy, flavorful explosion of spices. A little sliced onion, butter lettuce, and tomato; maybe some sprouts too. And a cool tahini-yogurt sauce brings the creamy finish, stuffed inside a fresh warm pita or whole wheat tortilla that completes the package…mmm…pure deliciousness!
My falafel recipe leans toward the traditional, with twist or two. It’s adapted from an old Jane Brody cookbook that I’ve had since before becoming a vegetarian, so it’s practically one of the originals of my collection. Brody has been a columnist/writer for the New York Times since the mid-60s and is a food and nutrition expert. Jane Brody’s Good Food Book: Living the High Carbohydrate Way stresses vegetables and complex carbohydrates and a lot of legumes for protein, in the days before low-carb became the mantra. As a runner, I know the importance of complex carbs and many of book’s recipes are right up my alley.
Because I hadn’t planned ahead and didn’t have time for soaking dry garbanzo beans, canned had to do. One can came up a little bit short of the two cups called for in the recipe, so I added some English peas to make up the difference—definitely a good addition! I didn’t have pita or pocket bread, but did have whole wheat flour tortillas, which were an excellent substitute.
I made the patties on the small side and put two in each tortilla. You could make them larger for one per sandwich or make them into smaller balls as an appetizer or to stuff in the pitas/tortillas. The falafel ingredients can be made ahead and refrigerated until you’re ready to cook them, in fact, they hold together great after being chilled for a while.
Falafel with Tahini Yogurt Sauce
1 tablespoon water
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley or cilantro
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon soy sauce, tamari, or Braggs
¼ cup tahini
1 can garbanzo beans (chick peas) drained and rinsed
½ cup fresh English peas, uncooked
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon chili powder
¼ – ½ teaspoon cayenne (depending on your heat preference)
1/3 cup toasted wheat germ
3 scallions, chopped
Tahini-Yogurt Sauce (recipe follows)
Chopped butter lettuce
In a food processor, combine the egg, water, lemon juice, parsley, garlic, soy sauce, and tahini, and process until smooth.
Add the garbanzo beans, peas, cumin, coriander, chili powder and cayenne and process until fairly smooth, but still with a bit of texture. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the wheat germ and scallions.
Form the mixture into patties, 6 large, or 9 small, or smaller balls. Heat a cast iron pan over medium heat and add a thin layer of olive or grape seed oil. Cook patties about 4 minutes, until lightly browned, and flip and cook another 3 or 4 minutes.
Serve in warmed pitas or whole wheat flour tortillas with Tahini-Yogurt Sauce and butter lettuce, tomato, onion, and sprouts.
Tahini Yogurt Sauce
½ cup Plain Greek Yogurt (I used 2%)
1-2 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 small clove garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch of salt
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until serving time.