To round out my week of Middle Eastern cuisine, I present to you a vehicle for all those tasty homemade recipes — the falafel sandwich. This is the kind of sandwich that makes me feel like maybe, just maybe, I could be a vegetarian. Afterall, with a sandwich as filling and flavorful as this one, who needs meat? With mixed baby greens, crunchy cabbage and carrots, this version is everything but authentic.
Admittedly, I don’t typically order the falafel sandwich — I prefer a loaded schawerma wrap most days — but that’s because most places serve their sandwiches with some wilted iceberg lettuce, chunks of flavorless tomatoes and the withered tennis balls they call falafel. As it turns out a good falafel sandwich is its own kind of wonderful, and as is the case with many things, all the much better when you’re the one deciding what goes into it.
I knew I wanted something a bit brighter than usual; something that included textures and flavors that would enhance the soft, savory falafel. The combination listed below promises balanced bites — the pepper and pickled turnips add a tangy kick, the cabbage and carrots the right kind of crunch and the tahini sauce and baba ganoush are creamy and bold without overwhelming the flavor of the falafels themselves — but feel free to throw in tomato, eggplant, Middle Eastern pickles or any other additions you think would be good. And if you come up with an inspired combination, don’t forget to share your secrets in the comments.
The best part about making this kind of sandwich at home is that you can add as much or as little of just about any ingredient you want. I’ve included a few selections below, but feel free to use whatever you have in your fridge. Avocado, marinated eggplant and even fried potatoes would all make great additions. Pink pickled turnips serve as a welcome crunchy counterpoint on top of this sandwich. If you are having trouble finding them in the supermarket, make them yourself by peeling and slicing turnips into long, 1/4 inch thick planks and soaking them overnight in a vinegar, sugar and salt brine along with a few quarter-sized pieces of red beet root. Mixed baby lettuces, cabbage and carrots are far from traditional, but I’ve found that they add a welcome contrast to the creamy spreads and light falafel.
- 2 warm, sturdy pitas
- 8-10 warm, freshly fried falafel
- 1/2 cup baba ganoush or hummus
- 1/2 cup tzatziki or thick Greek yogurt (optional)
- 1/2 cup red cabbage, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup carrots, julienned
- 1/2 cup mixed baby greens
- 1 lemon
- 2 pickled banana peppers
- 4 pickled turnip spears
- Tahini sauce, for drizzling
- Hot sauce
- Kosher salt
- Warm the pita bread in a low oven while you prepare the ingredients for the sandwich.
- Dress the baby greens with a just bit of lemon juice and light sprinkling of Kosher salt and set aside.
- When the pita are warmed through and pliable, remove from the oven and slice off the top third of each to create a pocket.
- Slather the inside of each pita with half of the baba ganoush, hummus or optional tzatziki and stuff the pocket with 4-5 of the warm falafel. Drizzle on a bit of tahini sauce/hot sauce and top with the dressed baby greens, carrot and cabbage.
- Finish each sandwich with a garnish of one pickled banana pepper and a couple of pickled turnip. Serve immediately with plenty of napkins.
Makes 2 large sandwiches