FALAFEL WITH TAHINI SAUCE

Looking for good falafel in San Francisco can leave one feeling like Goldilocks.  In a town with so few options to choose from, compared to a city like New York, finding real, quality falafel around here can be hit or miss.  Oftentimes too dry, frequently too large and almost always too dense, my misadventures in the quest for the perfect fritter have lead me to create a recipe that produces perfectly light, moist and delicious falafel every time.  In Goldilocks’ words, these are just right.

Dehydrated chickpeas are soaked overnight and ground with onions, parsley and garlic then seasoned with aromatic spices before being fried to a rich, golden brown. Top with a drizzle of garlic and lemon spiked tahini sauce and you have a version that I’d bet rivals some of the best you’ve ever bought.

FALAFEL

I like to use a meat grinder set with the finest disk to process my garbanzo beans.  If you don’t have one yourself, don’t despair, as falafel made in the food processor will be equally delicious.  Whichever route you choose, make sure to season your mix well and taste it before frying — there is nothing worse than a bland falafel.  Another crucial aspect of producing tender, airy falafel comes from the rolling process.  No matter what you do, DO NOT press and compact the mixture into a tight ball.  Instead, take some of the mixture and apply just enough pressure to have it hold its shape.  It takes a bit of practice at first, but you will be rewarded with beautiful, light falafel in the end.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 lb dried chick peas (garbanzo beans), soaked in water overnight
  • 2 red or Spanish onions, coarsely chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/2 large bunch of parsley
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
  • Kosher salt & cayenne pepper to taste
  • Canola or vegetable oil for frying

METHOD:

  1. Drain the chick peas from their soaking liquid and pass them, along with the onion, garlic, parsley, through the finest holes of a meat grinder. Alternatively, place the same ingredients into the bowl of food processor and pulse until the texture is that of a coarse, moist meal.
  2. Add the cumin, coriander, sesame seeds, cayenne and salt to the ground mixture. Stir to distribute the spice and allow the mixture to rest for at least a 1/2 hour at room temperature.  Taste a small amount for seasoning and adjust accordingly.
  3. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.  With slightly moistened hands, take walnut-sized lumps (about 2 tablespoons) of the rested falafel mixture from the bowl and gently roll into flat, round shapes, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter.  Place the falafel on the lined sheet pan and repeat with the remaining mix.  Allow rolled falafel balls to rest at least another 15 minutes at room temperature before frying.
  4. Pour oil into a 4-qt. Dutch oven to a depth of 2″ and heat over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 350˚. Working in batches, fry the falafel until they are a dark, rich brown color, about 4-5 minutes.  Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels.  Repeat with remaining falafel.
  5. Serve the falafel warm or at room temperature along with tahini sauce for drizzling.

Makes about 2 dozen falafel

TAHINI SAUCE

Adapted from Claudia Roden’s A Book of Middle Eastern Food

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1-3 cloves garlic, to taste
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Juice of 2 1/2 lemons, or more to taste
  • 1/4 pint tahini paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

METHOD:

  1. Crush the garlic with salt to for a paste. Mix it with a little of the lemon juice in a large bowl. Add the tahini paste and mix well.
  2. Add the remaining lemon juice and enough cold water to achieve a thick, smooth cream, beating vigorously.
  3. Season with salt and cumin; taste and add more lemon juice, garlic or salt until the flavor is fairly strong and tart. Add a few more drops water if too thick. It should be just pourable.
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    • mjf
    • March 19th, 2010

    Really looking forward to making this. All the ingredients go so well together. I have never eaten a ‘light’ one so it will be a new experience to eat one properly prepared. Thanks for tips.

  1. People always tell me how good falafels are but I’ve never actually tried one before, thanks for the recipe I hope mine turns out as good as yours!

    • Kelly
    • March 20th, 2010

    I am wondering if it would work with canned beans?

    Am making the sauce asap to try on rice – we had a farmer’s market tahini sauce and have missed it ever since we ate it up. thanks!

  2. Kelly – Unfortunately canned garbanzo beans will not work for this type of preparation. Here you are looking to use reconstituted beans and most canned versions have already been cooked. Hope the sauce turned out as well the one from the farmers market.

    • Lotta
    • March 22nd, 2010

    Hello, this recipe sounds delicious. What brand of Tahini paste do you use for this?

    Thank you!

  3. Lotta – Joyva Sesame Tahini is a great brand to go with and is available in most well-stocked grocery stores. Recently I’ve been using Mid East Brand tahini as it seems to be the one used by a bunch of the delis here in the city. I’ve found that is has great flavor and texture. Definitely worth seeking out.

    • Christine
    • May 20th, 2010

    Sadly, I don’t know what went wrong. I made it to the letter, but the patties disintegrated in the hot oil. So made again and cooked the beans once soaked, and they still didn’t work! Mixed egg in there as a binder, but though they held together better, it still wasn’t it. Wonder what went wrong?

  4. Christine – I’m so sorry to hear about your troubles with the falafel making process. If you are having issues getting your falafel to stay intact once they hit the hot oil, consider adding a tiny bit of flour to the mix to facilitate the binding process. If you still are having trouble getting them to maintain integrity, don’t be afraid to add more pressure in the rolling process – compacting the balls a bit more than you think you might have to. Letting the falafel rest after they have been rolled is also crucial, as this down time allows them to set up a bit. Finally, the appropriate oil temperature is crucial in creating a quick crust around the perimeter of the falafel. Drop your falafel gently into the hot oil and do not disturb them until they have begun to crisp and color a bit.

    • Jayne
    • November 15th, 2010

    Just made these as the first major test of the new food processor. They came out really, really tasty. Thanks especially for the tip on using a light touch in forming the balls. I made the tahini sauce too which is one of my favorite things about falafel. However, my mix was extremely wet and I ended up adding about 1/3 cup of flour to bind it and about 1/2 t. of baking powder so it wouldn’t be heavy and gluey. Anyhow, thanks for the recipe.

    Also, I used to like King of Falafel on Diviz back when it was called “Falafel Burger King,” before BK sued their asses. Not sure if it’s any good now.

  1. March 21st, 2010