Thursday, April 10, 2008

Baked Falafel Pitas

I never had falafel before yesterday. I wasn’t even sure what it was. Just in case I’m not the last person on the planet who didn’t already know this, falafel refers to a deep-fried cake or patty that’s made of spiced fava beans or chickpeas. Anyway, I saw Ellie Krieger make a baked version recently, and it looked so good and easy that I had to try it.

You just take some chickpeas, onion, garlic, cumin, coriander, parsley, cilantro, and olive oil and mash them all together or pulse them in the food processor, and then you form the mixture into little balls and bake them in the oven for 40 minutes. I left out the cilantro because Adam doesn’t like it, and, as I was making the falafel balls, I rolled them in some breadcrumbs, just a little, to help them adhere. The breadcrumb step may not have been necessary, but some reviews of this recipe said that the falafel balls fall apart, so I was taking an extra precaution. Mine held together nicely and developed a golden outer crust.

Since I’ve never had falafel before I can’t compare these to the traditional deep-fried version, but I still say they were pretty good. The recipe calls for them to be served with tahini sauce, which is what I did, but I think next time I’ll make a nice tzatziki to go with them. This time around I only had half a cucumber in the fridge, and I chopped it up and stuffed it in the pitas.

Baked Falafel Pitas
Adapted from Ellie Krieger’s Baked Felafel Sandwiches

Falafel:
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup minced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup parsley leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
Breadcrumbs, for forming balls (optional)

Tahini Sauce:
1/2 cup pure tahini paste
3 to 4 tablespoons lemon juice
3 to 4 tablespoons water, plus more if necessary

Salad:
1 cup shredded romaine lettuce
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 medium cucumber, seeded, peeled and chopped

4 pita pockets, sliced open

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Combine all falafel ingredients except 1 tablespoon olive oil in the bowl of a food processor. Process for 10 seconds. Stop motor and scrape down sides of bowl, then pulse for another 10 seconds, until all ingredients are well incorporated but mixture is still slightly coarse and grainy. Form mixture into 16 falafel balls, adding breadcrumbs sparingly if necessary, and brush with remaining tablespoon olive oil. Bake on a lightly greased cookie sheet for 20 minutes; flip falafel balls and bake an additional 20 minutes or until falafel balls are crisp and browned.

Combine tahini, lemon juice, and water and stir to incorporate, adding more water to achieve desired consistency. Reserve.

Toss together lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers in a bowl. Warm pita breads for 5 minutes in oven. Fill each pita with 3/4 cup salad, 4 falafel balls, and 1/4 cup tahini sauce.

19 comments:

kristina said...

Oh my gosh I LOVE falafel! Thanks for sharing- the baked version looks just as good as fried and I'm sure it's much healthier.

Peter M said...

For having & making falafel for the 1st time, I'd say you did damn good!

I'm going to be fasting soon for Greek Easter and this would come in handy, thanks.

Zen Chef said...

Yum! I love falafels but I never got brave enough to make them myself. Looks like you did good. If you ever need a second opinion you can always Fedex me the leftovers. :-) I'd be glad to help out. Haha.

sweetnsavory said...

I love falafels. I don't know why I haven't tried making them at home, since I live 2 hours away from anywhere they serve falafels. I think I'm just intimidated. Thanks for sharing your version.

Nina's Kitchen (Nina Timm) said...

Can you believe that I only had falafel for the first time this year. Loved every bite of it.......your baked version looks just as good and a lot healthier.

Elle said...

h, those look amazing! I'm definitely bookmarking this to try them! I'm on a chickpea kick lately. Great post and photos!

noble pig said...

I have made this and it's wonderful! Actually I've made it twice.

Kevin said...

Those look good. Falafels have been on my tor try list for a while. Having them with a nice and garlicky and cool tzatziki sauce would be really nice.

giz said...

Good job on the falafel - I've never tried them baked but do feel inspired now to give it a go.

Leah said...

I've never had falafel, I'm embarrassed to say. I'll have to try it sometime soon -- I'll be leaving the cilantro in mine because I can never seem to get enough of it!

Psychgrad said...

This looks really good. I was always hesitant about making falafel because of the fried part, but a baked option sounds great.

It's interesting - some people seem to really dislike cilantro.

I'm going to make some hummus and pita this weekend...If my grocery store is actually carrying tahini this week. ARGH!

Lore said...

Falafel, pita and tzatziki are a great combo for a perfect dinner. Love the idea of baked falafel and will try this soon with my spicy tzatziki. Yum!

Lina said...

I LOOOOOOVE your blog! Beautiful! And i LOOOVE falafel too. I have yet to take on the challenge to make some.

Vicarious Foodie said...

Thanks everyone for all your nice comments! To those who have wanted to try making falafel but shied away from it, I promise this method is really easy.

Helen said...

I love baking falafels. It's so much healthier than the fried version - yum!

Anonymous said...

Another good addition to hold falafel together is besan or chickpea flour. It is a great thickener in general to have on hand for a roux and imparts a really pleasant almost nutty, slightly sweet flavor. You can also make a really yummy creamy hummus or falafel with it on it's own as well.

Vicarious Foodie said...

Anonymous: Thanks for the great tip! I'll be on the lookout for this.

Ginny said...

I love falafel! Thanks for the idea! having never made it, I think I need to give it a shot!

HoneyB said...

I love falafel but I don't like deep frying - These look really good and I am going to try them! I love tahini sauce :)