I love meat. All kinds of meat – pork, beef, chicken – you name it, I’ll eat it! But, turns out I have a vegetarian daughter and a vegan daughter-in-law, so I have to make some meatless dishes once in a while.
One of my favorite dishes to make is falafel. I use tons of cilantro, crushed red pepper for spice, and you most likely have all the ingredients to make this. Just a quick whirl in a food processor, then deep fry, and dinner is ready!
Falafel is a traditional Middle Eastern food, normally served in a pita with spicy or pickled veggies. The best part is that while they make a great sandwich, I love just snacking on them as is – just dipped in tzatziki sauce with sliced tomato and cucumbers on the side.
I may get a bit of flack about deep frying but I wholeheartedly think that fried food can be part of a balanced diet. The problem most home cooks make is not frying food at the right temperature. If your oil isn’t hot enough, that’s when the food you are frying becomes a sponge and absorbs all the oil before the food is cooked.
I have a digital fryer that holds the temperature at 350 degrees, perfect for frying the falafel. My key to making sure they cook through to the middle without overcooking the outside is I freeze the formed balls for about 10 minutes in the freezer before frying. They hold their shape and cook all the way through.
Falafel Pita with Tzatziki and Fried Jalapenos
For the falafel:
- 1 cup garbanzo beans (one 15 ounce can, drained)
- ½ cup cilantro (um, I may use a cup – but that’s because I love cilantro!)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ½ cup flour
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon cracked pepper
Throw everything into a food processor and pulse until combined. Using a melon baller, scoop out 12 portions.
Spray some Pam baking spray in your hands and shape into balls. Place on a cookie sheet and freeze for 10 minutes while the fryer gets to temperature.
Cook for 4-5 minutes. Cool on paper towels and sprinkle with salt as soon as they come out of the fryer.
Place four store bought (or homemade!) pitas on your cutting board. Put one tablespoon tzatziki on the pita, put 3 falafel balls on the pita, add sliced cucumber, chopped cilantro and diced tomato. And because I wanted these to be extra delicious, and well, the fryer was still on the counter, I made fried jalapenos for the top.
- 2 jalapenos, sliced
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 tablespoons coconut water
- 1 teaspoon everything but the bagel seasoning
Mix the flour, coconut water, and seasoning until mixed. Dip the jalapenos into the batter and fry for two minutes. Salt immediately. Put on top of your falafel pita and enjoy! Delicious street food at home – no silverware required.
If you want to try making more street food, check out The Chopping Block's Street Food hands-on cooking class at the Merchandise Mart on Sunday, May 27 at 11am. You'll learn to make Cuban Sandwiches, Lumpia (which are crispy pork-filled egg rolls); beer battered fish tacos and beef Kofta kabobs.
And if you have vegetarians in your family, you may want to check out our Vegetarian Boot Camp this summer where you’ll broaden your palette of cooking techniques in this one-day immersion into vegetarian cooking.
Do you have a go-to vegetarian dish? I’d love to hear it in the comments below.