When I think of all the places I ate in Italy, I don’t just think about all the great Italian food. It wasn’t until I lived in Florence that I really started trying Middle Eastern food, including falafel. As anyone who has visited Italy can attest, for every two enotecas in a city, there is a kebab shop, filled with Italians and tourists alike. I even learned how to make falafel and hummus in my cooking class in Florence. After seeing a beautiful post for baked falafel, I decided it was time to revisit my class’s falafel recipe.
Some say the Egyptians were the first to make falafel, which was a replacement for meat during Lent. Traditionally, the recipe calls for fava beans, which I used in my cooking class. However, I decided to use chickpeas, which are commonly used as well. I read many blog posts and reader comments about whether canned chickpeas work as well as dried chickpeas that have been soaked for 24 hours. After trying the recipe both ways I can definitively tell you that canned chickpeas DO NOT WORK. You will end up with fried patties of a hummus-like paste, if you are even lucky enough to get the patties to stay together. Soaking chickpeas for 24 hours may seem like a hassle, but it is worth it to get the fluffy falafel that everyone loves.
The process of frying may be intimidating (it was to me!) but it really was simple with the right tools. I used a cast iron dutch oven and a liquid thermometer. The thermometer is crucial, so you can tell when the oil has heated to 350 degrees. If anyone tries this recipe baked, I would love to hear the results. Click on the link to the falafel post I mentioned above for baking instructions. Also, I (perhaps foolishly) decided to remove the skins from the chickpeas after they soaked. I won’t lie this took a long time, but after failing the recipe with canned chickpeas, I was determined to make the perfect falafel. If chickpeas with the skin on work just as well for you, please leave me a comment!
As a final thought, I wanted to mention an article I read a while ago about an Italian law banning new ethnic food restaurants in the Tuscan town Lucca. I don’t know what happened to this law and I am not trying to get political. I was just thinking that while Italian food is my favorite cuisine, I can’t imagine a world without a variety of foods reflecting cultures all over the world. So many recipes incorporate and merge ideas from different cuisines. That’s how this recipe can be called falafel and a slider. I don’t think the Egyptians knew what a slider was 1,000 years ago. And they certainly did not know what a McFalafel was.
Falafel Sliders, makes around 20 falafel
- 1 3/4 cups dried chickpeas
- 1 cup parsley or cilantro (I used both)
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- Pinch cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Bottle of canola oil
The Yogurt Sauce
- 1 cup Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons tahini
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- Salt to taste
- Mini pita pockets (I got mine from Trader Joe’s)
- Cucumber slices
- Roma tomato slices
Put the dried chickpeas in a large bowl and cover with water by 3 or 4 inches. They will triple in volume. Soak for 24 hours, adding water if needed to keep beans submerged. Drain chickpeas and transfer to a food processor. Add remaining ingredients except onion and oil. Pulse until minced, but not pureed, scraping sides of bowl down occasionally. The key is to not over-process the mixture and keep the amount of water to a minimum. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the onion. Taste, adding salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste. Let mixture rest for 30 minutes. Meanwhile combine all yogurt sauce ingredients. Blend well and refrigerate.
Scoop heaping tablespoons of batter and shape into balls. Let patties rest for 15 minutes to preserve their shape. Heat the oil in a deep pan so that the patties can be submerged. Turn heat to medium-high and heat oil to about 350 degrees. Fry in batches, without crowding, until golden brown. Total cooking time will be less than 5 minutes. Place falafel on a plate covered with paper towels to absorb excess oil. Serve with mini pita pockets, a big dollop of yogurt sauce, cucumber and tomato slices.