CEiMB: Baked Falafel Sandwich
Quite some time ago, back when we had cable and would spend entire Saturdays on the sofa watching Food Network, Ryan and I, big fans of Bobby Flay’s Throwdown, saw an episode all about falafels. I’m not sure if it is my area or my own ignorance to different kinds of foods, but I had never heard of such a sandwich before. I was immediately intrigued by these chickpea balls. As all Southerners know, everything is better deep fried, so how bad could falafel ball be?
Well, in all that time since seeing that episode, I’ve still never come across falafel. Not that I really went so far out of my way to find it, I guess. I bookmarked a few recipes online here and there but tend to shy away from frying anything (the mess!), and so they never got made. Not until Elina from Healthy and Sane chose this week’s CEiMB recipe, that is.
When I saw this week’s choice and the clear lack of deep frying anything, I was quite excited to give it a try. I had planned to make the sandwiches for Meatless Monday, but Meatless Monday was a big fail for me this week given the holiday. Instead, I had Meatless Wednesday. I bring this up just to point out that if you want to participate by going meatless one day, it doesn’t have to be Monday. There’s no Meat Police who show up at your house and hassle you for eating meat on Monday. I promise.
Back to the recipe. I had to make a slight alteration. At first I could not find tahini paste, and then once I did, it was a huge jar of it for $8. Since I have managed to go twenty-eight years without sesame paste, I wasn’t sure how I could possibly use up such a large quantity of it over the next few months. I decided to make a tzatziki sauce to go with the falafel instead. It’s very easy to make, so I’ll give you my basic recipe in case you would like to replicate it: one small container plain Greek yogurt; 1/2 a small cucumber, shredded; a dash of red wine vinegar (or lemon juice); a clove or two minced garlic; salt and pepper to taste. You can also add dill or mint, but I never have. From the falafel itself, I omitted the parsley and cilantro from the chickpea mixture, but I followed the rest of the recipe exactly.
They looked and smelled delicious, and I was so excited to take a bite. The flavors were spot on; I love that the cumin and coriander really shine through. The texture, however, was a little dry. As soon as I bit into one of the balls (which looked more like discs after baking, to be honest), it crumbled into a mess. Since it was all contained within my flatbread, that wasn’t a big deal except that the crumby mess was very dry. I was very thankful to have made the tzatziki sauce instead of just skipping the sauce completely when I decided not to make the tahini mixture. Without a sauce, these would have been like eating sand. Luckily, between the fresh veggies and tzatziki, it all went down a little easier.
In the end, I’m not sure if I would make this again. It was really quick to throw together in the food processor, but does need to spend quite a while in the oven. The dryness was a downer that I’m not sure even the good taste could overcome. I will, however, be on the lookout for some real, authentic falafel for comparison!
Baked Falafel Sandwich
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, preferably low-sodium, 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
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Combine all felafel 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 felafel balls and brush with remaining tablespoon olive oil. Bake on a cookie sheet for 20 minutes, flip felafel balls and bake an additional 20 minutes, until felafel balls are crisp and browned.
Serve in pita or on flatbread, with a few spoonfuls of tzatziki sauce, chopped lettuce, halved grape tomatoes, and sliced cucumber.