Semi Homemade Falafel

by Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet on January 26, 2014

Semi Homemade Falafel, www.goodfoodgourmet.com As I get older, I find myself drawn to memories of the past– foods, people and surroundings that evoked a certain comfort and familiarity. My family worked hard to put food on the table and a roof over our head, and after all of the bills were paid, there was little left over for much else.

Although times were tough, we always appreciated the things our family could afford for us, and one thing is for sure—we never went hungry— we may not have had a lot, but my parents always made sure that we had delicious, homemade meals.

One of those things I grew up eating was falafel or ta’amiyes, as we used to call them at home. In the 70’s, this was something that no one had heard of unless you were from the Middle East, and unless you went to a restaurant where that type of cuisine was served, you may not have otherwise discovered it. The food revolution of the 21st century was still far off into the future, but my lessons on food from cultures from around the world, were well underway.

Saturdays were my dad’s shopping days. As the eldest, he always wanted to take me with him as he made his way to all of the stores. As a kid, I can’t say that I was always excited to always tag along, but I knew that the alternative was staying home to tackle the list of chores my mother had in mind. In those days, as soon as the kids were old enough to help around the house, they did– and we were expected to do so without argument.

Hmmm, let’s see…food shopping or chores? For me it was always an easy choice…

One of the places dad often frequented was a place called Thomas Market in Wheaton, Maryland. It was a tiny store in comparison to other international markets, but served the community well. It was typical of many Middle Eastern Stores that I have visited in that it was packed from floor to ceiling with all kinds of foods and ingredients. When we would stop by, the owners at the time were always willing to share some of their wares. One of my favorite things to eat was fresh simit (pronounced see-mit), which is a large round bread coated in sesame seeds and baked…the smell and crunchy yet doughy texture is beyond addictive.  Other times they would have a fresh pita saved for me with a nice large chunk of halva tucked in the middle. On other occasions when we were in a bit of a rush, we stood around sharing some delicious fruit leather made of tangy apricots, as the adults discussed the current affairs of the day.

Many of the things my dad would buy were staple ingredients that we used at home to quickly prepare a meal. Both of my parents worked full time, so there was not a lot of time to prepare meals during the week. Like most families, my parents depended on meals that would come together quickly. One of the items that my dad often used was a dry falafel mix. If you prepared the falafel according to the package instructions, they weren’t very good and resembled little hockey pucks—but dad used the mix as a base and with the addition of a few extra ingredients, the resulting product rivaled some of the best scratch made falafel I have ever had.

Making falafel at home is not difficult, but does require a little time. This little trick makes it so much easier to enjoy a quick sandwich for lunch or a light dinner whenever you want. These are so tasty that they would also make for some delicious leftovers the next day.

I recently came across the same dry mix at my favorite international food store in Baltimore called Prima Foods. I picked up a few packages, and decided that I would share my dad’s secrets with my readers, for this quick and delicious meal.

Falafel makes a great vegetarian meal for those who may be cutting back on the consumption of meat, and you simply can’t go wrong with these tasty little gems. Make sure to pick up some fresh pita bread at the store or you can try your hand at making some homemade pita bread. If you are not a fan of pita bread and prefer something with a little more crunch, try them stuffed into a delicious baguette or some homemade ciabatta bread. Make sure there are lots of sliced tomatoes, sweet onions, cucumbers or your favorite salad mix to pack into the sandwich with the falafel. Toss the salad with plenty of the traditional lemony tahini sauce and add more on top of the falafel…this is a winning meal each and every time.

Tahini Sauce (enough for 4 sandwiches)
1 ½ tablespoons tahini paste
Juice and zest of 1 large lemon
1 small garlic clove, finely chopped **optional
½ to ¾ cups olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Add the amount of tahini you want to a small bowl and whisk in ½ cup of olive oil. It will look like it is separating, but don’t worry, it will soon come together. Add in the juice and zest of 1 large lemon and whisk again. Add about ¼ teaspoon of salt and a good pinch of black pepper and whisk again. You want the sauce to have a good consistency, and it should not be too thin. If it is too thick, add a little more olive oil and whisk it in well. Adjust the S&P accordingly and add the garlic if you choose to use it.

Buy tahini in a can or glass jar, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

semi homemade falafel, lemony tahini sauce, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

Semi Homemade Falafel (makes about 20 pieces)
1 box (both packs) of Alwadi Falafel mix (Lebanese)
1 can garbanzo beans
1 ½ to 1 ¾ cups water
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
¼ teaspoon to ½ teaspoon salt **make sure to taste before adding too much
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander (or 2 tablespoons fresh, finely chopped cilantro)
1 tablespoons dried parsley (or 2 tablespoons fresh, finely chopped)
vegetable oil for frying

I make this the night before I want to use it, or I make the mix and freeze it in a container and then thaw it out when I’m ready to use it. Pour out the contents of both packages into a medium sized bowl. Add all of the extra dry spices to the dry mix in the bowl, and if you are substituting the fresh parsley and fresh cilantro, go ahead and add that now too.

Next, open the can of garbanzo beans and rinse them very well. Place them into a blender with 1 cup of water and blend until you have a puree of the beans. Add this to the dry mix and slowly begin to stir everything together. The next ½ to ¾ cups of water will be stirred in slowly to give the mix time to absorb it as you are adding it. You need to remember that the dry mix is made up of coarsely chopped, dehydrated garbanzo beans, and so it takes a good bit of water to re-hydrate them.

Alwadi Brand Falafel Mix, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

semi homemade falafel, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

semi homemade falafel, www.goodfoodgourmet

semi homemade falafel, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

Slowly stir in the additional water, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. If you feel the mixture needs a little more when you are ready to use it, simply add a little more…but not too much. You do not want the falafel to be too runny for 2 reasons: it won’t hold its shape in the frying process and they will remain raw on the inside. You want a soft, fluffy interior after it has been fried.

When ready to fry, heat up your oil. While the oil is heating up, prepare the veggies and the tahini sauce that you will be serving with the falafel and set them aside. Once the oil is hot, start shaping the falafel into the traditional shape using a falafel scoop/shaper, but  it’s not necessary to go to that expense. I usually shape them into quenelles by using 2 large tablespoons.

semi homemade falafel, form the quenelles, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

Fry them until golden brown and remove them to a paper lined plate.

semi homemade falafel, fry until golden brown, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

semi homemade falafel, fry until golden brown, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

Serve them in a sandwich packed with other goodies or with a great salad.

semi homemade falafel, pillowy soft falafel and tahini sauce, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

avatar Tina Swain April 20, 2015 at 12:00 p

I love falafel. Husband does not so it is my guilty pleasure when he is out of town. I like the idea of a mix of home made and package.

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