Falafel is an international food, sustaining penny-pinching backpackers and late-night drunkards alike from Amsterdam to Zagreb. But in New York, falafel is ubiquitous, sold alongside street meat at food carts, in chains like Hummus Place, and – if you can bear the long lines – at perennial favorite Taim in Nolita and the West Village. Ali at Kebab Cafe in Astoria proudly boasts that his falafel are the best in NYC, and they are truly wonderful. Just thinking about their super crunchy outsides and soft, green insides makes my mouth water.
I’d always wanted to make my own falafel but was put off by frying. This year, I’ve conquered that fear, frying everything from crispy calamari to black pudding croquettes. A high-walled sauce pan, like this 2-qt All-Clad sauce pan, is ideal for frying falafel and small bites without needing too much oil. Plus, you can strain the oil after it’s cooled and reuse within a few days, so there’s little waste.
I fell in love with this Jamie Oliver broad bean fritters recipe from one of my favorite Jamie Oliver shows, Jamie at Home. His take on falafel uses only fava beans (broad beans), but a combination of chick peas and fava beans results in great flavor and color. Buying fresh beans is a labor of love, especially shelling and removing the skins of chick peas, but the flavor is so fresh, I definitely recommend it at least once over using dried beans.
Better Than Takeout Falafel Recipe, makes about 12 falafel
1/2 pound fresh fava beans (broad beans)
1 pound fresh chick peas
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Salt and pepper
1. Remove the beans from their pods and blanch in boiling water for 1 minute. Remove, and when cool to the touch, slip the beans out of theirs skins. Add the skinned beans to a food processor.
2. Add the garlic clove, herbs, spices and lemon zest and juice and pulse until combined but still coarse. Stir through the flour, baking powder and salt and pepper. Pinch off a little of the mixture and taste, then adjust seasoning.
3. Heat enough vegetable oil over medium heat to come 3-inches high in a sauce pan. The ideal frying temperature is 375F, which you can gauge by dropping a pinch of flour into the hot oil. If it sizzles immediately, the oil is ready. If it sizzles and turns dark straight away, the oil is too hot, so reduce the temperature.
4. Gently roll golfball-size balls of the mixture between damp hands (don’t compact the mixture when rolling otherwise the falafel will turn out dense). Drop into the hot oil and cook for about 4 minutes, until the balls are golden all over. Remove and drain on paper towels.
5. Serve the hot falafel with the usual accoutrements: tahini, hummus, warm pita, hot peppers, shredded cabbage…Or use lettuce wraps instead of pita for a light, fresh meal.