Falafel

MAKES: 6 servings

TIME: 1 hour plus 24 hours to soak the beans

One of the things that makes falafel different from other bean fritters is that it’s made from uncooked beans. It’s best when the beans are soaked for a full day in plenty of water; the result is a wonderfully textured and moist interior and a crispy, browned exterior. The spices and aromatics only add to the fabulous bean flavors, and it wouldn’t be unheard of to double or even triple the amount of garlic. Serve the falafel in pita with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and other raw vegetables; with a green salad; or on their own, but always with Tahini Sauce or any yogurt sauce ; some Harissa or other Chile Paste is great also.

Other beans you can use: dried lima beans (also see the variations).

13/4 cups dried chickpeas or 1 cup dried chickpeas and 3/4 cup dried split fava beans

2 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed

1 small onion, quartered

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 scant teaspoon cayenne, or to taste, or mild chile powder, to taste

1 cup chopped parsley or fresh cilantro leaves

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn, for frying

Put the beans in a large bowl and cover with water by 3 or 4 inches they will triple in volume as they soak. Soak for 24 hours, checking once or twice to see if you need to add more water to keep the beans submerged.

Drain the beans well and transfer them to a food processor with all the remaining ingredients except the oil; pulse until almost smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary; add one or two tablespoons of water if necessary to allow the machine to do its work, but keep the mixture as dry as possible. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt, pepper, cayenne, or lemon juice as needed.

Put neutral oil to a depth of at least 2 inches in a large, deep saucepan (more is better); the narrower the saucepan, the less oil you need, but the more oil you use, the more patties you can cook at the same time. Turn the heat to medium-high and heat the oil to about 350В°F (a pinch of the batter will sizzle immediately).

Scoop out heaping tablespoons of the mixture and shape them into balls or small patties. Fry in batches, without crowding, until nicely browned, turning as necessary; total cooking time will be less than 5 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Variations

Sesame Falafel. I love this flavor combination: In Step 2, add 1/4 cup sesame seeds and 3 tablespoons tahini to the food processor.

Falafel with Zaвatar. Tang from the sumac, nuttiness from the sesame seeds: Use parsley and add 1/4 cup zaвatar (to make your own, see Zaвatar), or 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, 1 tablespoon sumac (see Spices for Enthusiasts), and a teaspoon of dried thyme to the food processor in Step 2.

Nutty Falafel. Lots of good texture from the chopped nuts: Replace 1/2 cup of the beans with walnuts, almonds, peanuts, or hazelnuts (don’t soak the nuts). Omit the garlic, cumin, and cayenne and use the parsley or a tablespoon or so fresh thyme leaves instead of the cilantro.

Mung Bean Fritters, Asian Style. Serve with equal parts soy sauce and vinegar or with Soy and Sesame Dipping Sauce and Marinade, Korean Style: Replace the chickpeas or favas with split mung beans without skins (moong dal; see Mung Bean Pancakes); soak for 2 to 3 hours. Replace the onion with 1/4 cup chopped scallion, the coriander with cracked Sichuan peppercorns, and the cumin with minced peeled fresh ginger. Omit the cayenne and use rice vinegar instead of the lemon juice.

Black-Eyed Pea Fritters. Street food in West Africa and totally addictive: Replace the chickpeas or favas with black-eyed peas, the onion with 1/2 cup chopped scallion, the coriander with hot red pepper flakes, and the cumin with minced peeled fresh ginger.