Chickpeas are my favorite food, for a number of reasons:
They’re nutritious. A cup of cooked chickpeas has 15 g of protein, 13 g fiber of fiber, and 26% of your suggested daily iron.
They’re cheap. A can of chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans) costs anywhere between fifty cents to a dollar, and a can holds four servings. At my local health food market, dry chickpeas cost $1.38 a pound (and chickpeas quadruple in size after an overnight soak).
They’re versatile. Whole chickpeas provide a sturdy base for any dish, and are as welcome in a salad bowl as a Buddha Bowl. Aquafaba makes a killer cocktail. Then there’s hummus: hummus is the lubricant of the food world. It makes bad situations better, good situations great, and comes in a variety of flavors so things never get dull. And falafel. Fuck, falafel.
For the uninformed, falafel is a Middle Eastern deep-fried ball of goodness. It consists of ground chickpeas, garlic, onion, and spices. It’s naturally vegan. And, perhaps most importantly: it’s one of those rare foods that is equally delicious when you’re sober, drunk, and hungover.
And, thankfully, it’s everywhere.
Once, when I was solo-travelling in Europe, I spent half a day looking for a restaurant that boasted “the freshest and most authentic falafel in Dublin.”Jet-lagged, hungry, lost, and approaching the hour of my next flight’s ascent, I eventually gave up my search and climbed on a bus bound for the airport.
I sat on the top level and rested my head against the window. I watched the city pass in a blur. The bus stopped. Two women on the street asked the driver some questions. I sighed. I stared into space. I focused my eyes. I gasped.
The bus idled directly in front of the fabled falafel paradise I was unable to find (Umi Falafel, if you were wondering the restaurant’s name). In a series of clumsy motions, I threw my over-sized backpack over one shoulder, ricocheted off some aisle seats, clambered down the narrow stairs, and leaped into the busy sidewalk.
“Pardonez-moi,” I said to the people I pushed out of my way. I don’t know why I spoke in French. I was crazed. But I knew Umi Falafel would tame my travelling soul. And it did.
After that, I stayed in Prague for a month. There, I suffered a brief nervous breakdown from (A) the lack of vegetables, and (B) the lack of spices. But on my second week there, I found a falafel stand nestled in a quiet corner of the otherwise bustling Wencelslas Square.
Long story short, I was there often enough that the man who owned the stand asked me to marry him. Twice.
Then, a few weeks ago, I visited my friend Dan in Manhattan. We spent an afternoon in the Upper East Side.
“Dan,” I said. “I refuse to spend more than five bucks on dinner tonight.”
He laughed and said it wasn’t going to happen. I laughed and strolled up to a falafel stand. I laughed again when the man in the stand said, “Are you sure?” when I asked for more hot sauce.
In an embarrassing turn of events, the man in the stand and Dan both laughed when I returned for a second helping of napkins because my nose was running from the spice.
So, how do you make falafel? It’s super easy. The first time I made it, I was able to drink an entire bottle of wine without botching the recipe.
Before you begin:
- You’ll need to soak your dry chickpeas overnight in a bowl of water. Don’t try canned beans; they’re too mushy. I know what you’re thinking: “I’ll just add flour or something, it’ll be fine.” It won’t be fine and it hurts my feelings that you could be so deceitful.
- You need a food processor.
- There’s a 1-2 hour break halfway through the recipe for dough refrigeration purposes. Take this time to meditate on the healing spirit moon powers of the mystical chickpea, or pay some bills, or take a nap, or something. This is your time.
- Falafel pairs well with Gewürztraminer wine. This medium sweet white wine has the lightness of champagne without the bubbles. It goes down with alarming ease and is ideal for spicy food.
- 1 pound dry chickpeas (soaked overnight)
- 1 onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, diced
- 1 1/2 tbsp. flour (I used whole wheat)
- 1/4 c. chopped parsley
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 tsp. cumin
- 1 tsp. coriander
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp. paprika
- Oil for frying (follow your heart)
Makes 28-30 falafels
Prep: 45 min (+ 1-2 hours refrigeration)
Vegan, gluten-free option
- Pour chickpeas in a large bowl and cover with 3 inches of cold water. Put aside and let them soak overnight. Drain and rinse when ready to cook.
- Combine all ingredients in a food processor, pulsing until blended to a fine grain. Scrape the sides of the processor frequently. Process away big chunks, but be careful not to over-do it. We’re making falafel, not hummus.
- Place mixture in a covered bowl and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
- Heat a skillet with oil over medium heat. You can use a deep-fryer here if that’s your style.
- Form the dough into balls about 1.5-2 inches in diameter. If they’re falling apart, re-process the dough until it’s more paste-like. Place the balls in the oil. Flip when the bottoms brown. (You can also form the falafel into patties, which makes them easier to flip.)
- When brown all around, remove from pan and place on paper towel to drain excess oil.
You can eat your falafel plain, serve it on a bed of rice and lettuce, stuff it in a pita with hummus and veggies, or refrigerate it until you’re no longer paralyzed with indecision. The choice is yours.
The dough is safe to freeze. Just shape the falafel into balls before you put them in the freezer.