July 18, 2011

Crispy Falafel with Tangy Yogurt Dressing

I had never made falafel before this, and in fact, I had only eaten falafel once. That was just a tiny, hesitant taste taken off a friend's place. To be honest, the idea of falafel was strange to me. What were these mystery nuggets that claimed to be made of chickpea? As much as I expected not to, I liked what I tried.

Hot summer nights call for dinners that are light and crisp, but hearty and interesting, as this falafel-salad is.

It's okay to lightly fry the falafel in oil. After all, these spicy, fragrant, and crispy nuggets are nesting atop a bed of healthy greens. The falafel's dominant flavors of smoky cumin and earthy turmeric instantly brighten with the zing of lemony yogurt sauce. Here, I drizzled the whole salad with generous dollops of the cool and creamy dressing, which is healthy and high in protein due to its yogurt base and takes barely a minute to whip together.

Admittedly, the only reason I ventured to try this recipe was that I had a bag of chickpea flour I wanted to get rid of. I am so glad I tried these falafel, though. Eating this salad was fun, and delicious, too. I know I'll be making them again, so it looks like I'll be buying more chickpea flour to replenish that supply I had wanted so badly to finish!

Crispy Falafel Patties: makes about eight 3-4 inch patties, or enough for 2-3 dinner salads.

1.5 cups chickpea flour plus extra for dusting
1 T. sea salt
2 t. cumin
1.5 t. turmeric
1 T. crushed garlic
1/4 cup hot water
1 t. baking soda
1 T. chili pepper, ground
1 t. mustard seed (a dollop of regular mustard will suffice)
1 t. garam masala
1 t. fresh ginger
2 T. finely chopped white or yellow onion
1/2 cup frozen spinach, defrosted and drained well

Vegetable oil for frying
Chopped lettuce and diced plum tomatoes for salad

Mix all of the ingredients except for the garlic, ginger, onions, and spinach in a bowl. Add the hot water and stir. Mix in the garlic, ginger, onions, and spinach and stir. Place in the fridge to cool until the mixture is slightly firm and easier to work with. Preheat a large skillet to medium heat with about 1 inch of oil. Meanwhile, dust a work surface with extra chickpea flour and scoop out a few tablespoons of mix at a time to form patties that are about 3/4 inch thick and 3 inches wide. Gently lower the patties into the oil and lightly fry until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Meanwhile, mix the yogurt dressing, as follows. To assemble salad, place diced tomatoes atop lettuce, then top with 3-4 falafel patties and drizzle generously with dresssing.

Creamy yogurt dressing: 6 oz. container plain non-fat yogurt, zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon, 1 t. dried basil or dill (or fresh if you have it), salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Whisk together until well blended.

Chef's Note: Next time I may try a hybrid of fresh chickpeas coarsely chopped in the food processor, and chickpea flour. This combination may lend itself to a somewhat meatier texture.

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