While visiting the Jewish Quarter in Rome last year on a very cold day, some perfect (and extremely green) falafel came to my rescue for lunch. I decided to learn how to recreate this dish, my way: chock-full of herbs. This recipe is based on one by Mark BIttman's in How to Cook Everything, tweaked a bit to suit my taste -- and with an added lemony kick. Yes, the process takes some time -- but it's so worth it. Make a big batch, fry them, and put some in the freezer to bake for later when the craving hits. They're great when served with plain yogurt seasoned to taste with salt, fresh black pepper, lemon juice, and lemon zest. —Natalie
Test Kitchen Notes
This falafel recipe was a little scary at first. I'd never used dried chickpeas before, and I couldn't imagine that bringing them to a simmer and then letting them sit overnight would "cook" them enough. Tasting them after this period still left me a bit skeptical, but I continued. The instructions were clear and easy to follow, but the results had me worried that they would fall apart in the hot oil. Nevertheless, I stayed the course, and when I gently placed the falafels into the hot oil, they almost immediately formed a crust, holding together perfectly. The result was wonderfully delicious and took me back to the best falafels I'd ever eaten at the Falafel Drive-In located in San Jose, CA. The flavors of the ingredients were well represented -- no one ingredient overpowered the finished falafel.The only thing I'll change next time is to add a bit more salt. Thanks for a great recipe, you've saved us a lot of money on airfare back to one of our favorite places to eat in San Jose. —Jeanean
cloves of garlic, crushed and roughly minced
medium yellow onion, quartered and roughly chopped
Place chickpeas in a large pot and cover with several inches of water. Bring to a simmer, turn off the heat, give the chickpeas a stir, and let sit at least overnight.
Remove some of the cooking liquid from the chickpeas and reserve. Drain them well, then place in a bowl of a large food processor.
To the chickpeas, add the garlic, onion, parsley, and cilantro. In a small bowl, stir together the coriander, cumin, cayenne, salt, pepper, and baking soda, then add it to the chickpeas along with the lemon juice and zest.
Pulse the whole mixture several times until the chickpeas are broken down and resemble chopped nuts. Scrape down the sides of the food processor, then re-pulse as necessary.
If the mixture is too dry to hold together when pressed, add some of the reserved liquid, a little at a time. Don't add too much, or you run the risk of the falafel falling apart when they're fried. Pour the mixture into a large bowl and give it a few good stirs to make sure everything is incorporated.
Scoop up the mixture in rounded tablespoons (about half the size of a golf ball), roll into balls, and flatten slightly. Set aside on a baking sheet.
Heat at least 2 inches of oil in a large, deep stockpot over medium-high heat. When the oil reaches about 350º F, carefully slip in several of the falafel, making sure not to crowd the pan. Fry the falafel until they reach a deep golden brown -- it should only take a few minutes. When they're done, transfer them onto paper towels to drain. Repeat with the rest of the falafel. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Note: Once cool, falafel can be frozen individually on a sheet pan, then placed in a container or a freezer bag. Frozen falafel can be reheated in the oven for a last-minute dinner.