But, thank Jeebus, falafel is just a food – a tempting, fatty food that’s normally deep-fried to get its flavor and texture. The challenge then, dear friends, was cutting the ginormous amounts of oil without losing a whit of the taste.
After browsing a few falafel recipes (Sara Moulton, AllRecipes, etc.), I finally bogarted a good-looking one from Epicurious, which garnered it from a cookbook called Foods of Israel Today. Since I was using canned chickpeas instead of dried, I then made a few preparation changes based on the advice of an Epicurious reviewer only known as dickrebel. It turned out to be indispensable, so big round of applause for dickrebel, ladies and gentlemen.
When it came time to cook, once again, it was Weight Watchers to the rescue. They suggested frying the falafel in 2 teaspoons of oil, and then sticking it in a hot oven to finish. Since 2 teaspoons of oil sounded a bit meager, I jacked it up to 2 tablespoons, which was just right. It gave each piece a nice brown color and satisfying crunch without affecting the fat content too terribly. The oven warmed the falafel through, and the addition of garnishes and a lower-fat tahini-yogurt sauce from EatingWell.com finished the whole dish quite nicely. The boyfriend loved it, and ate it so fast that I didn’t worry about them running away together.
5 servings – 4 pieces per serving
Adapted from Epicurious.
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 large onion, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
3/4 tsp red pepper flakes
4 cloves of garlic
1 can chickpeas, drained, rinsed, and dried thoroughly
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp baking powder
4 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp vegetable oil for frying
1 tomato, chopped for garnish
¼ large onion, diced for garnish
½ green bell pepper, diced for garnish
Eating Well’s Tahini sauce (listed below)
2 ½ Whole Wheat Pitas
1) Combine onion, garlic and pepper flakes in food processor. Pulse until they’re about 1/8-in. big.
2) Add chickpeas, parsley, and cilantro and chop until “pieces are about the size of a large pinhead.” You don’t want a puree here, because mushiness will make the falafel fall apart. (Thanks, dickrebel.)
3) Dump the items from the food processor into a bowl. Stir in salt, cumin, baking powder and flour until well-mixed., but not really a dough.
4) Stick it in the fridge, covered, for anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours. The longer the better. (I did it for an hour, and turned out nicely.)
5) With your hands, make small falafel hockey pucks about 1 to 1-1/2 inches in diameter and ¾ of an inch high. (The flat surface will help with the frying.)
6) Turn oven to 400ºF.
7) Heat 2 Tbsp vegetable oil in a huge ovenproof skillet on medium-high. Make sure the pan is good and hot before you put the falafel down. (Think of it like making pancakes.) Fry the pucks for about 3 minutes on the first side, and 2 minutes on the second, until they’re golden brown.
8) When finished, stick skillet in oven (or transfer pucks to a Pam-ed aluminum foil lined cookie sheet) and bake for 10-12 minutes.
9) Stick four balls in half a pita with tomatoes, green pepper, and onions. Drizzle with tahini sauce (recipe below).
Eating Well Tahini sauce
1/2 cup low-fat plain yogurt
2 Tbsp tahini (see Ingredient note)
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 tsp salt
1) Mix all ingredients thoroughly in bowl. That’s it.
Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price Per Serving
296 calories, 11.7 g fat, $1.11
1 can chickpeas, drained: 350 calories, 7 g fat, $0.79
3/4 onion (main recipe plus garnish): 100 calories, 0 g fat, $0.24
8 Tbsp fresh parsley (main recipe plus sauce): negligible calories and fat, $0.99
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro: negligible calories and fat, $0.33
1 ¼ tsp salt (main recipe plus sauce): negligible calories and fat, $0.01
1/2-1 tsp red pepper flakes: negligible calories and fat, $0.15
4 cloves garlic: 20 calories, 0 g fat, $0.20
1 tsp cumin: negligible calories and fat, $0.05
1 tsp baking powder: negligible calories and fat, $0.02
4 Tbsp flour: 100 calories, 0 g fat, $0.03
2 Tbsp vegetable oil for frying: 240 calories, 28 g fat, $0.08
1 tomato, chopped for garnish: 30 calories, 0 g fat, $0.56
½ green bell pepper, diced for garnish: 20 calories, 0 g fat, $0.24
2 ½ Whole Wheat Pitas: 350 calories, 4.25 g fat, $0.47
1/2 cup low-fat plain yogurt: 80 calories, 1.25 g fat, $0.95
2 Tbsp tahini: 190 calories, 18 g fat, $0.25
1 Tbsp lemon juice: negligible calories and fat, $0.17
TOTAL: 1480 calories, 58.5 g fat, $5.53
PER SERVING (TOTAL/5): 296 calories, 11.7 g fat, $1.11