Not too long ago, falafel was a sure fire sign of a good time for me. Over this past summer, my friends and I made it a point to go “dirty bar hopping” at least every other weekend, in either the East or West Village. These nights, more often than not, ended around four in the morning, with the acquisition of falafel sandwiches – at a thrifty $3 each – from Mamoun’s. If we were able to make it there by the end of the night, with our limbs and intestines intact, the night was considered a success. We would join the out-the-door line of belligerent young people like ourselves and wait to be handed our respective crispy falafel sandwiches, in a pita, with lettuce, tomatoes, onions and tahini sauce.
As of late, falafel has become quite repulsive to me. Every now and then, I work as a server in a catering hall on the weekends for extra cash. Falafel is a big hit over there, and even though their version tastes alright, it’s hard to appreciate it after seeing how the chef prepares it. Basically, there’s a vat of falafel dough, into which he plunges an ice-cream scoop and releases his prey into the depths of the deep-fryer, the oil in which is nearly black. Yes, I know, Mamoun’s technique is probably no different, but the experience is just completely different when I’m working, as opposed to when I’m drunk and excited in the hot New York City night.
The other day I was going through some of my papers and found a list of dishes I’d planned to eventually cook. As I checked off Boeuf Bourguignon, I noticed the word falafel underneath and thought, “It’s time.”
(Yield: About 12 pieces)
1 19 oz can chick peas, drained and rinsed
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 generous handful of cilantro
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp cumin seeds
2/3 tsp salt
2/3 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Cayenne pepper to taste
5 tbsp flour, divided
1 tbsp sesame seeds
Vegetable or Peanut oil for frying
Procedure: Combine the first 9 ingredients in a food processor with 3 tbsp flour. Pulse until combined but not pureed.
Taste and re-season if necessary. Cover and refrigerate for 30 min. In a shallow dish, combine the remaining flour and sesame seeds. Heat a skillet over medium heat and add oil. When the oil ripples gently, it’s ready. Moisten your hands with water and hold about a tablespoon’s worth of dough in your palms; roll gently into a ball and press to form a patty.
Dredge in flour, shake off access, and place in skillet. Place patties about 1/2” apart. Fry 4-5 min per side, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and serve hot.
These turned out pretty good but not exactly what I expected. I think next time I’ll use bread crumbs instead of flour. But, the yogurt sauce I served them with (1/2 c plain yogurt, a handful of cilantro, chopped, and 1 tbsp lemon juice) was perfection.