I haven’t made falafel in years, because I just knew my kids would turn their noses up at it, but then we had a great experience at a Shawarma cafe while we were abroad last summer, and suddenly they were open to it. Okay, I think they were more into the chicken than the falafel, but at least they tried it (and I remembered that they liked it. They contested that when they saw these on the table.) At any rate, I had thought we had turned a new leaf and I was delighted. So, with the little extra time I can devote to actually soaking beans and the like, I pulled out my old recipe, rearing up to make it, when I thought to compare it to a new recipe from Bowls of Plenty from Carolynn Carreno. This new recipe was very similar to my old favorite, but included sparkling water, and knowing how much better tempura and onion rings are with sparkling water, I thought it was genius. And, it is. So, here’s crazy good falafel for you. So good, in fact, my fourteen-year-old not only requested it for her birthday, but also for dinner every night of the week. Enjoy.
Crazy Good Falafel
FOR THE FALAFEL
½ lb. (1 cup) dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and drained
½ small Spanish yellow onion, coarsely chopped
4 garlic cloves
¼ c. fresh parsley
2 T. fresh cilantro
1 T. kosher salt, plus more as needed
½ t. ground cumin
½ t. ground coriander
¼ t. freshly ground black pepper
1⁄8 t. ground cardamom (optional; if you have it, use it)
½ c. sparkling mineral water
½ t. baking soda
2 to 3 c. canola oil (or another neutral- flavored oil), or as needed, for frying [I used peanut oil and thought it was quite delicious!]
1) To prepare the falafel, combine the chickpeas, onion, garlic, parsley, cilantro, salt, cumin, coriander, pepper and cardamom (if you’re using it) in a food processor and pulse until the chickpeas are finely ground. Turn the mixture out into a bowl and stir in the mineral water and baking soda. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 1 hour to soften the ground chickpeas.
2) Pour 3 to 4 inches of canola oil into a small saucepan. Fasten a candy or deep-fry thermometer to the side of the saucepan or drop in an unpopped kernel of popcorn into the oil. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until the thermometer registers 350° F or the kernel pops. Remove the popcorn kernel if you used it. (I learned this trick from the venerable cooking magazine Cooks Illustrated, a great magazine if you want to learn to be a better or more knowledgeable cook.)
3) While the oil is heating, give the falafel mixture a good stir and scoop it into 1-ounce (2-tablespoon) portions; roll into balls, and put the balls on a baking sheet or plate. The mixture is very wet and can be awkward to work with; the moisture is what makes the falafels as light as they are. Carefully drop the balls in the oil, adding only as many as will fit in a single layer, and fry them for 1 to 2 minutes, until they are golden brown and crispy, turning them as they cook so they brown evenly. Using a slotted spoon or strainer, transfer the falafel to paper towels to drain, and sprinkle with salt. Fry the rest of the falafel. Enjoy with hummus, cut veggies, or in a pita. I loved adding some pomegranate seeds as well!