Gluten-Free Falafel - Meatfree Mondays

Monday, September 19th, 2011 | click here to comment

If there is one thing that I know, it's that I'm not a vegetarian and I probably could never become one. I'm not exactly a meat whore or anything, and I've actually given up beef in the past for a 5 year stretch, but pork, well that's a different story altogether. I love the piggies in all forms, and being Spanish, pork is pretty much a birth right, but on Mondays I cheat on meat. Every Monday for the past few months, I've been putting the meat aside to participate in Meatfree Mondays.

The phenomenon stems from the need to reduce CO2 emissions by decreasing the level of livestock production and is based on the notion that if everyone gave up meat for at least one day a week, in this case Mondays, we would have a positive impact on the environment by reducing the need to produce so much meat and rainbows would spew forth from everywhere. Ok, that last part maybe not so true, but the rest of it sounds good and to be honest, I was already eating meat-free at least one day a week already, so making the move to Mondays wasn't a big deal.

What was a big deal was figuring out how to make a varied menu of meatless dishes. There are tons of veggie blogs and resources out there, but searching the net for vegetarian recipes is an easy way to become unnecessarily overwhelmed. For my meatfree days I think about what I want to focus on as the base, which would be starch or vegetable. From there I figure out what flavor I'm looking for that week, it could be rich and savory, or light and fresh.

so good!

After weeks of experimenting, some dishes more successful than others, I've finally decided on a few dishes that I can make perfectly every time. My meat-free favorites pack a punch with taste and leave you feeling satisfied. So with that, I kick off the Meatfree Monday series. I will try to keep the recipes coming as much as I can, but I'm going to admit right now that I do a lot of repeating in the kitchen so I may go without a Meatless Monday post here and there.

To kick it off this week, I am sharing one of my absolute favorites, falafel. You can already get gluten-free falafel out in the wild at Maoz, and their falafel is good (although I'm still skeptical about cross-contamination), but making them at home is easy, and I think this falafel recipe rivals Maoz by leaps and bounds. Don't be fooled by those falafel mixes in the store, if you don't make your own falafel from scratch you're doing yourself a disservice. It's super easy, and as an added bonus, if you have enough chickpeas left over, you can make your own hummus too!

This falafel recipe has an intense garlic flavor, if you're not a fan of garlic, just dial it back a little. If you are a fan, go for it and prepare yourself for the AM, because you will taste garlic for the next 15 hours.

Without further ado - check out the recipe below from the New York Times. If you give it a try, come back and tell me what you think!  You can also try this one from Epicurious, which I also like, just use gluten-free all purpose flour wherever it calls for regular flour.

served with spicy harrisa dressing, heirloom tomatoes and saffron rice
Gluten-Free Falafel
Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Total time: 35 mins
  • 1 3/4 cup dried chickpeas
  • 2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • Scant teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
  • 1 cup chopped parsley or cilantro leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn, for frying
Put the beans in a large bowl and cover with water by 3 or 4 inches; they will triple in volume. Soak for 24 hours, adding water if needed to keep beans submerged.

Drain beans well (reserve soaking water) and transfer to a food processor. Add remaining ingredients except oil; pulse until minced but not pureed, scraping sides of bowl down; add soaking water if necessary to allow machine to do its work, but no more than 1 or 2 tablespoons. Keep pulsing until mixture comes together. Taste, adding salt, pepper, cayenne or lemon juice to taste.

Put the oil in a large, deep saucepan to a depth of at least 2 inches; more is better. The narrower the saucepan the less oil you need, but the more oil you use the more patties you can cook at a time. Turn heat to medium-high and heat oil to about 350 degrees (a pinch of batter will sizzle immediately).

Scoop heaping tablespoons of batter and shape into balls or small patties. Fry in batches, without crowding, until nicely browned, turning as necessary; total cooking time will be less than 5 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

More tips:
First, keep the amount of water you use when grinding the beans to an absolute minimum. More water makes grinding easier, but it also virtually guarantees that the batter will fall apart when it hits the hot oil. If this happens, bind the remaining mixture by stirring in a little flour.

The second essential step is to get the oil hot enough: 350 degrees or a little higher. If you don't have a thermometer, just wait until the oil shimmers and then add a pinch of the batter. When it sizzles immediately, sinks about halfway to the bottom, then rises to the top, the oil is ready. If it sinks and stays down, the oil is too cold; if it doesn't sink at all, the oil is too hot.


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