It Took A Few Decades, But I (Finally) Tried Falafel

Pictured: Noritake Dinnerware (click here for my curated collection)

I’m not a person who eats falafel. Which is weird, because I’m also a person who grew up in New York City, and falafel is definitely among the most consumed foodstuffs (foodstuffs!) within the five boroughs. I’ve never eaten falafel mostly because I’m not entirely certain what it is, apart from having a vague notion that it is spicy (do not like) and involves pita bread (which, you know: meh). Also chickpeas, to me, are really just a thing that makes salads look sadder, and my only serious interaction with them involved my ex-boyfriend eating a whole bunch, turning into a chipmunk, and almost dying (true story).

So what I’ve always understood falafel to be is, in a nutshell, “Pita Filled With Spicy Things That Might Make You Die.” My desire to learn more has always sort of stopped at that point.

Then, during my adventures in meal-box test-running, I discovered that I’d accidentally ordered falafel.

And now?

I love falafel. (Which is not especially spicy, and which does contain chickpeas, but apparently not depressing ones.)

Go figure.


What You Need:

  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas
  • 3 scallions
  • 2 ounces cremini mushrooms
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • Falafel seasoning blend (eyeball the quantities; I’d guess it’s about 1 1/2 tbsp flour, 1 1/2 tsp panko, 2 tsp cumin, 1 tsp ground coriander, 1 tsp granulated garlic, and 1 1/2 tsp salt)
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 cucumber
  • A few sprigs fresh mint
  • ⅓ cup Greek yogurt
  • 1½ teaspoons harissa powder (optional)
  • 2 whole wheat pita breads
  • Alfalfa or sunflower sprouts
  • 2 tablespoons fried shallots

What You Do:

  1. Prepare the falafel: Rinse the chickpeas, trim the root ends from the scallions and finely chop the scallions, and finely chop the mushrooms.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the chickpeas, scallions, mushrooms, egg, tahini, and falafel seasoning blend. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  3. Using a masher, fork, or the bottom of a bowl, mash to a coarse paste, mixing well to combine. Using wet hands, form the mixture into four ½-inch-thick patties.
  4. Cook the falafel: In a large frying pan over medium heat, warm a drizzle of oil until hot but not smoking. Working in batches if needed, add the falafel patties and cook, turning once, until browned and crispy on the outside and hot inside, 5 to 7 minutes per side. Add more oil between batches if needed. Transfer to a plate.
  5. While the falafel cooks, prepare the lemon-yogurt sauce and garnishes.
  6. To make the lemon-yogurt sauce, juice half the lemon (cut the remaining half into wedges for garnish). Peel the cucumber, if desired, and trim off the ends; cut the cucumber in half lengthwise, then crosswise into thin half-moons. Strip the mint leaves from the stems; coarsely chop the leaves. In a small bowl, stir together the yogurt, 1 tablespoon (2 TBL) lemon juice, 1 tablespoon (2 TBL) oil, and as much harissa powder as you like. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  7. On the stovetop directly over a flame, or in a dry medium frying pan over medium heat, warm the pita breads, turning once, until lightly toasted, about 30 seconds per side.

Serve by filling the pita breads with the falafel and lemon-yogurt sauce. Garnish with the cucumber, mint, sprouts, and fried shallots. Place lemon wedges in a bowl alongside .

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Sunbasket recipe. Photography by Kim Ebbets.

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