Every dish has two stories behind it. The first story describes the origin of a dish, and sets out the historical underpinnings behind a recipe. The second story centers around the making of a dish, and notes the step-by-step details of assembling the meal. In several cases, my posts have focused on the former story. But in this case, Caitlin assured me that the second story of falafel was far more interesting than its first.
The Sunday before Labor Day, Caitlin suggested we make falafel. Together. We printed off a recipe, and went to the store to collect the ingredients. Since we were making it later that night, we bought canned garbanzo beans, though we also went ahead and purchased the dried version as well. We followed the recipe, but with little success. Upon hitting the oil, our chickpea mixture slowly disintegrated. We added a little flour, but that did not help. Our joint effort at falafel was a disaster.
The next day, I tried shaping a few more falafel balls, hoping the lengthy period of refrigeration might have shored up the chickpea mixture. Again, no luck. The canned garbanzo beans were apparently not going to cut it. I remained undeterred.
Later that night, unbeknown to Caitlin, I emptied the dry garbanzo beans into two opaque containers, filled them with water, and may or may not have placed them behind the watermelon in my fridge. The next day, right after work, I went home and retrieved the swelled beans. I pulled the necessary spices, readied the oil, and set out to re-make falafel. The third time was a charm. The dried garbanzo beans stuck together, forming a golden brown falafel. Excited by my success, I called Caitlin to tell her a hot dinner was waiting. Having just finished her evening class, she was enthusiastic to try what awaited her. Until I told her exactly what that was. “You made them without me?” she asked, clearly a little disappointed at her exclusion.
Fortunately, a few bites of her falafel sandwich was enough to dissipate any lingering disappointment. Or so I thought. Caitlin had, rightly so, not completely forgotten about her exclusion. The next day, I found an impromptu sketch tucked into my sandwich bag. And the next day, and the day after that. Garbanzo bean man (see below) had been born: a friendly reminder of the curious case of the hidden garbanzo beans.
PREP TIME: Overnight soaking required
COOK TIME: 20 minutes
YIELD: Makes 50 falafel balls
WHAT TO GRAB:
2 cups dried garbanzo beans
1/2 large onion, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup parsley, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 tablespoons flour
Vegetable oil (about 3 cups)
Tzatziki sauce (recipe here)
4 tomatoes, diced
2 cucumbers, thinly sliced
HOW YOU DO IT:
1. Pour the garbanzo beans in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover the beans by at least three inches. Let the beans soak at least overnight, and if possible, for a full 24 hours.
2. Drain the beans. Place the garbanzo beans, onion, parsley, salt, pepper, garlic, cumin, coriander, and cayenne in a food processor, fitted with a steel blade. Process until well blended, but not puréed. Add the baking powder and flour, and pulse briefly, stopping once combined.
3. Turn the mixture into a bowl. Form the chickpea mixture into small balls, about 1-inch in diameter, and place on a baking sheet. Once you have formed all the balls, cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour to 90 minutes.
4. Gradually heat 3 inches of vegetable oil (about 3 cups) in a deep pot, until the oil reaches between 325 and 350 degrees. I highly recommend having a frying or candy thermometer on hand. Once the temperature is right, fry one ball to test the frying time, and to ensure the ball does not fall apart. If it falls apart, try adding a little flour.
5. Fry 5 to 6 balls at once, for between 3 and 4 minutes, or until a nice golden brown. The balls will sink at first, but then float as they reach their cooking time. Using a slotted spoon, remove the falafel balls, and allow them to drain on paper towels.
6. Toast several slices of pita bread. Stuff the pita with tzatziki sauce, diced tomatoes, thin slices of cucumbers, and as many warm falafel balls as you can! Serve warm!