When Caitlin comes to Cincinnati, she often takes a flight right after work, which puts her into CVG around 8:40 P.M. That means she’s hungry for dinner. And since I’ve also been waiting until then to have my dinner, it’s imperative that I arrive at the airport with a strategy in hand. I can be very slightly grumpy when I’m hungry.
One of the problems, though, is finding a fun place that is not winding down at that hour. In a city like New York, Chicago, or the like, it’s certainly not a problem. But in a smaller city like Cincinnati, a lot of restaurants are closing shop by 10:00 P.M.
One afternoon, as Caitlin was readying to leave, I spent a few minutes on Yelp, and found my answer. The Senate Restaurant was open until 11:00 P.M. Better yet, it was downtown, a convenient location coming from the airport. And finally, scanning the menu, I knew it had something I would love. After I sent the menu to Caitlin, she also agreed that it looked good. We had a plan.
When we arrived at the Senate, Caitlin hardly looked at the menu; she already knew what she wanted. I also gave the menu nothing more than a fleeting glance; I also already knew what I wanted. Unfortunately, we wanted the same thing. After a quick glance at the menu, we had each homed in on the exact same item. Our reasons for going to the Senate were one and the same: the sweet potato falafel.
Inspired by the Senate, and hungry for more, I decided to make my own sweet potato falafel.*
*There are actually a number of recipes for sweet potato falafel out there. But those recipes are not as traditional as I wanted — composed of chickpea flour rather than ground chickpeas, and baked instead of fried.
sweet potato Falafel
DOWN TIME: Overnight soaking required; 60 minutes for cooling
PREP TIME: 30 minutes
COOK TIME: 20 minutes
YIELD: About 30 sweet potato falafel balls
WHAT TO GRAB:
1 cup dried garbanzo beans
1/2 large onion, roughly chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup parsley, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons baking powder
6 to 8 tablespoons flour
1 cup sweet potato purée
Vegetable oil (about 3 cups)
Tzatziki sauce (recipe here)
Roma tomatoes, sliced
A cucumber, thinly sliced
HOW YOU DO IT:
THE NIGHT BEFORE
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. Bake one large (or two smaller) sweet potatoes at 420°F for 1 hour 20 minutes. Once the sweet potatoes are cool, remove the meat and mash it until a purée. This can also be done overnight.
READY TO BLEND
3. Drain the beans. Place the garbanzo beans, onion, parsley, salt, pepper, garlic, cumin, coriander, cayenne, and sweet potato 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.
4. 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 60 to 90 minutes.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. Toast several slices of pita bread. Stuff the pita with tzatziki sauce, sliced tomatoes, thin slices of cucumbers, and as many warm falafel balls as you can! Serve warm!