Monday, April 13, 2009

133. Falafel Pitas (with Chopped Vegetable Salad) (p. 182)

I'm not sure what happened, but this recipe* was a failure. You can't really tell from the picture, but this dish didn't turn out at all like it was supposed to.

First, I ground some chickpeas in the food processor. The Book calls for dried chickpeas soaked for 24 hours. I used canned instead. This might have been a big mistake, but I don't see how this substitution could have caused the disaster that resulted in the end. Next, I blended in some scallions, parsley, garlic, salt, baking powder, cumin, coriander and cayenne. I let this mixture stand, covered with plastic wrap, for about a half hour. Then I formed the mixture into eighteen patties. The mixture seemed to have a good texture, and the patties held together just fine. I set the patties on a baking sheet lined with wax paper.

Next, I clipped my brand-new candy/deep frying thermometer to the side of a large saucepan, filled it with canola oil, and watched nervously as the mercury climbed toward 375 degrees. It took a while for the oil to heat up, and it made some strange clicking and hissing noises as it heated. I have to admit, this is only the second time that I've ever deep fried anything, and I was a little spooked by the ominous warning about grease fires on the Crisco oil label. I was almost sure that the oil was going to spontaneously ignite.

Well, it didn't spontaneously ignite, but it didn't do what it was supposed to, either. Once the thermometer registered 375, I put the first three falafels in the oil. It bubbled furiously, and after a minute, I put my slotted spoon in the oil to flip the falafels. The problem is, I couldn't find them. Instead of crisping up, the falafels had dissolved to nearly nothing in the hot oil. Totally disheartened, I made the snap decision to pull the plug on the deep frying and switch to pan frying. This wasn't much of an improvement. I was able to get some crispiness on the outside, but the patties just wouldn't cook through, and way I ended up with was what can only be described as crispy hummus. The flavor was fine (especially when drizzled with the tahini sauce that I'll write about in my next post), but the texture was very strange. I could only eat a couple of them. My wife (what a trooper!) even had leftovers for dinner the next night.

Like I said at the beginning of the post, I'm not sure what went wrong here. Maybe it was the canned chickpeas. But I think it is more likely that it was the oil not being hot enough. I plunged the first batch of falafels into the oil the second it reached the 375 degree mark. Maybe if I had let it get a little bit hotter, it would have crisped up the outside on contact, and then slowly cooked the patties through. I think, however, the next time I want a falfel (which isn't very often, since my food of choice at Middle-Eastern restaurants is baked kibbeh) I'll go to the take-out place down the street.

This recipe wasn't a total failure, though. The falafels are served with at Chopped Vegetable Salad, which is a sub-recipe to the main falafel recipe. It's finely chopped seeded tomatoes, green bell peppers, cucumbers, scallions and radishes in a light, lemony viniagrette. The salad was really good, and I just might make it on its own this summer for a cookout, or to go with some grilled meat for an easy dinner.

Date Cooked: April 4, 2009
Degree of Difficulty: Medium
Rating: D (falafel) B+ (chopped salad)

*This recipe isn't on

1 comment:

Adrienne said...

There might have been too much moisture in the chickpeas, too - canned beans are cooked through, whereas dried beans that have been soaked are plumped a little but still technically "raw." I've only made baked falafel, but I'm sorry these didn't work out for you!