Now that I’ve made it, I can see why falafel was so popular in the Islamic world, where cooking fuel was expensive! This is a way to cook beans that requires almost no fuel, as opposed to boiling them where you have to keep a hot fire going for a couple of hours.

How to make Falafel from scratch:

After breakfast or lunch, put a cup of dried chickpeas in a bowl with a lot of water to soak. About half an hour before dinner, drain off the water and use a food processor to pulverize the chickpeas. They should be pasty but rough, not smooth. Also add an onion, four cloves of garlic, and a cup of cilantro, and pulverize some more. Then add a teaspoon of salt, a pinch of pepper, a pinch of cayenne, and a teaspoon of cumin. Mix. If it doesn’t stick together, add 1/4 cup of flour and/or an egg.

Preheat the oven to 425. Let the falafel sit while you make the bread. In a medium-size mixing bowl, mix three cups of flour, 1 tsp. salt, 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder, 1/4 olive oil, 1/2 cup of yogurt and a cup of water until it forms a ball (add more water if necessary). Turn out the ball onto a floured surface and knead for a few minutes. Form the dough into golf-ball size balls and roll each ball out about half an inch thick with a rolling pin . If the dough sticks, sprinkle a little more flour on it. Lay the breads on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake until they puff up and begin to get golden-brown.

While the breads are cooking, fry the falafel: Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a large frying pan. Make the falafel into golf-ball size balls and flatten in the pan. Fry about five minutes until browned on one side, then flip with a spatula and brown some more. The centers will still be green; that’s okay.

Serve with chopped lettuce, chopped tomatoes, onions and peppers, Greek yogurt, tahini-garlic sauce, and/or hummus thinned with water into a sauce.

Vegetarian or vegan?

Naturally vegan, if you don’t use an egg to bind the falafel.

And will falafel keep?

Yes, it will be fine the next day. You can microwave it to heat it up. It doesn’t freeze well though.

Published by Karen Carr

Dr. Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.

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