I am continually on the hunt for protein rich non-meat options for dinner. Especially ones that are not only delicious, but that are kid approved too. Hard task. I think eating less meat is not only better for us, but it is also more economical when you are trying to save money (which we are).
This is where I look to other countries for inspiration. Unfortunately, here in the States we haven’t quite figured out how to master vegetarian food the way other countries have. Maybe because we are spoiled with always having meat available to us, regardless of the quality. Which most don’t understand the cost of having that luxury, but I digress; this post is about vegetarian options for dinner and not about the quality of meat in this country.
I have always loved falafels and the fact that they are bean based makes for a great source of protein. Falafels are Middle Eastern deep fried balls or patties made from ground chick peas or fava beans. They are flavored with herbs and spices, then deep fried so they have this crispy exterior and tender interior. They are a great vegetarian option, but also so hearty you really don’t miss the meat. Now, the question remains, would they be toddler approved??? I am happy to report they were! My picky three year old ate them without a fight. Now he did smear them in ketchup (he pretty much does that with everything), but the point is he enjoyed them!
For now, I am just sharing the recipe for the falafels. They are so versatile, they can be eaten on a salad, served with pita, or just with fresh veggies. The possibilities are endless, they are a great all around meat substitute for a meal. Soon, I will share what we did with ours.
Tips for great falafels:
- Soak your beans overnight. We are using dry beans, and they don’t get cooked before frying, so this step is important.
- Don’t over process them, their should still be some textures to the mix.
- Be sure to fry them for the specified amount of time. Under cooking them will result, in a weirdly textured falafel because the beans did not finish cooking.
- 1 pound dried chick peas (about 2 cups), soaked overnight in cold water twice their volume.
- 4 cloves of garlic, smashed and roughly chopped
- ½ cup roughly chopped parsley
- ½ cup roughly chopped cilantro
- ½ large onion, chopped
- 1½ tsp ground cumin
- 3 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- ¼ tsp ground cardamom
- ½ tsp cayenne powder
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 5 tbsp flour
- 5 tbsp water
- 3 tbsp sesame seeds, optional
- 3 cups of neutral oil (peanut oil, vegetable oil, or grapeseed oil)
- kosher salt
- Drain the chick peas very well. Place them in a food processor, along with garlic, parsley, cilantro, and onion. Pulse for one minute, or until the mixture is finely chopped. It should look mealy and crumbly, not pasty or mushy. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.
- In small bowl, stir together cumin, salt, cardamom, cayenne powder, baking powder, and flour. Add the spice-flour mixture and water to the chick peas, stir well to combine. Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour or until ready to use.
- Fill a heavy bottomed saucepan with oil. Heat the oil to 350° over medium heat.
- The chick pea mixture will seem a bit crumbly and wet. Don't worry, it will still hold together. With wet hands create 1 ounce balls. A heaping tablespoon is approximately 1 ounce. Instead of rolling them, I formed them by tossing them lightly between both hands. Place each ball on a parchment lined baking sheet. Sprinkle each with sesame seeds, if using.
- Deep fry the falafels in batches (about 4-5) for 3-4 minutes, or until well browned and cooked through. It is important to that they get cooked through and dry out, so make sure they get enough time in the oil. Drain on a paper towel lined baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. Serve hot.