Falafel is one of my favorite foods of all time. Okay, fine, I know I've probably said that about a half a dozen dishes on this blog by now. That's why I say "one of." I've got lots. Falafel is definitely one of my top ten.
The first time I tasted falafel was around 1999 and I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. That happened at a Middle Eastern restaurant located at the intersection of 13th and Pine in Philadelphia, which is sadly no longer there. Fortunately, by the time I moved into the city in 2002 it was overrun with places where I could get delicious falafel. Amazing how just a few years prior I was totally unaware of the existence of this amazing treat, only later to find an average of four falafel joints located within every one block radius.
The unfortunate consequence of living in falafel paradise for eight years was falafel withdrawal when I finally left the city. I couldn't find falafel anywhere! Oh, I could drive forty-five minutes to some random pizza place out in the country with no clue as to the quality of the falafel I would get, but then why not just drive back into Philly where the good stuff is a guarantee?
I eventually took matters into my own hands. The results were not pleasing. Maybe it was my refusal to include eggs in the recipe. I don't know, but in any event, the texture wasn't quite right, the falafel didn't quite hold together during cooking, you get it.
If you've been following this blog you know that not long ago I was lucky enough to be invited to do a a guest post over at Cooking Quinoa. I took a risk and decided to try my hand at recreating a falafel stuffed eggplant that I'd had at a restaurant several years back, and guess what? It was amazing! So amazing that I decided I might just have found the key to creating my own delicious falafel.
This recipe basically takes my falafel mixture from my Cooking Quinoa post, and uses it in the more traditional sense. This falafel is baked instead of fried, which, along with the quinoa, ups the healthiness of this recipe. Another thing that inspired this was my roasted red pepper hummus that I posted this weekend, which I instantly thought would make a fantastic sandwich spread. You can use traditional hummus instead, but if you're feeling kitcheny, give the red pepper stuff a go. It really compliments the falafel nicely.
One other awesome thing about this recipe: the mixture freezes great! I made a big batch, formed and baked just enough falafel balls to make a couple of sandwiches, then froze the rest for use on a later dinner occasion. If you want some quick weeknight dinners close at hand, freeze this in portions just the right size to create one sandwich (or multiply by the number of people you typically feed). Bust it out of the freezer in the morning, then roll and bake in the evening.
Quinoa Falafel SandwichesMakes about 4 sandwiches
For the falafel:
1/3 cup quinoa
1/2 cup vegetable broth
2/3 cup cooked or canned chickpeas, drained
1 small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
juice of 1/2 lemon (about 1 1/2 tbsp.)
1 tbsp. olive oil, plus a little extra for brushing
4 loaves of pita bread
hummus - try this one
veggies of choice - greens, tomatoes and cucumber are nice, but be creative!
Rinse quinoa well under cold water. Add to small saucepan along with broth. Bring to a simmer, cover and allow to simmer for about fifteen minutes, or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and allow to sit for another five minutes or so.
Preheat oven to 350.
Place 2/3 cup cooked quinoa (you should have at least this much and probably a little more) and all other falafel ingredients into food processor bowl. Pulse until well blended.
Remove falafel mixture from food processor and roll as much as you want to use into balls. Place in baking pan or, preferably, cast iron skillet, and brush all sides with olive oil. Freeze or refrigerate any unused mixture for later.
Bake for about 35 minutes, flipping every ten minutes or so to get browning on all sides. Assemble into sandwiches on pita bread, and dress with hummus and veggies.