Falafel Salad with Lemon Tahini Vinaigrette
During our last trip to Philadelphia, Lulu and I realized how narrow the vegetarian options were in restaurants. Lulu had falafel during the entire time of our stay there.
He hasn't touched it since we got back and I thought it was time to re-introduce him to falafel. I served them in a Mediterranean-style salad along with lemon tahini vinaigrette, candied walnuts and thinly sliced kumquat preserves from last winter's harvest.
Yields: 10 servings1-1/2 cups dried chickpeas
1 tablespoon bread crumbs
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup curly parsley, chopped
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons brown rice flour (or chickpea flour)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cloves garlic
1 shallot, finely chopped
1-1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sumac (or paprika if not available)
1 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1-1/2 cups red oak leaves
1-1/2 cups frisée lettuce
1-1/2 cups romaine lettuce
1-1/2 cups arugula
1/4 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1-1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon tahini
2 teaspoons coarse grain mustard
1 teaspoon coriander powder, freshly ground
3/4 teaspoon dried parsley
1/8 teaspoon anise seeds, freshly ground
3/4 teaspoon cumin powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 lemons, zested, freshly squeezed
4 preserved kumquats with their syrup, thinly sliced, + 1 tablespoon of syrup
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1 clove pickled garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup black sesame Persian cheese (see tips), diced
1 drizzle sesame oil
How to make falafel (makes about 20):
Wash and soak the chickpeas overnight. The next day, drain them and remove as much liquid as possible.
In a food processor, combine the chickpeas, onions, shallot, garlic, cilantro, flat-leaf parsley and curly parsley and blend until it becomes a smooth paste. Transfer to a bowl. Add the brown rice flour, baking soda, bread crumbs, 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne powder, 1/2 teaspoon of cumin powder, 1/2 teaspoon of dried parsley, 3/4 teaspoon of cumin powder, sumac and soy sauce. Season with 3/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Using food service disposable gloves, knead the mixture. Chill in the refrigerator until you're ready to fry.
Grease the disposable gloves with oil and form about 20 small balls.
In a deep fryer filled with hot oil, fry the falafel balls for about 2 to 3 minutes until golden brown. Transfer onto a platter lined with paper towels. Let cool a bit. Cut them in quarters.
For the candied walnuts: In a small pan, dry roast the walnuts for about 2-3 minutes, then sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of sugar. Sauté the walnuts in sugar for another minute by shaking the pan so each nut is coated with sugar. Remove from the heat. Let the walnuts cool completely.
For the lemon tahini sauce: Combine the mustard, kumquat syrup, the pickled garlic, remaining dried parsley, anise seed, the remaining cumin, cayenne, lemon zest, lemon juice, tahini and olive oil. Whisk until emulsified. Season with salt and white pepper. Thin the vinaigrette with about 2 tablespoons of water.
Assembly time: On a large platter, start by layering a bed of greens (arugula, frisée, romaine and red oak leaves). Add the diced black sesame Persian Cheese, thinly sliced preserved kumquats, candied walnuts and quartered falafel. Finish with a drizzle of sesame oil.
Serve the lemon tahini salad dressing on the side along with toasted pita bread.
I used pickled garlic so that it does not overpower the vinaigrette. If you don't mind a not-so-mild flavor, use fresh garlic.
Black sesame Persian cheese can be found in Iranian/Pakistani stores. It's called Nabulsi cheese. It's quite similar to feta cheese but much milder and sweeter. I buy Karoun brand Nabulsi cheese.
You can find sumac in Indian stores. It adds a nice tart, spicy, complex flavor to the falafel mix. It's usually used for basmati rice. Just add some ghee (Indian clarified butter) to the rice and sprinkle in some sumac powder. The pinkish powder adds a pleasant, sour note to the rice. I think it's probably the Asian equivalent of soy sauce and butter with jasmine rice. Kids love this!
If the falafel batter is too dense in the food processor, add about 2 tablespoons (or more) of the chickpea water for a smoother flow.
Let the falafel cool a bit before cutting them in quarters; otherwise they might fall apart.
If you plan to make the falafel batter in advance, add the baking soda only when you're ready to fry.
The oil shouldn't be too hot; otherwise the outside will be burn and the inside won't be cooked. 350°F is an ideal temperature for the oil.
I prefer grinding my own brown rice flour. I get finer flour using the Nutrimill brand mill. I got it several months ago and it's very useful to make any kind of flour. It's a great advantage for people with gluten allergies as well. I make my own flour with buckwheat, oat, sorghum or even spelt.
For the breadcrumbs, I usually grind a stale baguette into fine powder.
To prevent the lettuce from wilting too fast, it's best not to cut your salad with a knife. I usually tend to just gently tear the leaves; your salad will remain fresh until you're ready to serve it. Another tip: if you serve the dressing on the salad, pour on the vinaigrette at the very last minute to keep the salad crunchy.
I usually serve salad on a large platter, family style, but you can serve it in individual portions for a more formal dinner party.September 29, 2009.