Oh my gosh I absolutely love falafel!
My very first falafel was in Israel sixteen years ago. I had gone with a large church group and we were driving this massive bus across the country side. One of the days we were able to go off on our own for a few hours and check out the local culture in an outdoor market. A few of the people we were with were on a mission to find a falafel. I had never heard of that, so I decided to tag along.
We circled that market probably three times before finding a tiny cart off to one side that was serving up falafel hot out of the oil. I bought one which turned out to be a pita filled with these dark looking dough balls, vegetables and a white tangy sauce. It was amazing! The balls – which I learned were falafel – were a soft but grainy bite. The flavor in them was like something I had never had. The sauce was finger licking good. Literally, it dripped all over my hands, but oh man was that yummy. I ate every bite of that falafel pita packet… and I wanted more.
Of course, after eating a massive sandwich I was stuffed, but those falafels were never far in my mind. I was in Israel for a few more days and somehow found a food cart a few days later to get another falafel sandwich. I don’t know if it was a language barrier or just not as good of a cart, but sadly that second falafel was not as good as the first.
Ever since that first sandwich, I have searched for that same bite of happiness. You know what they say though… overthinking something can sometimes place it so high on a pedestal that you can never match it. All I really wanted was that “mmm, that’s good” bite, then I would be happy. I have tried several places over the years around my city and far from it as well, but nothing got quite to that amazing taste I was looking for. Mostly they were dry, gritty and sometimes the crust was almost burned.
A few months ago I found a place actually down the street from me that had a falafel that I actually thought was pretty moist. I was super excited because I was going to go all the time! When I settled on such a random ingredient like parsley, I knew I needed a herb filled dish that really highlights that grassy flavor.
Falafel was a natural thought. The inside of the balls have a ton of herbs in them, mainly parsley and cilantro. I give massive props for the folks at The View From Great Island for the Best Falafel Ever which did give me that falafel bite I have been searching for – right in my own kitchen! Not to mention there is a parsley heavy salad called tabouli that has cucumber and other hearty veggies in it. I thought why not combine them and do a falafel with a tabouli inspired couscous salad? I wanted to top it with that fantastic zingy tzatziki sauce, which but the way is ridiculously easy to make. Yogurt, lemon juice, cucumber and spices. Mix. Done.
The thought I had of this dish was exactly that herby taste I wanted, but I needed a touch of bright sweetness to really bring that parsley forward. I cannot tell you where the heck I got the idea for these tomatoes, but they seriously made the entire dish. I call them ‘melted tomatoes’ because by baking them just enough that they start breaking down, they literally melt bright sunshiny sweetness into your mouth. Not to mention, Bradley said he “actually liked tomatoes cooked like this”. I win!
- ½ red onion, chopped large
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 jalapeno, cut in half and seeds removed
- 1 bunch parsley
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 3 cups garbanzo beans (reconstituted if dry)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- Oil for frying
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Salt, to taste
- 1/4 of a large cucumber, finely chopped
- 12 ounces (1 ½ cups) plain greek yogurt
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt, to taste
- 4 cups pearl couscous, cooked to package directions
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ¾ of a large cucumber, chopped
- A small handful of fresh parsley, chopped
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a small oven safe dish, toss the whole tomatoes with olive oil and salt. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until they appear sightly deflated and the skins start to crack.
- Toss the hot couscous with the olive oil and salt. Set aside and let cool. Toss the couscous with cucumber and parsley, season with salt and pepper.
- In a food processor, chop the onion, garlic and jalapeno to a small dice. Add in parsley and cilantro and chop until combined. Add the garbanzo beans and process until it resembles large sand. Don't let it turn into a paste. Move mixture to a large mixing bowl. Add lemon juice, cumin, salt, flour and baking soda, and stir until just combined. Form a ball of mixture in your hands about the size of a golf ball, pressing gently only until packed together. Don't squeeze any liquid out.
- Heat the oil in a large high sided pot over medium high heat. Fry a few falafel at a time about 5 minutes until deep brown. Drain on paper towels.
- Mix all the tzatziki sauce ingredients together in a small bowl.
- To assemble the bowls, spoon the couscous salad into four large bowls, add 3 or 4 falafels, a few tomatoes and a drizzle of tzatziki sauce.