What is Falafel
and Why is it Improper to Ask That?

Falafel Balls in Pita Bread with Chopped Salad and Tahini Sauce, GreatPartyRecipes.com

It's a typical question, What is falafel, exactly? The more proper question, though, is What are falafel? Falafel are deliciously seasoned chickpea and bulgur croquettes, vegetarian meatballs. Although fried, they do not absorb oil so they are not greasy.

Usually served in warm pita bread with chopped salad and tahini sauce, they are the Middle Eastern answer to hot dogs and are commonly sold by street vendors there. But falafel balls also make interesting appetizers served with dipping sauce.

Falafel Balls

This falafel recipe makes a lot, about 6 dozen falafel balls. That's enough for 18 to 24 sandwiches or 72 appetizers. For the family or a smaller group just cut the recipe in half.

3/4 cup bulgur
9 cups chickpeas (4 19-ounce cans)
2 cups minced onions (about 2 large)
6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or 1 tablespoon ground coriander
1/2 cup flour
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
3 eggs, lightly beaten
Peanut oil for deep frying

Soak the bulgur in very hot water to cover for about 30 minutes. Drain thoroughly in a fine strainer.

Shred the chickpeas in a food processor, in batches, scraping them into a large bowl as you go. Stir in the onions, garlic, parsley and cilantro.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, cumin, salt, cayenne and coriander, if you're using coriander instead of cilantro.

Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chickpea mixture and toss. Stir in the beaten eggs, making a paste.

Roll the chickpea paste into walnut-size balls. Fry the balls in batches, without crowding them, in 350° degree oil until well-browned and crusty, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain on paper toweling.

To serve, lay out the hot Falafel Balls with warm pita bread, chopped salad (tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and onions) hot sauce and tahini sauce, and let your guests prepare their own sandwiches. The pita bread can either be cut in half for pita pockets or used whole as flatbread. For appetizers, serve them skewered, with dipping sauce.

Make-ahead directions:

Prepare the falafel recipe as directed above a day or two before the party. Cool the fried balls, cover and refrigerate. When it's time, reheat them on baking sheets in a 400° oven. It takes 20 to 30 minutes to heat them through.


 So... falafel is plural. But, I agree, thinking "what are" rather than "what is falafel" are difficult.

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