Falafel is delicious, crisp and rich and green and flavorful, a food that, like many, has traveled the globe and been reborn in many different incarnations. While we often think of falafel as being made from garbanzo beans, one of the original methods of preparing falafel was to use broad or fava beans to make the patties. Egyptian falafel is still made this way, formed into flatter patties as opposed to the round balls that we often encounter here. The bright green color comes from an abundance of herbs; namely parsley and cilantro, but mint is sometimes included, too. The dry beans are sold whole or split; use split beans if you can find them, as it saves you a good amount of tedious work removing the thin pellicle that covers each individual bean.
Please note that the beans must be soaked for several hours, or better, overnight, before using.
Serves 6-8, depending on serving size.
Twist off the tops from the bunches of herbs, and drop them into the bowl of a food processor, along with the onion, garlic, parsley, cilantro, cornstarch, 1 tsp baking soda, coriander, cumin, lemon zest, and salt. Pulse until the mixture is evenly and finely chopped. Save the herb stems for broth!
Add the drained fava beans to the mixture, and pulse until a uniform consistency is reached. You are aiming for a finely minced mixture, well blended, but not so fine that it becomes a paste or a butter. Stir occasionally to ensure even processing, scraping down the sides of the bowl. A few larger pieces of a bean are fine and preferable to a puree.
Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl, and place it in the refrigerator to chill for half an hour; this will make it easier to form into balls.
When it has chilled, remove the fava bean mixture from the refrigerator. Form into balls or patties of 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons each, using wet hands to shape the mixture.
Spread the falafel out and sprinkle them with sesame seeds, then roll them over into the excess seeds to pick up a light coating on their other surfaces. If desired, some or all of the falafel may be frozen at this stage for later use. Freeze them spread out on a cookie sheet until they are frozen through, and then place them in an airtight container, where they will keep for 2-3 months. To use frozen falafel, let them thaw at room temperature for an hour before frying as follows.
Fill a heavy bottomed pan with about an inch of frying oil, and heat it to around 370° F.
Working in batches, fry the falafel in the hot oil, a few at a time. Use a thin utensil to gently roll the falafel from one side to another as it cooks, so that all sides are golden brown, with a crunchy exterior. Remove the falafel from the oil gently with a slotted spatula or spoon; they should be treated with care to prevent them from falling apart.
When all the falafel have been fried, serve them warm. They are amazing when served in warm pita bread, with fresh veg and a creamy sauce: think cucumber, sunflower sprouts, slivered carrots, and yogurt sauce. Tahini and hummus are also fine accompaniments, and tomatoes, when they come back into season.
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