If you're not familiar with falafel, then it's time to try this growing favorite. Falafel are vegetarian patties made from chickpeas or beans and typically mixed with Middle Eastern spices such as cumin and coriander. Usually, they are fried, but they can be baked, too. Served with yogurt sauce, chili sauce or in pita bread or a salad, they're a terrific, flavorful, high-protein alternative to meat dishes.
Chickpeas or fava beans are the main ingredient in falafel. The correct kind of bean is important: Uncooked chickpeas or beans (soaked for 24 hours to soften) are best. You can use canned beans, but the texture and flavor will be different (they can become overly salty and mushy).
Herbs and spices are major ingredients, so choose your favorites and mix them in. Cumin, coriander, parsley, garlic, hot pepper flakes, onion and cilantro are all good choices. You also can add garlic or onion powder in place of fresh. Be careful not to use too much salt.
While baked falafel are obviously better for you than fried, fried falafel typically have a crisper outer crust. Try them both ways to determine your favorite. When frying, make sure the oil is very hot (350 to 375 degrees F) to get a crispy outside and a soft inside. When baking, drizzle the baking sheet with oil to prevent sticking, and bake at 350 to 375 degrees F to get the crispy outside and soft inside.
Falafel, like other fried foods, can get soggy quickly, so you should try to prepare and eat them on the same day.
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