Fresh Herb Falafel Pita Wrap
Mother never made that.
That’s what mom’s sister, Aunt Pat, said when I talked about the falafel I’d be making with the abundance of fresh herbs we have, along with the peeled fava beans we recently started offering over at Maureen Abood Market.
The sisters have been engaged in a dialogue, one that has extended the entirety of their visit these weeks up north, centered largely on their parents. They want to remember, and their memories aren’t always in sync—which is understandable, given that my mom was the youngest by many years of the seven children and Pat one of the eldest. They grew up in different households (even though one thing did remain a constant—their mother Alice’s nonstop cooking, crafting, cleaning, and otherwise perpetual motion).
But when it comes to the falafel, they are in complete agreement: Mother never made that. Not ever. And both sisters believe they’ve never eaten a falafel of anyone’s making, even mine, mom says. I see a beautiful photo of it in your book… she trails off. Clearly my neglect knows no bounds.
The homemade falafel is a thing of beauty, and it’s so delicious it changes your mind if the only falafel you’ve eaten is in a restaurant or from a boxed mix. Made from a delicate crumb of soaked (not cooked) chickpeas and peeled fava beans with a glorious shower of fresh mint, cilantro and parsley, spiked with jalapeno/garlic/onion/sesame, then flash fried and paired with an elegant tahini-yogurt sauce…ahhhh, the summer in this is deeply aromatic and flavorful.
Mom and Aunt Pat wondered then why Maureen Abood Market offers the peeled fava beans (as in: “why in the world…”). The reason is they’re just not that easy to find, and like the other legumes on offer at the shop, this makes it much easier for all of you to get a hold of the special ingredients needed to make the very best of your Lebanese dishes.
When the falafel recipe was in testing for the book, my trusty testers (thank you, again and again!) kept telling me the recipe wasn’t working out. Turned out their fava beans were not the big white peeled beans, but the dark ones with the skins on. Those are more readily available but they don’t work here.
So the peeled fava beans for the shop, for you, in hopes you’ll discover how good (not to mention how healthy, despite the frying) homemade, fresh herb falafel is. Just like we did.
- 1/2 cup dried peeled fava beans
- 1/2 cup dried chickpeas (these need not be skinless/peeled)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 20 or so mint leaves
- 1 large bunch flat leaf parsley, leaves pinched
- 1 smaller bunch of cilantro, leaves pinched
- 1 jalapeno pepper, ribs and seeds removed, coarsely chopped, or 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 small yellow onion, coarsely chopped
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 3 cups neutral oil, such as safflower or canola, for frying
- Tahini Yogurt Sauce
- 1/2 cup yogurt
- 1/3 cup tahini (stirred before measuring)
- 1 small garlic clove, minced
- pinch of salt
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 4 loaves thin pita bread
- 1/2 cup lift, pink pickled turnips, cut in strips
- In a medium bowl, cover the chickpeas and fava beans with cool water by 3 inches. Soak them overnight and up to 24 hours.
- Thoroughly drain the chickpeas and fava beans. In the food processor, process them with the salt until they are ground to a coarse crumb. Reserving a few leaves of each herb, add the mint, parsley, cilantro, jalapeno, garlic, onion, and sesame seeds. Pulse until the mixture is finely ground to a moist, bright green crumb. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, stir in the baking soda, and chill for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 day.
- Make the tahini sauce by combining the yogurt, tahini, garlic and salt in the processor or whisking by hand. Add the lemon juice, then taste and adjust the seasonings as needed.
- Heat the oil to 375 degrees in a 3-quart saucepan until a dropped pinch of herb bubbles dramatically. Using an ice cream scoop or falafel mold, pack the falafel mixture tightly into the scoop and fry a few at a time until they are deep golden brown, flipping them over with tongs as soon as they are browned on one side. Remove the falafel from the oil with tongs to a paper towel-lined plate, and fry the remaining falafel.
- Place a thin loaf of pita on each of four plates. Lay several falafel along one side of the bread a few inches from the edge. Top with tahini sauce, fresh herbs, and pink pickled turnips. Roll the pita up tightly, cut in half on the diagonal, and serve immediately with more sauce for dipping.
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I'm so glad you're here! You'll find among these pages the fresh and classic Lebanese recipes we can't get enough of! My mission is to share my tried + true recipes -- and to help our Lebanese food-loving community keep these culinary traditions alive and on the table. What recipes are you looking for? Let me know!
Ok…I’m guilty!! Never have made Falafel from scratch either. And…to make it worse, I had one food critic comment on the recipe in my cookbook, that using the box mix was not to kosher…although she said it a little harsher. Well, not having had it growing up at home, and trying to make all recipes easy for the younger generation, I took this short cut….my bad!!
Anyway, I am going to make your recipe…my husband loves Falafel so onward to the kitchen….
What a glorious treat, Maureen! Your recipe looks even tastier and nicer than the one I make, which was taught to me by a friend, also from Lebanese ancestry. And in my case, it’s also true: my Lebanese Grandma and her sisters never-ever made that, either. It hasn’t been part of my family’s tradition, which is a great loss – one that must be corrected, haha!
Thank you so much for sharing the joy of falafel through one more of your wonderful recipes.
My one attempt at falafel was a disaster, but I’m inclined to believe it was due to the unskinned favas. I’ve just ordered 2 bags from your market – counting the days until I can make a batch of your delicious falafel!
Maureen, I have another comment, or you could say a question perhaps. What’s this adding yogurt in the tahini sauce? I lived and ate falafel until the age of 18 in Beirut, and never heard of adding or thinning down the tahini sauce with yogurt! I thought this is something foreign to our Lebanese tradition and the way of making falafel. My recollection of it was a great thick tahini sauce topping on the falafel that completed the sandwich:-) yum!!! I also Have a suggestion for the best falafel ever in Beirut. There is a well known cheff in Beirut by the name of Chef Chadi Zeitouni who had as his guest the owner of this falafel place (called Falafel Arax) and was trying to get the secret of making this falafel that even he couldn’t duplicate. So, if you could go on you tube and look for this truely funny man and his guest preparing this absolutely one of a kind flavor falafel. It’s almost scientific, the way they make it. Please see if you could post it on your website for those who do not or did not understand the Arabic language recipe! Many thanks in advance.
All very interesting Levon, thank you! The tahini yogurt sauce is delicious and I add the yogurt because I love it!
Grew up in Lebanese Catholic family from villiage of Raskifa. My grandmother made it all. Never ever made a falafel that I can remember.
How do they remove the skins from the fava beans? Thanks
Great question Marlene–something I will have to look into further! I have peeled a lot of fresh fava beans in my time and that is one seriously painstaking task!
I am a big fan of your blog Maureen! Thank you for posting all these great recipes! As for peeling the fava beans, I know from my dad, that they use peeled fava beans, something easily found in the Lebanese grocery stores, and it’s also known under “foul majroush”. I hope you find this helpful.
Thank you Cherine!
My mother made multitudes of Lebanese dishes. but she never ever made falafel. The first time I had it was as an adult at a place in New Haven, CT called “Mamouns”. I wonder if it’s a regional dish in Lebanon? I never did understand why we never had it.
I’ll have to try it with favas – I’ve only made them using chick peas.
Hi Maureen, I got your cookbook as an Xmas gift, and finally got to try your falafel recipe. I had to double the chickpeas, as I couldn’t find fava beans where I am. However, upon completion of the mix I tried to form the falafel and couldn’t because the mixture was so wet. I had to add breadcrumbs and an egg to salvage the mix. Any ideas what could prevent that if I tried again?
Hi Christina–I’m so glad you made the falafel. I’m surprised and sorry about the wetness. I wonder if the herbs were too wet?
I was really looking forward to these. The sauce was made. The cucumbers and onions were diced. The tomatoes from my garden were sliced. My husband was hanging over my shoulder, drooling because it all smelled so good. And the falafels disintegrated. Every single one. I know it’s me and not the recipe. Still very disappointed.
WOndering if it would be possible to bake instead of fry the falafels?
Thanks so much!
That would be well worth a try–you might want to broil them to get the exterior browned and crisp. Let us know how it goes!!