Baked Falafel with Fava Bean Salad & Harissa
The last of the favas. And today, of all things, it’s 104 degrees Fahrenheit outside. Now who on earth said summer could come with such a vengeance to the Appalachian mountains? This morning I woke early (for me—I realize plenty of people get up hours before I do) at 6 am and drove a friend’s son who is thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail from his off-day hotel to the trail up to McAfee’s. That early in the day it was already 85 degrees and I felt bad for my plants, watering them in the heat. No direct sun at 6 am at least.
So it’s easy to see that the favas are spent.
But one last hurrah with them is necessary, something to savor the sweet warmth of spring over this roiling boil (anyone baked cookies on their car hoods today?). Last month, I ran across Alexandra’s recipe for Homemade Falafel with Lima Bean Salad. Her falafel was simply the Mark Bittman recipe from the New York Times and the salad her own recipe using some fantastic Mediterranean ingredients like roasted red peppers, fava beans, and onions. On first glance, I was entranced by the simple, fresh flavors of the pairing and knew I would need to make a variation stat.
The variation I intended was for the salad, not the falafel, but, simply, I just couldn’t get the falafel to fry. I watched the Bittman video, made the falafel mixture, dropped a ball of it into my fry daddy (circa 1973 wedding gift to my mother for her first marriage)—the oil was at 350—and waited for the glorious batter to fry. No luck. Instead it disintegrated into bits and pieces of chickpeas and parsley. A mess that couldn’t be saved. I rallied and filled my cast iron dutch oven with the remainder of my oil (vegetable instead of peanut, since G is allergic) and tried again. Nope. Same effect.
At this point I needed a plan. Right now. (I mean, dinner was already thirty minutes past schedule.) So I cranked up the oven to 400, rolled the falafel mixture into balls, and baked them for 10-15 minutes on each side until golden brown. Finally, something that we could eat.
The salad itself was easy to prepare once the fava beans were shelled. Favas, roasted red peppers, purple onion, a little blanched kale chilled in a dressing of red wine vinegar and olive oil, it was fresh and snappy, exactly what I’d want stuffed in a pita with falafel.
Falafel and fava bean salad, however, isn’t complete without a little kick, a condiment to bring it all together (especially if you’re serving it with pita or naan). So on the side, I served a little homemade harissa—the recipe followed verbatim from Serious Eats. One of my favorite condiments, I was eager to make some at home (and I’d already bought a jar of roasted red peppers for the fava salad) and slather it on anything I could get my mitts on. Which is what I did. I actually had to put the jar in the fridge to hide it from G since he’d moved on to dipping crackers in the harissa. It’s seriously that good (and it’s seriously good on veggie burgers and sandwiches!).
So even though it’s hot, I find myself wishing I had a few more favas to blanch and shell, some chickpeas to whirl together with spices and throw in the oven to make falafel. It’s hard to beat fresh Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine on a hot summer day and even harder to beat the sweat-inducing heat of fresh harissa to cool you down. As far as the frying goes…one day I’ll figure it out. But at least I always have an oven for plan B!
Baked Falafel with Fava Salad & Harissa
For the Falafel (from Mark Bittman via Alexandra’s Kitchen):
2 16 oz cans chickpeas
2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
1 small onion, quartered
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tbsp ground cumin
Scant teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 c chopped parsley
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Add all ingredients to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until minced but not pureed. Add a tablespoon or two of water if necessary to get the mixture to come together (again, not watery or pureed, but almost sticky, dense batter).
Scoop the mixture into ¼ c balls or patties and place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown on the top side and flip the falafel to the other side. Bake another 10 minutes until golden brown on both sides.
Remove from oven.
For the Fava Bean Salad (Adapted slightly from Alexandra’s Kitchen):
5 lbs fresh fava beans, blanched and double shelled
1 large roasted red pepper, chopped
1 small red onion, sliced into thin slivers
1 cup cooked kale (I blanched mine for 1 minute, drained, and cooled in an ice bath)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
Salt & pepper to taste
Place the favas, red pepper, onion, and kale in a bowl. Season with a large pinch of kosher salt. Drizzle with the olive oil and vinegar and toss. Taste, adjusting seasoning as necessary with more salt, oil, vinegar, or pepper if desired.
For the Harissa (from Serious Eats):
2 whole roasted red peppers, seeds removed
6 dried guaijillo chiles
1/2 cup boiling water
1 garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
Juice of half a lemon
Salt, to taste
4 to 5 tablespoons canola oil
Place the chiles in a heatproof bowl, and cover with the boiling water. Let sit for 20 to 30 minutes until the chiles are softened. Reserve chile water.
Once chiles are softened, cut top off the chile and remove the seeds from inside the chiles. Add to the food processor or blender, along with remaining ingredients, except salt and oil. Add two tablespoons of reserved chile water.
Purée, slowly pouring in the canola oil to emulsify and thicken mixture (Note: All of the oil may not be needed.).
Season to taste with salt and extra lemon juice. The harissa will keep refrigerated for a few weeks.