Happy New Year! I hope that 2013 was a fabulous year for you, and that 2014 will be even better. Once again, I am entering the new year unencumbered by resolutions, which has become my own kind of tradition, I suppose. Sure, there are projects to be done, a whole house full of rooms to be organized, and there are certainly pounds to be lost. But I can’t be bothered with all that in the face of a brand new year, fresh with possibilities. Also, I’m extremely distracted at the moment by this falafel salad.
I’m fully aware that the blogging world is probably glutted at the moment with “recipes” for salads. But this isn’t that kind of salad. This is a salad that is only a salad because it really wants to be. What?! I don’t even know. I just ate a big plate of this and I’m giddy about it. It’s so good.
Several weeks ago, I made falafel for the first time and kind of fell in love. The explosion of middle-eastern flavors from all the spices is incredible, only to be bested by the ethereal crispy, crackly edges on these little patties from pan-frying in olive oil. Last time, I served these the traditional way, in pitas loaded up with tomatoes and lettuce. They were really fantastic. But even then, something in my head was saying, “This would be amazing on a salad.” See, I can’t eat something savory, hot, and crispy-fried without imagining it atop a big pile of crispy lettuce and veggies. Like this cheeseburger salad, for instance. It seems icy lettuce is the perfect foil for my favorite indulgences. Hey, look, I’m a health nut!
Ok, all silliness aside, this salad is phenomenal. The falafel are perfectly spiced- don’t be afraid to add the whole amount of coriander and cumin; even though it seems like a lot, it really does season the chickpeas perfectly. I love the brightness of the fresh cilantro, but I’ve also used parsley and even dried chives in a pinch and it was delicious. The cucumber dressing is the perfect counterpoint to the smoky spice of the falafel; tangy, fresh, and cool. In a perfect world, I would have added some slivers of red onion and chunks of ripe tomato to the salad, but seeing as ripe tomatoes are pretty hard to come by in Chicago in January, they didn’t make an appearance this time. And I honestly just forgot about the red onion amidst the smell of frying chickpeas and spice. But I was surprised to realize that this salad is simply perfect with only some crisp lettuce, thin slices of cucumber, and a sprinkle of salty, briny feta. Sometimes keeping it simple really is best.
Here’s to another great year of life’s simple pleasures, friends.
Falafel Salad with Cucumber Dill Dressing
These falafel patties are also fantastic tucked into a pita with some lettuce, cucumber, and chunks of tomato. The dressing makes a great sauce, too.
1 cup plain whole milk yogurt
1/2 English cucumber, grated
1 teaspoon dried dill, or 2 teaspoons fresh dill, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
juice of half a lemon
2 cups chickpeas, soaked and cooked until tender (OR a 15 oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed)
1 onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper, or more to taste
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
juice of half a lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
olive oil for frying (not extra virgin)
1 head of romaine lettuce, chopped
½ cucumber, sliced
2 oz feta cheese, crumbled
In a small bowl combine yogurt, lemon juice, cucumber, dill, salt, pepper and mix well. Chill for at least 30 minutes.
In a large bowl mash chickpeas until thick and pasty. Then add in remaining ingredients and mix well.
Using a large spoon and the palm of one hand, form the mixture into oblong patties, being sure to really press them together. They may be a bit crumbly, so handle them carefully.
Heat enough oil to just cover the bottom of a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry patties in hot oil until brown and crispy, about 3-4 minutes on each side. You may have to do this in two batches, adding more oil if necessary. Remove falafels from pan and place on a piece of paper towel to remove any excess oil.
To serve, pile lettuce and cucumber onto individual plates. Place 2-3 hot falafel patties atop each bed of salad, then sprinkle the feta cheese over the top. Finish with a few spoonfuls of the cucumber dressing and serve immediately.