Some people, when they’re let down by the food all around them, they go on Yelp and moan about it. Why not get even? When we felt hunger pangs for a late-night falafel sandwich in our corner of Los Angeles – where no falafel exists – we reached for the fry oil.
Our one-night restaurant window we called El Falafel (only at Elf) made us feel a whole lot better. And selling out in only a couple hours, we think it made others feel good too. Deep thanks to all the chickpea cravers who came out for a sandwich. Bear hugs for Elf Cafe for partnering with us. Kisses to Eden for her basil soda. And our deepest deep-fried apologies to the handful of you bar flies who stumbled over late from Los Globos on an empty stomach as we were taking the lights down. (You will be rewarded in falafel.)
We thought it only fair to share our secrets for your home use. It took a whole month of falafel tests, before we settled on what is certainly the Alexandrian ideal of a falafel sandwich: warm pita, harissa, hummus, cabbage salad, a muffaletta-style relish, sliced pickles, tahini sauce, and piping hot falafel balls. The precise falafel batter recipe we used is a cherished family secret of Elf Cafe’s chef-owner Scott Zweizen, whose Polish grandmother years ago passed it down via a tattered piece of paper. But a pretty close approximation is below.
Now, what else is the neighborhood missing?
(Makes several cups)
2 cups green olives (pitted)
2 cups pickled turnip slices
2 raw carrots (peeled)
1 bunch parsley
1. Dice the olives, pickled turnip and raw carrots into uniformly small cubes like a pickled confetti. Toss together in a bowl. Finely chop the parsley and add. Season to taste.
1 and 1/4 cup dried garbanzo beans
(2 cups if using canned… for shame)
1 cup garbazno flour
6 cloves garlic, minced
half a red onion, roughly chopped
juice of 2 lemons
1/4 cup tahini
1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup water (as needed)
1 tablespoon sea salt
1/2 tablespoon black pepper
2 tablespoons urfa pepper (optional)
1 cup fresh mint, roughly chopped
3-4 cups oil for frying (sunflower, grapeseed etc.)
1. To cook them beans perfectly: Start with 1 and 1/4 cup dried beans. Soak for 1-2 hours in water, covered, sitting on the counter. Then strain, rinse and place in a pot covered with 6 cups water. Cook on medium heat until you reach a rumble, turn to simmer and cook for 1 hour. When beans feel slightly crunchy but cooked, (should not be popping their skins), remove and drain and set aside.
2. In a food processor, quickly pulse the onion, garlic, parsley, cilantro and two-thirds of the cooked beans together, but leave chunky. Add lemon juice, tahini, olive oil and water (as needed to help it move) and pulse briefly again.
3. Empty this mixture into a large mixing bowl and add the roughly chopped mint, garbanzo flour, the rest of the whole beans (give ’em a rough chop), salt, pepper, urfa and stir with a spatula. Cover and set in the fridge for as little as 30 minutes or as long as overnight.
4. To fry: Heat a heavy-bottomed vessel with at least three-inches of oil, enough room to fry several at a time. (If you have a thermometer, use it. Let the oil reach 350 degrees before starting to fry.) Use a small ice cream scooper or other utensil of choice to formulate about 1 tablespoon of batter into a consistent round or oval shape. Drop one at first to test it out.
5. Fry 2-4 balls at a time depending on what you can manage without dropping the temperature of the oil. Balls should fry for 2 minutes and come out crispy, dark-brown with a moist but gooey interior. Repeat until you have enough for your sandwiches.
6. Assemble in this order: Warm pita gets a slick of hummus and harissa, lay down 3-4 balls. Sprinkle with relish; top with cabbage slaw; squirt with tahini sauce and wedge two pickle slices on the side. Fold bread like a soft taco.
Beverage: Green Flash, Rayon Vert
Soundtrack: Selda, “Selda”