Growing up in Israel during the 1980’s, falafel was king. Twice a week I traveled from my Kibbutz to the city of Petah Tikva, for an intense ballet class. To the naked eye I seemed like any other disciplined ballerina, but actually my mind was filled with sinful thoughts of the tahini dripping falafel sandwich that awaited me at the end of the pirouette session.
Then came the dilemma: a falafel sandwich with fries and all you can eat salads at Mordechai’s, or the classic fix at Chatukka, “The most Yemenite falafel in town” (that was, and it still is, their bizarre tagline). At both places, while standing on line, you’d get a crunchy green ball from the server to eat with your hands. That’s how they whet your appetite and welcome you, Israeli style.
Since the days of those post-ballet snacks, falafel has sadly lost is crown as the national dish of Israel. Every Israeli still holds a firm opinion on “where one can get the best falafel,” but chances are that you’ll hear more passionate and emotional arguments about the best hummusiahs (cafes which specialize in the chickpea dip) these days.
However, for Israeli ex-pats living in the U.S., falafel still holds special meaning, providing a taste of home. I get my fix at New York’s tiny falafel joint, Taim (which means “delicious” in Hebrew). The shop, which has a food truck and will soon expand to a second location, is owned by Israeli chef Einat Admony, who has given the simple falafel new life with interesting flavors like spicy Harissa, sweet roasted pepper and a green falafel flavored with cilantro, parsley, and mint.
Most likely, you won’t be able to find such falafel flavors in her homeland. When I asked her how she came about these variations she explained to me that “the idea was to make a twist on falafel without taking it too far and keeping the texture and profile of the flavors. I took my entire fine dining experience and applied it to Taim’s menu.” Indeed, her saffron aioli fries are the essence of that twist, where street food meets the creativity of experienced chef.
“I tried several different flavors before, like rosemary, mushroom, jalapeño and black olives, but thought that these three final flavors tasted the best,” she admitted.
The green flavor is also Einat’s current favorite — and lucky for us, she welcomed us into her home to show us how to make the dish.
See below for a complete recipe.
Einat Admony’s Falafel
Makes 38 balls
2 cups dried chickpeas
1 small yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic coarsely chopped
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley leaves
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
2 fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 ½ tablespoons kosher salt
½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
Canola oil for deep-frying
1) Soak the chickpeas overnight in the refrigerator. Make sure they are well covered with water.
2) The following morning drain the chickpeas.
3) In a food processor, place the chickpeas with the onion and garlic, then blend the mixture.
4) Toss the chickpea mixture with the parsley, cilantro, mint, salt, pepper, cumin and coriander and run through the food processor again.
5) Heat four inches of canola oil in a pot, to 350 degrees F (If you don’t have a thermometer, try to place a tiny piece from the mixture, and look for a bubbly circle around it, which indicates that it is ready). Using a tablespoon, or a falafel maker, shape the falafel mixture into balls and fry, adjusting the heat as necessary, until golden brown (about two minutes).