So Love, So Love, So Love - Recipe For Chickpea Falafel
I get challenged often by individuals who find fault in those cooks who preface their recipes like I am about to. They feel entitled to a recipe, but care not in the slightest for the story that inspires it. They're inconvenience with having to read through someone's journey and life experience. I wouldn't be all that surprised if it came down to a matter of education and patience on their part. If that offends, in sincere honesty, I'm not all that sorry. But the reason many of us chefs & cooks do this - preface our work, our experiences, and share stories with you as it relates to the dishes we find significant to us; it is to say in the very least that we tried. That we tried to educate a country about our identity and culture that would otherwise gun down people of color innocently running down through streets. We try to share with you the content behind a "curry" and why it should be called a "curry", and why it should never be called a "stew". We work hard to put a piece of ourselves out there, in hopes that it captures a single drop of empathy, or marginal grain of understanding. That the origins of a virus do not boycott an entire cuisine, or give way to thoughtless hate crimes occurring against people of color, all across this country.
If you oversalt the melting pot with too much racism, all hope isn't lost. It takes a few dashes of ethic stories, whipped into a sweet, digestible meringue and baking it into every household in America. These gestures of sharing culture need to marinate and stew. The most delicious recipes cook overnight. In the places where our popularize media fails to honor cultural diversity, we do our smallest part by sharing it with you through our stories when we write a recipe. I would think someone would be more convinced to grab every herb necessary to forming my families falafel batter, when the extraordinary experience of all those ingredients coming together are used to paint a picture of beauty for you. I would think that if I shared enough of what my beliefs are, what my experiences have been, and what journey my family and I have been on - you'll find more in common with me than not. But if do nothing to help people relate to me, and go through the experience I did in grade 3 again, where a student valiantly announced to the class that the reason my skin was brown was because I woke up every morning and covered myself in shit - then I guess that's my fault. If the teacher who was standing there had made a falafel once in her life, maybe she would have been employed to say something to my classmate instead of watching me get ridiculed and keeping her eyes on the extremely important coloring she was grading. Or if I didn't use my english to communicate clearly who I was and what I know, than all those years I spent in ESL (English As A Second Or Foreign Language) through elementary, when I spoke perfectly english from the time that I was 4, would have been spent in vain. So if the larger media refuses to share my story, because "an Iranian chef is too political for us to represent right now", than please bear with me as I write you an essay each time you visit a recipe of mine, till no kids grows up thinking that brown people are covered in shit, and every ethnic child grows up believing that their diversity is not a burden, but the greatest gift this world could give them.
The process of feeding and nourishing someone turns even the most fearful into friends. My aunt has been making friends for over 2 decades now. She has been handing out her gifts to the greater community in North Vancouver through salty pistachio mortadella nestled between pillows and soft country bread. She has been exchanging conversations over tender pieces of tongue & cheek melting into toasted pita. She has been the sauce lady, the falafel lady, mom, aunty, my best friend and many other titles that her customers prolifically give her. She has a therapy-like appointment every hour with a different person, every day of the week, coming back for what I call now "those things I took for granted" and to what her devoted patrons refer to as "the best (insert menu item) I have ever had". Between the pair of my aunt and my mother, I have never in my life, every fine-dining chef or equivalent included, seen anyone take as much pleasure through cooking food as they do. And I beg to say that if I were to make any recipe of their to the exact precise and effective degree as them, I simple do not have a heart big enough to hold the love that they transcribe into everything they cook. My aunt without question makes the best falafel I've ever had. This recipe is not that falafel. No person could ever replicate that.
What's special about her falafel isn't that just outstandingly flavorful. It has nothing to do with the harmonized flavors of cumin, coriander and soft spices. It not because it gives way to a bright green herbaceous center when you bite into the delicate crispy and toasted crust. It not special because of the secret tahini sauce she dresses it with, or the tzatziki sauce which is a family recipes we're all devoted to taking to the grave. I think the perfect pocket pita and the blisting fresh vegetables matter less than anything. Though the lemony-salty tabouli that fills the gaps between falafel and bread makes an outstanding case for itself. Its special because each any every person that has had her falafel has been both eletated and inspired to create a ritual around their visit. That there is something significant to be said when someone considers you family, their mother, their aunt, their sister, after having only eaten something you made. It opens hearts in the best way imaginable. It has made my aunt a mytre among men. And I think most importantly, it's taught all those with whom we've had the privilege to interact with to have a different form our dialogue with us - to understand us in a new way. That the reason our skin is brown, is because we make a delicious falafel, and for no other reason than that.
Some Advice Before You Begin...
- Shortcuts Are For Losers. Don't be a loser. Don't substitute ingredients because you don't have them. Don't under soak your chickpeas, don't single fry your falafel as opposed to double frying. Just, don't be a loser and the recipe will work just fine.
- A Falafel Is Only As Cool As Its Friends. Garnishes are the most exciting part about putting together a falafel sandwich. Pickle some cucumbers, slice some onions, make a hummus, make two kinds of hummus - legit go wild. Mezze is the cultural indicator that the spirit of the Middle Eastern is centered in boundless, excessive, unending love and we channel all that energy into our the variety of toppings we bring to the table for a simple sandwich. If you're working with less than 5 things to stuff your pita with, you're not being ambitious enough.
- Don't Be Discouraged. Thing may not be textbook perfect the first few times. You'll learn to adjust your technique, your timing and your process as you work through it. But the most important part is that you chose to cook and commit to making something beautiful with your time, and that in itself is an extraordinary feat.
- 250g Chickpeas, dried
- 2.5g Baking Soda
- 15g Kosher Salt
- 40g White Onion, rough chopped
- 10g Garlic, crushed, peeled
- 10g Parsley, large stems removed
- 10g Dill, large stems removed
- 10g Mint, leaves only
- 10g Cilantro, large stems removed
- 2g Cumin Seeds, lightly toasted
- 2g Cinnamon, ground
- 5g Advieh or Ras Al Hanout
- 2g Black Pepper, freshly cracked
- 2g Baking Powder
- Kosher Salt & Black Pepper, to taste
- Place chickpeas, baking soda, and kosher salt in an appropriately sized container and cover with cold water. Place a tight fitting lid on the container and leave for 24 hours and up to 48 to hydrate in the refrigerator.
- Once hydrated, strain the chickpeas, dry thoroughly with a towel and place into a large mixing bowl. Add kosher salt. white onion, flat leaf parsley, cilantro, dill, mint leaves, garlic, advieh, toasted cumin seeds, ground cinnamon, baking powder, and kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste. Mixed thoroughly.
- In a food processor, process chickpea mixture until very fine, resembling coarse sea salt in appearance, having the texture of wet sand and seemingly bright green from the herbs. Add kosher salt and pepper to adjust seasoned.
- Roll 20g tight round pucks with the falafel mixture, using the palm of your hands to press them into shape, and allow to set at room temperature for 30 minutes to form a crust a dry slightly.
- Meanwhile heat a shallow heavy based pot with a neutral oil to 325°F. Once at the right temperature gently drop in the falafel pucks and cook for 3-4 minutes or until lightly brown. Remove from the oil and allow to cool at room temperature for 5 minutes. Increase the heat to 375°F and once the oil is at the right temperature, place the falafel balls back into the oil and fry for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown.
- Place falafel onto a paper towel to blot dry of oil, season lightly with salt and serve immediately.