Mike, who worked as the community coordinator at the campus ministry, was looking for great recipes for lent. As a way to build community and really help students think about the impact of giving meat up and observing Lent, he started hosting Falafel Fridays. On Falafel Fridays, kids from all over would show up. These students could learn how to cook a new food and be social (which is what Fridays are all about in college).
As an athlete and healthy eater, Lent was always challenging for Mike. On Fridays, he searched for alternatives to the classic fish fry or carb load like spaghetti dinners. Mike looked for something that was easy to make, not so expensive, but filling! One day, in college, Mike stumbled onto Levantes, a Mediterranean restaurant in Washington, DC. There, he found a phenomenal falafel sandwich. He was instantly in love. It satisfied his need for healthy, good, vegetarian food with lots of sides like Israeli salad, Morroccan carrot salad, and hummus for not a lot of money.
Falafel Fridays served numerous purposes. First, it taught students to cook something healthy and easy. Second, it allowed students to think about what they give up during Lent and why . Third, it enabled students to learn about and experiment with spices like cumin and coriander and fresh herbs like parsley. Finally, because the falafel recipe is mainly comprised of fresh vegetables and foods, it opened a conversation about health, food, and sustainability. For Mike, Falafel sparked conversation, created community, and gave students a great Friday afternoon hang-out option and meal.
Friday Falafel Recipe
1 can chickpeas
1/2 large red onion, diced (about 3/4 cup)
2 tbsps finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp salt
1/2-1 tsp dried hot red pepper (or cayenne pepper to taste)
4 cloves garlic
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp lime juice
4-6 tbsps flour
Olive oil for frying
Tomato for sandwich, diced
Red onion for sandwich, diced
Cucumber for sandwich, diced
Green leaf lettuce for sandwich
Hummus for sandwich
Pita bread (warmed in oven)
Prepare vegetables ahead of time. Slice some of the red onion and put aside for sandwich toppings; dice the rest for use in falafel patty. Mince the garlic for ease of mixing in food processer/blender. Slice cucumber and tomato, get lettuce leaves ready–place all aside.
Drain chickpeas, then empty container into food processer/blender, and add diced onion, garlic, lime juice, and olive oil. Add cilantro and blend again until mixture is relatively uniform (it will be a bit chunky) and resembles a thick paste. Ideally, you don’t want big chunks of garlic or onion. Add a bit of the flour and baking soda to absorb some of the moisture—I recommend putting the paste in a bowl first and stirring it with a spoon at this point. It becomes very challenging to get out of the blender.
Place some of the flour and baking powder in a small bowl and mix with a fork to create a basic dredge. Take about a tablespoon worth of paste, roll it into a small patty, and dip it briefly into the flour dredge. DO NOT coat it entirely— just a gentle dusting to hold it together as a patty, so that the paste does not all disintegrate in fryer.
In a skillet or saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Drop the patties in one by one, allowing space between. (Some prefer vegetable oil; I use olive oil for the additional flavor and health benefits. Others also do a deep-fry, where the entire falafel is covered in oil. I fry them in about a quarter inch of oil.)
When the edges of the patty appear to have turned a golden brown, flip and repeat on other side. Once both sides are golden brown, transfer to a plate with a paper towel to absorb excess oil.
Put the hummus, veggies, and falafel into a warm pita shell and enjoy!
Image: By Tlmoers (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons