Fear of Frying

I know it’s pretty normal to crave fried food when you’re inebriated, American and/or menstruating.

For me, during around 18 of the 21 regular weekly mealtimes (as well as in between them), all I want are french fries or fried chicken or onion rings or something dredged and drowned (in peanut oil) and crispy. As much as I would likely cease to exist without milk chocolate and the promise of cheesecake or a box of Junior Mints, my aging palette craves the savory foodstuffs more often than not.*

(*Except immediately before falling asleep, when I am consistently plagued by an insatiable desire for the extremely neutral taste of Rice Chex.)

The odds of getting these fried delicacies at home, however, might as well be nonexistent. Without the shelf space for a proper earth-toned Le Creuset pot or the technical expertise for a candy thermometer, my personal frying potential remains untapped. (Let’s be honest, it’s for the caloric best.)

But I couldn’t let any of this stand between me and falafel, and neither should you.

There was one early attempt at frying my own falafel. Mistakenly using too much of the garbanzo bean liquid led to batter that was too runny which resulted in major ball breakage once dumped into the (1/2 inch at most) pan of vegetable oil. It ended up edible (when mixed into a pita pocket with vegetables and copious globs of cucumber dill dressing), but discouraged future pursuits.

One day, during my virtual stroll through the blogosphere, hidden among the how-to’s for DIY dreamcatchers and Washi tape wall decor that’d I’d never have the patience to try, was a link to baked falafel. IMGP4768Blasphemous? To some, maybe.

When you dive into something as oxymoronic sounding as “baked falafel,” you have to set some expectations for yourself. Approach it the same way you would watching any of the Christian Bale Batman movies: No, it’s not going to be as deliciously guilt-inducing as Val Kilmer’s portrayal, but it’s still entertaining and won’t leave you self-loathing as much afterward.

Surprisingly, these ended up far surpassing expectations. The batter was still a bit of a mess, despite an honest effort to corral it with an ice cream scooper, but the falafel themselves stayed mysteriously well-formed during the baking process.

Will this completely scratch your burning itch for Five Guys’ overflowing bag of skin-on fries? Probably not, but it will keep those feelings at bay for at least another 36 hours.

Better than you’d think Baked Falafel
Makes ~15 falafel balls. Adapted from How Sweet It Is

2 14 oz. cans of garbanzo beans
4 garlic cloves, chopped
4 green onions, sliced
1 large egg
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/3 c fresh parsley, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt + pepper
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder

Preheat an oven, any oven, to 400º F. Drain and rinse the cans of garbanzos.

In a food processor (or blender?) mix together the beans, garlic, onion, egg, lemon juice, olive oil, parsley, paprika and around 1 tbsp each of salt/pepper. Pulse until crumbly, but not completely liquified.

Add in half of the flour/baking powder and pulse, then repeat with the second half until well incorporated.

With your utensil of choice, spoon out around 2 tbsp worth (enough to fill a nice sized ice cream scoop) and “form” into some kind of spherical shape. I ended up throwing down ice cream scoop-sized blobs onto a baking sheet and forming them (with the scoop) after. Whatever works.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until cooked through and slightly browned on top.

Serve with or without pita, with or without cucumbers and tomatoes and tzatziki, etc. Eat with pride and self-respect.

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