Falafel is kind of a health-food poser. Sure, it has nutritious ingredients like chickpeas and herbs, and healthy fast-food chains like Pret a Manger and Sweetgreen put them on top of salads, but really, eating falafel feels kind of indulgent. It’s certainly better for you than a grilled cheese sandwich or pasta carbonara or fried dough or a lot of other things, but at it’s heart, it’s fried street food. Delicious. Just not that good for you.
However, falafel can be easily transformed into something healthier – just nix the oil and trade the soft, floury pita for a crunchy cabbage wrap, and your craveable Middle-Eastern snack has become downright virtuous. David and Luise of Green Kitchen Stories have done just that with their Baked Herb and Pistachio Falafel, a flavor-and-nutrition-packed recipe from their book, Vegetarian Everyday (one of my favorites). These falafels are about 50% chickpeas and 50% pistachios, a combo that gives them a wonderful and unexpected creamy sweetness. Baked instead of fried, nestled into a crisp leaf of cabbage, drizzled with lemon-honey tahini sauce, and topped off with bright pink beet and turnip pickles, they make a filling and delicious meal that’s vegan and gluten-free. And you’d never know from the taste how much your body will thank you for giving it all those good things.
Baked Herb and Pistachio Falafel
Makes about 24-30 falafels, serves 4-5.
- leaves from 8 sprigs of mint
- leaves from 8 sprigs of parsley
- 2 c. shelled raw pistachios (8-1/2 oz.)
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1/2 medium onion, peeled
- 3 TBS olive oil
- 2 c. cooked chickpeas (or drained, canned chickpeas)
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 TBS buckwheat flour (or another gluten-free flour)
- 1 tsp baking soda
- sea salt
- 1 small head green cabbage
- lemon-honey tahini sauce (recipe below)
- quick spicy beet-and-turnip pickles (recipe below)
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Place the mint and parsley leaves in a food processor and process for about 30 seconds. Add the pistachios, garlic, onion, and olive oil and process until all ingredients are well minced and combined, about 30-60 seconds. Add the chickpeas, cumin, flour, and baking soda and blend for about 15 seconds at a time, stopping to scrape the mixture down the sides of the processor as needed, until the mixture is fairly uniform but not smooth – you want the mixture to still have some chunks of chickpea and pistachio in it.
- Remove the mixture from the processor and season to taste with salt. Form the mixture into 24-30 small balls, about the size of a ping pong ball. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the falafel balls on the sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes, using tongs to turn the balls over every 5 minutes so that they brown evenly.
- Slice off the end of the cabbage with a sharp knife. Remove the large outer leaves and rinse them individually. Pat them dry, then fill with the baked falafel. Serve with lemon-honey tahini sauce and spicy beet-and-turnip pickles. Baked falafel balls are also delicious tossed with a green salad with some avocado and feta cheese.
Lemon-Honey Tahini Sauce
- 3 TBS tahini
- 1 TBS honey
- juice from 1/2 a lemon
- 1/4 c. water
- Stir all ingredients together in a small bowl until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Quick Spicy Beet and Turnip Pickles
Makes two 1-pint jars of pickles.
- 1 medium turnip, peeled
- 1 medium beet, peeled
- sea salt
- 1/2 medium red onion, peeled and very thinly sliced
- 1 jalapeno, stem and seeds removed, thinly sliced
- 1 c. white wine vinegar
- 1 c. water
- 1 TBS sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 20 whole black peppercorns
- Cut the turnip and the beet into quarters, then slice each quarter as thinly as you can (use a mandoline if you have one). Layer the slices in a colander, with a sprinkling of sea salt between each layer. Place over a bowl and let sit for 10-15 minutes, then toss and squeeze with your hands to remove some of the excess liquid. Repeat this process until the vegetable slices feel a bit limp, about 30-45 minutes. Rinse the slices under cold water to remove the salt and then drain.
- Toss the beet and turnip slices with the sliced red onion and sliced jalapeno. Divide the vegetable mixture between two clean glass pint jars.
- In a small pot, mix vinegar, water, sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, and peppercorns. Heat over medium-low heat, bringing just to a gentle simmer. Stir to dissolve sugar and salt, then remove from heat and pour through a funnel into the two veggie packed jars. Cover the jars with lids and shake a few times to distribute the brine. Put the pickles in the fridge and let sit for at least 3-4 hours. Will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.