What Is Falafel? A Protein- Rich, Fiber-Rich, Allergen-Free Delight!
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If You Know What Falafel Is...
This Top Pick will share things you don’t know, including many more ways to enjoy falafel than in a pita pocket or on a mezze plate. And, you’ll learn about the excellent frozen falafel at Trader Joe’s.
If You Don’t Know What Falafel Is...
You’re about to discover a Middle Eastern treat that dates back to the ancient Egyptians, and has captivated food lovers the world over.
Plus, it’s protein-rich, fiber-rich, iron-rich, dairy-free, gluten-free,* egg-free, cholesterol-free, vegan and inexpensive. It’s so meaty and chewy that newbies often don’t realize it’s meatless.
*Traditional falafel is gluten-free, but read the label. Some manufacturers add wheat flour or wheat germ to the balls don’t fall apart. Potato flour, soy flour and soy protein can also be added.
What Falafel Is
Falafel is a deep fried ball (sometimes a patty) made from mashed chickpeas, fava beans or a combination. In better recipes, lots of chopped cilantro and/or parsley and spices are highlights. The inside of a good falafel ball should have lots of green herb flecks. At our favorite falafel place (Soom Soom in New York City), the inside is half green.
Today falafel is often served as a sandwich in a pita pocket or wrapped in a flatbread, topped with salad, pickled vegetables, tahini sauce and optional hot sauce. When we make it at home, we add hummus instead of the drippier tahini sauce, which can soak through the bottom of the pita. TIP: Go for a whole wheat pita. It’s more flavorful and contributes toward your 48g of whole grains (see why you need them).
This Top Pick focuses on Trader Joe’s falafel, a frozen product that conveniently microwaves into balls that are crisp on the outside and moist on the inside. See more about it on the next page.
Any falafel makes a filling lunch or snack. But there are a dozen more ways to enjoy falafel. See them on the next page.
Some food historians believe that falafel originated in Egypt, as a food for early Christians who observed meatless holidays like Lent. It was made from the plentiful fava bean harvest, and today is one of Egypt’s national dishes. Falafel then migrated northward to the Levant,* where local chickpeas replaced the fava beans.
Just think: If Saint Mark hadn’t established the Church of Alexandria in 43 C.E., (today the Coptic Orthodox Church), we might not have falafel!
In Arabic, the word falafil means both “hot peppers” and “fluffy.” Today’s falafel doesn’t have to be either. On the next page, we’ll tell you how to get falafel the way you like it.
*The Levant included modern Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories (the West Bank and the Gaza Strip) and Syria.
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