Healthy Mexican-inspired Falafel Sandwich

Falafel Sandwich.jpeg

 

Here’s why I love Instagram, you follow people for months, years or even a day or two and one day all the stars line up perfectly so that you meet and it’s like you’re old friends catching up over a cup of coffee. Or at least that’s how it was when a couple of months ago, I had the pleasure of meeting one half of the dynamic duo that is SweetPillar.

They were in Dubai for a few days, and Deana reached out. We met up for what was supposed to be a morning cup of coffee at Mirzam the chocolate factory, and it ended up turning into a coffee, chocolate, lunch, dessert, coffee, beach, and art gallery roaming day. It was like meeting up with cousins that I hadn’t seen in a while – so natural, so organic, and so friggin hilarious, man. And I really do feel that if I ever find myself in New York or California, I’ve genuinely got people to visit.

But since we only got to meet for a day, we promised ourselves that we’d have a little cyber get-together to try each other’s recipes and boy am I glad I came across their Cinco De Mayo Middle Eastern Falafel Tacos recipe.

Here’s why this recipe appealed to me so much. After watching the episode where Phil is in Mexico eating a shawarma-like ‘pastor’ in Netflix’s Somebody Feed Phil, I vaguely learned about the culinary history shared between Syrian and Lebanese immigrants to Mexico, resulting in a fusion and new take on the traditional recipes that people have grown to know and love.

Because Deana, Nadia and I are all third (fourth) culture kids, bringing our own history and culture to the table when it comes to coming up with new recipes, a falafel taco recipe feels just right.

A warm, crunchy-at-the-sides wholewheat pita bread, topped with a smoked-pepper hummus, crunchy falafel, pickled onions, creamy avocado and a nice cilantro tahini dressing, I mean…come onnnn.


Ingredients:

For falafel*:

  • A can of organic chickpeas, drained
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Cilantro to taste
  • 1 medium-sized red onion
  • 1 tablespoon of cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • 2-3 tablespoons of oat flour (depending on how wet the mixture is)
  • Sea salt
  • Olive oil
*based on the recipe from Minimalist Baker

For hummus:

  • 1 can of organic chickpeas, drained
  • 3 tablespoons of tahini sauce
  • The juice of a lemon
  • Half a clove of garlic
  • 1 smoked red pepper (canned works fine)
  • Olive oil
  • Smoked paprika
  • Sea salt
  • Cumin powder

Toppings (everything here is optional, and based on your falafel sandwich preferences):

  • Pickled red onions (pickle the onions by slicing them, and leaving them in some apple cider vinegar and sea salt for a few minutes)
  • Sliced cherry tomatoes
  • Alfalfa sprouts
  • Wholewheat pita bread
  • Pomegranate jewels
  • Mint
  • Cilantro
  • Avocado

 

Tahini Side Sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons of tahini sauce
  • A handful of chopped cilantro
  • The juice of half a lime/lemon
  • Sea salt
  • And a littttttle bit of water to dilute it.

 

How to Make it:

I know the ingredients may seem like a bit much, but once you get the hang of the flavors and what goes with what, it’s a lot simpler than it seems. The beauty of dishes like this is, there are no rules — just build up, or build down the flavors whichever way you like and practically anything goes.

  1. First, make the falafels by sticking all the ingredients in a food processor except for the olive oil. Make sure to gradually add the oat flour, depending on how wet or dry your mixture is. The falafel mixture should be dry enough for you to form a ball without the mixture sticking to your hand. If it sticks too much, then it’s too wet, add more flour.
  2. Once the falafel mixture is ready, form it into balls and heat a non stick (preferably cast iron skillet) with enough olive oil to coat the pan and fry the falafel balls on medium-high heat, making sure to turn them only once, or they will crumble (since they’re not being deep fried).
  3. In your food processor, mix all the hummus ingredients and blitz until nice and creamy.
  4. With your hand blender or food processor, add the tahini sauce ingredients and blitz together, adding enough water to make the sauce runny and not too dry.
  5. Heat up your pita bread, and start layering the flavors. First, start with some hummus, then pile on the falafel, pickled onions, and all the other toppings you want. I even added some alfalfa sprouts for some extra crunch and nutrients.

There it is, crunchy, healthy and absolutely friggin delicious. This Mexican inspired take on the humble falafel sandwich from the lovely Sweet Pillar Food has everything you’ll ever need.

I know there are a few falafel sandwich puritans out there that aren’t really digging the whole smoked peppers/avocado ensemble, put those rolling eyes aside and give this recipe a try. As Nadia and Deana say in their article:

“As a wannabe food historian, I can’t help but read about the history of food but also pay attention to the present.  With the largest refugee crisis in our lifetime happening before our eyes, I cannot help but wonder what will happen to the culinary world in decades to come. As Middle Eastern refugees begin to settle in Germany, Sweden, Greece, the US, Canada and beyond they will bring their culture and their food and merge it together with the local flavors.  Call it looking at the glass half full, but I am excited to see what culinary creations are going to happen for the years.”

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Plantbased Hummus Sandwich Bowl

Hummus Couscous Bowl.jpeg

So I’ve been dabbling with the idea of trying to make my own healthier version of falafels for a while. I’ve been craving a legit falafel sandwich (like they make back home) and I low-key perpetually crave hot crunchy falafels. But what’s a girl to do when your nearest hummus and falafel fix is a good 15-minute drive away? Although I initially started making this dish with the intention of making it sort of a falafel sandwich in a bowl kind of dish, I quickly realized, falafel needed more time to make than I was willing to invest yesterday evening.

And so the hummus sandwich bowl was born. Spiced couscous, pickled onions and red cabbage, crunchy spicy chickpeas with a tahini and parsley dressing — I mean….commmmeeee onnnnn.

This dish is completely plant-based, needs no more than 20 minutes to put together, tastes amazeballs the next day for lunch and tastes really really good…like really good.

I’m going to divide all the different ingredients needed for each part of this dish so that you can add on, or remove whatever you’re not necessarily fond of. Once you learn how to make the dressing, couscous and chickpea parts you can add them to any dish that you like. I make one of them at least once every few days. The dressing is good on any salad, the chickpeas are a perfect plant protein addition to any dish and the couscous is the perfect base for anything.


Ingredients:

For Dressing:

  • 3 tablespoons of tahini
  • The juice of half a lemon
  • A splash of water
  • Parsley
  • Sea salt to taste

 

For Crispy Chickpeas:

  • 1 can of chickpeas, drained well
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 chili
  • Coriander
  • Olive oil
  • Any Middle-eastern spices you like (I like to use: cumin, cinnamon, paprika, zaatar, dukkah)
  • The juice of half a lemon

 

For Couscous:

  • 1 cup of wholewheat couscous
  • Any Middle-eastern spices you like (I like to use: cumin, cinnamon, paprika, zaatar, dukkah)
  • 1 teaspoon of pomegranate molasses
  • Olive oil

 

For Toppings:

  • Finely sliced red onion (1 small one, or half a medium-sized one)
  • Organic apple cider vinegar
  • Finely sliced red cabbage
  • Sliced tomatoes

 

How to make it happen:

  • First things first. Let’s start by pickling the red cabbage and red onion. The reason I liked to pickle raw onions when adding them to salads and sandwiches, is that I feel like the vinegar kind of kills the potent oniony smell. It’s totally your call though.
  • In a bowl, add the onion and add about 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar and a pinch of sea salt. Toss the onion around to make sure it’s coated and let it sit for about 10 minutes (or as long as it takes you to put together everything else)
  • In another bowl, do the same thing to the sliced red cabbage. *
  • Then, on to the couscous. In a container with a lid, add the couscous, olive oil, spices and pomegranate molasses and mix well. Then, add just enough boiling water to cover the surface of the couscous, mix again and close the container with a lid. Let it sit for about 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork and close again till ready to serve.
  • And now for the chickpeas. In a nonstick skillet (I love my cast iron), heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil (or enough to coat your pan) and add the drained (and dried) chickpeas. Be careful because they will pop around like popcorn while you’re waiting for them to get nice and crispy. In a pestle and mortar, crush the garlic cloves and chili until it forms a paste. Once the chickpeas have started to get some color on them, lower the heat and squeeze some lemon on them, add some sea salt, and whatever spices you like. Then add the garlic/chili mash and cook for about 2 minutes till the garlic gets nice and golden. (I am salivating just typing this)
  • For the dressing, in your pestle and mortar, bash some parsley until it turns sort of like a paste, add about 3 tablespoons of tahini sauce, add some water to dilute it a bit, some lemon juice and some sea salt. Keep mixing till the dressing gets nice and creamy.
  • Now it’s time to assemble. You can either mix everything all together, or place the couscous in a bowl, and the rest of the ingredients around it — your call.

*The pickled red cabbage and onions could last in the fridge in an airtight container for a good 3-4 days. They’re delicious in salads and sandwiches and really good for your gut.

 

It may seem like quite a few steps, but I promise it’s a lot easier than it sounds. It’s tangy, creamy, crunchy, spicy and absolutely friggin delicious. Completely plant based, and takes less than 20 minutes to put all together. You neeeeed to try this recipe (paleez?)

While you’re here, have you followed @StraightupBananas on Instagram yet?