My love affair with falafel started in New York. I was a poor, overworked pastry cook with stupid hours and there was a place I would go to with a fellow pastry cook friend that had the best falafel available at all hours of the night. It was cheap and delicious and I wondered why I never had those fried nuggets of goodness before. The morning after was never as good as the night of indulging and it took a while to register that deep fried garbanzo beans may not be the best choice at 3am.

The obsession continued when I went to France with another friend and discovered L'as du Falafel in Paris. That to me is the holy grail of falafel, not only for the falafel itself, but their hot sauce is OUT OF CONTROL. We ate there everyday they were open until we left Paris and I daydream about it at least a few times a week.

Luckily, I have an amazing place across the street with the best falafel I've had on the west coast that I would probably eat every other day, but the problem with falafel is the fried factor. Generally speaking, I rarely eat fried foods. I LOVE fried foods, but fried foods do not love me. Plus, it's a giant mess to clean. The thing is, frying isn't necessary to make good falafel. Baked fries are not as good as fried fries. Baked chicken is not as good as fried chicken. But baked falafel can actually be better than fried falafel. Baking them just right ensures you aren't eating a dried, oily brick of chalky beans and they are a snap to make. It's easy to make a huge batch, too, which makes for the perfect freezer meal, which let's face it, there aren't enough of.

yields ~40 1 oz falafels

I've made these with and without oats, rice or flour and I prefer to add a little starch to give these a little more structure. They're perfectly fine and delicious without the starch, but they are more fragile and require a slightly longer baking time. 

2 large garlic cloves, peeled
2 cups (85 g) packed baby spinach
2-15 oz cans of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp cumin
zest and juice of 1 large lemon
several grinds of black pepper
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs or finely processed oats (optional, see note above)

Preheat the oven to 350ºF and line a half sheet pan with parchment paper. 
In a food processor, first mince the garlic, then add the spinach and process until finely chopped. 
Add the beans, salt, coriander, cumin, lemon zest and juice, pepper and olive oil. 
Process until smooth and combined. Add the breadcrumbs or oats, if using. 
Using a large spoon or 1 oz scoop, place rounds of the mixture on the prepared sheet pan. 
Flatten the rounds slightly, using damp hands if the mixture sticks. 
Bake the falafel for ~15-16 minutes (18-20 minutes if you omit the breadcrumbs). The falafel should be firm around the edges with just a little give in the center when you poke them.
If you over bake them they will be dry and crumbly and all-around terrible to eat. 
Serve with minty yogurt sauce, hummus, baba ganoush, pita, plenty of chopped parsley and hot sauce. 
These freeze beautifully and only need a zap in the microwave to reheat.  


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