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Falafel is delicious, exotic vegetarian dish

Falafel is a Middle Eastern tradition, as popular in many countries as hamburgers and hot dogs in the United States. And the dish, breaded garbanzo bean croquettes, is a favorite of many vegetarians.

Today, more and more Americans are discovering the delights of such once-exotic foods from other countries. Falafel is already on menus in restaurants other than those devoted to ethnic specialties. In cities, it's a familiar offering on fast-food carts patronized by sidewalk diners.The following version of Falafel has only 4 grams of fat per serving. It goes well with a tangy Tomato Cucumber Relish (recipe follows), and with pita bread as an optional extra.

FALAFEL

15-ounce can garbanzo beans, rinsed, drained

1 medium onion, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup packed parsley leaves

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

3/4 teaspoon dried oregano leaves

2 to 3 teaspoons lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup dry plain bread crumbs

1/4 cup chopped raisins

1 egg yolk

Olive oil cooking spray

Process garbanzo beans, onion, parsley, garlic, cumin and oregano in food processor until smooth; season to taste with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Stir in 1/2 cup bread crumbs, raisins and egg yolk. Form bean mixture into 16 patties, using about 1 1/2 tablespoons for each. Coat patties with remaining 1/2 cup bread crumbs. Spray large skillet with cooking spray; heat over medium heat until hot. Cook falafel until browned on the bottom, 2 to 3 minutes. Spray tops of falafel with cooking spray and turn; cook until browned on the bottom, 2 to 3 minutes. Arrange 4 falafel on each plate; serve with Tomato-Cucumber Relish. Makes 4 servings.

TOMATO CUCUMBER RELISH

1/2 cup chopped tomato

1/2 cup chopped cucumber

1/3 cup fat-free plain yogurt

1/2 teaspoon dried mint leaves (optional)

Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine tomato, cucumber, yogurt and mint leaves in small bowl; season to taste with salt and pepper.

Nutrition facts per serving: 311 cal., 4 g fat, 58 g carbo., 575 mg sodium, 12 g pro., 7 g dietary fiber, 54 mg chol. Recipe from: Bean Education & Awareness Network.