A couple summers ago my cousin Sheli came to visit from Israel for a family celebration. Sheli is one of those special people who brings out the best in every one she’s with, and just brings joy to every situation. She had recently changed her diet to being plant-based and was passionate about cooking and food. Before she had even unpacked, she took over leadership of the kitchen, being the head chef for our many family meals. With cousins at her beckoning call, she enthusiastically delegated who was cutting what, preparing which dressing, and what kind of platters each dish would be served in.
As gifts for each family, Sheli brought huge tubs of tahini paste. When I first saw the size of the tub, I thought she was crazy, I could not imagine ever going through that much. To picture the size, imagine a 5 quart tub of ice cream. I have no idea how she even flew with it! Upon gifting the tahini paste, Sheli exclaimed, “And now I’ll show you how it’s done!” She asked for a fork and bowl and began to demonstrate making a dressing. Without any measuring tools, Sheli poured some tahini into a bowl and added some freshly squeezed lemon juice, salt, and water. She tasted a bit, squeezed in more lemon, had another taste, and added another pinch of salt.. and that was it! Since that dinner, I feel myself wanting tahini dressing with every meal; My sister and I call it liquid gold.
There is some debate in my family over what it is called. If you speak to an Israeli, it’s tahina, however, I have only seen it as tahini here in the states. The tahini I used is a dark stone ground variety and is most similar to the one that Sheli brought; most other brands you find at the store are lighter in color and just as good. It can be eaten as more of a dip, or watered down to a light dressing. I make large quantities at a time, and eat it with everything!
I first made this falafel recipe this past summer, and it was a hit. I had requests to make it again and I can’t tell you why it took me so long. When I finally made it for dinner a couple nights ago, I knew I had to share it here. The falafel comes together in no time at all. They keep well in the fridge, and taste just as good the next day once reheated. It takes some advanced planning in that you have to remember to soak the chickpeas for at least an hour. I hadn’t had falafel since becoming gluten free, but this baked variation feels like the real deal due to the inclusion of the traditional middle eastern spices. I served the falafel over a green salad with radishes, cucumber, tomatoes, and cabbage and a generous drizzle of tahini dressing.
Baked Falafel with Tahini Dressing
(Falafel adapted from Acouplecooks.com)
1/2 large or 1 small red onion, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups dried chickpeas
1/2 cup fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1.5 teaspoons course sea salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup tahini paste
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup water
Soak chickpeas at least 1 hour. Preheat oven to 375′ F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place the chopped onion in the bowl of a food processor and process until finely chopped. To the bowl, slowly add soaked chickpeas while the motor is running, then add parsley, cumin, coriander, sea salt, and olive oil. Pulse until the dough starts to come together. Once it starts coming together, turn the processor on and process until smooth. Stop occasionally to scrape down the sides.
Form falafel patties by taking a few tablespoons of dough and rolling it between your palms. Place the ball of dough onto the lined baking sheet and pat it flat. Try to keep them as uniform in thickness as possible, for even baking.
Bake patties for 24 minutes, flipping halfway through.
While the patties bake, prepare your tahini dressing. Place the tahini paste, lemon, and salt in a bowl and mix together with a whisk or fork. Stir in water and mix until fully combined. This can also be made in the food processor, but quickly and easily comes together in a bowl.
I didn’t want to commit to large jars of each spice since I don’t frequently cook with coriander, so I bought just what I needed for the recipe by shopping the bulk section at Whole Foods. I only discovered that section of the store recently, and it’s great for experimenting with new spices for minimal investment.
This dressing will make more than you need for the amount of falafel, and can be saved in a jar in the fridge for future use. Having prepared dressings in the fridge is a major time saver and dressings can take a meal from mediocre to spectacular.