Mother Stuffin’ Falafel Pita with Spicy Tahini Dressing

For all the folks out there claiming that vegetarian and vegan food has to be boring, falafel is a giant nanny-nanny-boo-boo in their direction.  These delicately spiced fritters made of chickpeas are toothsome and filling, leaving even the most dedicated meat eaters feeling as if they’ve got all that they need in front of them.

The name of this recipe came from my sister who demanded that I make a sandwich called a “Mother Stuffer.”  In that she is a vegetarian (and most of the time a raw vegan at that), I had to make a concoction that proved that, much like her, veggies are non-stop fun.  This pita is no exception – half the fun of falafel is assembling your pita yourself with your favorite toppings, so feel free to use any combination of pickles, peppers and hot sauce that you’d like. Food is ALWAYS more fun when you can make it your own.

Mother Stuffin’ Falafel Pita with Spicy Tahini Dressing

Serves: 8
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 60 minutes

2 c. of chickpeas, drained
1/2 c. of onions, roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tbs. of chopped parsley
3 tbs. of fresh lemon juice
1 tbs. of curry powder
1/2 tsp. of salt
1/8 tsp. of cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. of baking powder
6 tbs. of all-purpose flour

6 tbs. of tahini
2 tbs. of honey
2 tbs. of water
1 tsp. of soy sauce
1 tbs. of mint, chopped
8 jalapeno rings
4 sweet pickled cherry peppers, stems and seeds removed
pinch of salt

vegetable oil for frying

4 pita pockets, halved
2 c. of mesclun greens
2 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 Mezzetta Kosher Style Dill Pickle, thinly sliced into rounds

Begin by making the batter for the falafel.  Put the chickpeas, onion, garlic, 2 tablespoons of the parsley (the rest reserved for the spicy tahini dressing), 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice (the rest also reserved for the dressing), the curry powder, salt and cayenne pepper into a food processor.  Blend until the mixture forms a slightly chunky paste.  Turn the batter out into a small bowl and stir in the baking powder and flour.  Refrigerate while you make the spicy tahini dressing, for at least 15 minutes.

To a food processor or blender add the tahini, honey, water, soy sauce, the remaining one tablespoon of parsley, the remaining one tablespoon of lemon juice, the chopped mint, jalapeno rings, sweet cherry peppers and a scant pinch of salt.  Blend into a smooth sauce and then taste for seasoning.  Re-season with salt if necessary, and then pour into a container to refrigerate.

Line a cookie sheet with a rack or several paper towels and place on the ready for the falafel to drain after frying.

Heat 2 inches of vegetable oil to 350° in a wok or cast iron skillet (or if you have a deep fat fryer, feel free to use that).  When the oil is hot, use two spoons to form balls of falafel batter about the size of a golf ball.  Slip three or four of the falafel into the hot oil, frying them for about 2-3 minutes or until deeply golden.  Remove to the cookie sheet or rack and let drain while you fry the remaining falafel.

Once the falafel are all cooked, you’re ready to stuff your pita.  Take a pita halve and hollow out the center.  Plop in two of the falafel balls and fill with mesclun, tomatoes and pickles.  Top with plenty of the spicy tahini dressing and eat while still warm.

Note: Tahini dressing, a middle eastern sesame paste, is the secret ingredient in hummus that gives it its smoky flavor.  You can purchase it at health food stores and specialty markets.