You know those warring Philly Cheese Steak spots across the street from each other in Philadelphia? Well, welcome to the French version, falafel-style. On this narrow street in the Marais, falafel joints compete for your affections, but L’As Dus Fallafel won my heart in the end. Literally my best bite in Paris and only 5 euro. This blend of crunchy, fresh, fried, creamy, and spicy cuddled in a warm pita haunted my grumbling stomach dreams for weeks, until I broke down and recreated it for myself, that is.
First, I had to get the layers right: chickpea falafel, roasted eggplant, fresh cucumber, purple cabbage, a yogurt tahini sauce, and a spicy harissa sauce. That’s a lot of components, but none of them are difficult to make, and they’re all so good even on their own.
Some notes on falafel:
The big thing about falafel is texture, so to get a fluffy interior I add some baking soda. If you’ve ever made falafel before, you know that it can disintegrate into a depressing,fried mess. How do you avoid this? Adding a little bit of flour helps to bind the falafel together, resting the mix before forming into balls also helps, but it really comes down to cooking temperature. Make sure the oil is at least 375 degrees, and reheat it during batches.
For filling for 6 wraps
3 pitas, cut in half
9 tablespoons hummus
24 falafel balls (recipe below)
1 1/2 cups shredded purple cabbage
1 large cucumber, julienned
2 1/2 cups roasted eggplant (recipe below)
1/2 cup yogurt tahini dressing (recipe below)
1/2 cup harissa sauce (recipe below)
Warm the pita by holding with a set of tongs over an open flame. Open each pita and spread with 1 1/2 tablespoons hummus. Add one falafel ball, a little cabbage, a little cucumber, and a little roasted eggplant. Keep layering these ingredients and top with a little yogurt tahini sauce and harissa sauce.
For 24 1 inch balls (or enough for 6 pita wraps)
1 1/4 cups dried chickpeas (7 ounces)
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion (1 small onion)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
pinch of ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
vegetable oil for frying
I used peanut oil
Pour the chickpeas into a large bowl and cover them by about 3 inches of cold water. Let them soak overnight. Or, if you’re in a rush, cover the chickpeas with 3 inches of water, bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer and cover, cooking for 2 hours, to until tender.
Drain and rinse the chick[eas. Pour them into your food processor along with the rest of the ingredients, except for the frying oil. Pulse all ingredients together until a rough, coarse meal forms, about three 10 second pulses. The texture should be somewhere between couscous and hummus (slightly dry and crumbly, but holding together). Once the mixture reaches the desired consistency, pour it out into a bowl. Remove any large chickpea chunks that the processor missed. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
Fill a deep skillet with vegetable oil (like grape seed or peanut) to a depth of 1 1/2 inches. Heat the oil slowly over medium heat up to 375F. Meanwhile, form falafel mixture into 1-inch round balls with wet hands. When you’re ready to fry, pop one ball in the oil to test. If it falls apart, heat the oil longer, and remix and reform the falafel with a little more flour. Cook the falafel for 2-3 minutes per side, in small batches of 5 or 6 balls at a time, until golden brown. Once fried, remove them from the oil using a slotted spoon and set aside on paper towels. While they’re still hot assemble them in the pita wraps.
INGREDIENTS (ROASTED EGGPLANT)
For 2 1/2 cups roasted eggplant
1 medium eggplant
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground chili
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 375 F. Slice the eggplant into 1 inch thick slices. Drizzle with half of the olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, chili and cumin. Drizzle the pita with the remaining olive oil and some salt and pepper. Cook both in the oven for 15 minutes. Flip the eggplant and cook for another 10-15 minutes until the eggplant is tender. Cool, and chop up into 1/2 inch pieces. Set aside.
INGREDIENTS (YOGURT TAHINI DRESSING)
For 1/2 cup Dressing
2 tablespoons tahini (or hummus if you can’t find tahini)
6 tablespoons plain yogurt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Mix together, salt and pepper to taste.
INGREDIENTS (HARISSA SAUCE)
For 1 cup of sauce
1 cup tomato puree
1 teaspoon harissa paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
Place all of the ingredients in a pot, bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook for 5 minutes, just to get the raw garlic taste out, and pour into a bowl. Salt and pepper to taste.