baked falafel lettuce wraps with tahini sauce

Posted on May 17, 2012 in Food

Last week, my friend/colleague (friendleague? colliend?) Mary, came into the office with an armful of grocery sacks stuffed with fresh bibb lettuce from her garden. Apparently she’d gotten a little overzealous with planting and needed to thin out her bed and us co-workers became the lucky recipients of her over-planting.

Woohoo! Free produce!

Even if you don’t grow a garden yourself, you can pretty much always guarantee some surprise produce from co-workers, friends, family, neighbors, and even strangers during the summer in Indiana. As a gardener, there is always some point where you can’t even think about eating another spear of asparagus/cherry tomato/zucchini and you start to give away the rest of the crop to every single person you see. There is even a whole holiday dedicated to sneaking extra zucchinis onto your neighbor’s porch. It’s pretty common to walk into our office kitchen on any given day during summer and see a pile of tomatoes, squash and cucumbers with a big “TAKE ME!” sign hanging over them. That’s Midwestern generosity for you.

Okay, and maybe it’s a little bit of Midwestern pawning off, too.

As soon as I snatched these broad, beautiful lettuce leaves from Mary, I knew I wanted to do lettuce wraps. I just didn’t know what I wanted to wrap in the lettuce. The traditional lettuce wrap we know in this country is an Asian-flavored dish and, as you know, soy flavor ain’t my thing. So I wanted to explore past the standard and come up with something else to wrap in lettuce leaves.

I started thinking about all the foods we traditionally wrap in carb-heavy bread-y things—burritos, tacos, gyros, falafel. Wait! Falafel! Perfect.

Standard falafel balls (or patties) are a flavored chickpea mixture that is deep-fried to a crunchy golden brown outside while the inside stays soft and fluffy. It’s pretty incredible. And also pretty not-so-great for you. While the chickpeas offer a lot of great protein and fiber, to me, the deep-frying cancels out the health benefits. Sure, it’s better than eating a deep-fried Milky Way, but it won’t being making it onto the World’s Healthiest Foods list anytime soon.

To clean up my falafel patties, I baked ‘em! Baking doesn’t give you exact the same texture as frying (does it ever?) but it’s a pretty close approximation. The outsides get crunchy and brown and in the inside is soft and crumbly. And by serving the falafel patties with fresh cucumbers and tomatoes on a bed of fresh lettuce, you’re getting a nice chunk of veggies in each bite. To up the flavor ante a bit, I made a very simple tahini sauce to drizzle on top. It also makes an excellent dipping sauce for…pretty much anything.

Baked Falafel Lettuce Wraps with Tahini Sauce

by Cassie Johnston

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients

For the Tahini Sauce
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • 3-4 tablespoons water
For the Falafel Patties
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas (about one can)
  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Cooking spray
For the Wraps
  • Leaves of bibb or iceberg lettuce
  • Tomato slices
  • Cucumber slices
  • Minced parsley

Instructions

  1. To make the tahini sauce, mash together the garlic clove and kosher salt with a mortar and pestle or the back of a spoon until it turns into a paste. In a small bowl, whisk together garlic mash, tahini, lemon juice, black pepper and water until it’s a drizzle-able consistency. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 400°.
  3. To make falafel patties, pulse together chickpeas, onion and garlic in a food processor until well-chopped. Add in egg, cumin, salt, lemon juice, baking soda, bread crumbs and black pepper. Pulse until just combined.
  4. Form the chickpea mixture into 15 balls or patties, place on a cooking spray-coated baking sheet. Spray tops of of balls or patties with cooking spray and bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until tops are golden brown and begin to split.
  5. To assemble lettuce wraps, layer cucumber and tomato slices on lettuce leaves, top with falafels and drizzle with tahini sauce. Sprinkle with parsley before serving.
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Do people give away free produce in your area?

12 Comments

  1. Actually, deep frying isn’t as bad as people think it is. Of course, it depends on what you are frying to begin with. If you’re deep drying a candy bar, then the original ingredient is unhealthy to begin with, but deep frying something like falafel wouldn’t cancel out the healthfulness of the ingredients within falafel. As long as the oil is hot enough, not much fat will be absorbed. Also, if you drain them on a paper towel and dab the top to remove excess grease, then it makes it even lower in fat.

    TL;DR Deep frying is often thought of as the worst way to prepare food, but it’s not always the case. If you use the right ingredients and the right oil heated to the proper temperature, then it aint no thing.

    Having said all that, I prefer to pan fry my falafel because it gives the golden crispiness that I love without the mess of deep frying.

  2. Oh yum! Outstanding! Thanks for the recipe!

  3. I love this idea!! Falafels are fabulous and I like that this is a baked version.

  4. Yummy! Love falafels! Your tahini sauce sounds delicious, I’ve never done anything like that, I usually have falafel with tzatziki, but I’m going to try your sauce next – it sounds great :)

  5. yess!! these look so good. I love falafel :D

    and I love when people give me food from their garden! how nice of your friend Mary.

  6. I was drooling over your bento with the falafel patties on Instagram! One of my co-workers used to bring in all different kinds of tomatoes and potatoes from her garden every Monday morning. Oh man, it was awesome. It was just her and her hubby, so they had way more than they needed (and he was obsessed with growing like 10 different varieties of each. She taught me that the uglier the tomato, the better it tastes! :)

  7. I attempted creating a baked falafel recipe, but mine was kind of a fail. I can’t wait to make this recipe! Your photos are great, too!

  8. my lettuce looks so pretty! happy it got eaten instead of mulch-ified.

  9. I cooked this tonight, and it was yummy! Thanks for sharing!

  10. I’ve just cooked this and it was really, really good and I have lunch for tomorrow too! Thank you…

  11. These look phenomenal. I’m really into the idea of falafel lately, but haven’t actually ever tried it! I’m set to go to Morocco in 2 weeks but am not keen at all on the potential of FRIED falafel. Yours look so fresh and healthy! You’re lucky you got all that free lettuce. I sometimes take some things from my local community garden, but usually I’ve got to pay. The local market here does veg boxes for £1 when they are about to go off which is nice.

  12. These look so yummy! I love the falafel I’ve tried in Mediterranean restaurants and am excited to try to make a baked version at home.

    One question, though. The ingredients list says 1 tsp of baking POWDER and in Step 3 of the instructions it says baking SODA. Which one is correct?

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