Weekday Vegetarian: Falafel and Nettle Chips for Some Hot Weather Eating


It's pretty hot in Toronto these days, with the mercury hitting August temperatures in May. It makes me want to spend less time in the kitchen, and make lighter dinners with lots of vegetables. Middle Eastern cuisine is especially delicious in this kind of weather. It's too early in the season for ripe tomatoes or peppers, but you can make falafels any time. One of my enduring problems with making falafels is getting them to stay together. When I got this falafel mixture from Rebecca Vandevelde, she was concerned that they wouldn't keep their shape either. I decided that I just wouldn't worry about shaping them in the first place, so the problem was averted. I didn't get the crispy little falafel balls that you get in restaurants, but I used much less oil, fried it and then spooned it onto the pita bread. Not traditional perhaps, but delicious nonetheless. We had this with nettle chips, which were new to me. I've had parsley chips and kale chips before and these tasted more earthy, and slightly bitter which is something I really enjoy.

If you are pressed for time, by all means use canned chickpeas, although they will be much more inclined to fall apart than if you used dried chickpeas. If your mixture is too moist to hold together, you can add a bit of flour. Rebecca's mixture was actually a bit dry and she suggested binding it with an egg, but I opted to keep it vegan.

This recipe was devised and made by Rebecca Vandevelde.


1/4 lb chickpeas, rinse and soaked overnight.
2 stalks green onion
2 stalks green garlic
1 Tbsp coriander
1 Tbsp cumin
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1. Drain and rinse chickpeas. In a large pot of salted water with a splash of vinegar, simmer the chickpeas until cooked through and tender, about 4 hours on med-low heat. Rinse them and let them cool. Crush them by hand with a potato masher, a fork, or the end of a jar. (Pureed chickpeas won't have the right texture and won't hold together as well).

2. Slice the onions and garlic on the bias. In a small skillet, toast the spices until fragrant and grind them with a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle. Add everything to the chickpeas mix, with enough olive oil for everything to stick together. Shape it into tablespoon-sized balls. Fry the falafels in enough hot oil to just cover them, turning once. Drain on paper towel.

3. Serve with hummus, tahineh, lettuce, sprouts, tomato, toum (garlic sauce), tabbouleh, pita, sprouts or any combination of the above.

Nettle Chips

1. Rinse nettles thoroughly. Wearing gloves, separate the leaves from the stems. Blanch the leaves in boiling water. Discard the stems. Drain and cool.

2. Unfurl each leaf and place onto a lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake at 325 degrees for 5-7 minutes.

More Middle Eastern Recipes
A Fine Pickle: Hot to Make (And Use!) Preserved Lemons
Soup of the Week: Middle Easter Spinach and Meatball Soup
A Healthy Alternative: Sunflower Seed Falafels

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