Falafel Recipe

Twin Fritters: Falafel in Israel, Acarajé in Brazil

As a Jewish girl born and raised in Brazil, I can’t help but compare, cherish—and cook Falafel, one of the most iconic foods of Israel, to Acarajés, one of the most iconic foods of Brazil. They are first-degree cousins! Better yet, they are twins. Twin Fritters! Well, non-identical of course. One lives in Israel, one lives in Brazil.

Twin Fritters Falafel and Acaraje
A young Baiana frying Acarajés in there sweets of Bahia, Brazil.

 

Falafel is made with raw chickpeas; Acarajé is made with raw black-eyed beans.

They are both soaked in water for 12 to 24 hours in the refrigerator but never cooked. The beans will cook when they fry but not before then. In fact, if you cook the beans or use cooked canned beans—for both, the batter will simply melt away in the oil and you end up with a disaster. But don’t worry, once the beans are soaked and pureed in the food processor, they fry beautifully, and they hold quite well.

Twin Fritters

For both Falafel and Acarajé, the beans are pureed with raw onions.

In Brazil, we season the Acarajé with salt, pepper, cayenne, and a bit of paprika.

In Israel, we season the falafel with salt, jalapeno, cumin, and coriander—and fresh herbs, very important—giving that bright green color and fresh taste to the batter. Sesame seeds and garlic also go in the falafel mixture.

When seasoning, I encourage you to try lots of combinations and know that these little twin fitters can stand up to lots of hot seasoning.

In Israel, falafels are rolled and shaped into a walnut-size ball and stuffed in pita bread along with hummus, Israeli chopped salad, and Tzatziki sauce made with yogurt and/or sour cream and dill.

Acarajé looks like a big meatball and there is no bread around it. The acarajé is a vessel for the stuffing. When fried, the baianas split them in half with a serrated knife and ask what kind of filling you would like. The options are chopped salad, very similar to the Israeli chopped salad of tomatoes and cucumbers, although in Brazil you’ll see bell-pepper as well;

Vatapá (a mixture of fish, shrimp, peanuts, cashews, bread, coconut, and palm oil)

Vatapa Twin Fritters
Vatapá

 

or Caruru (made with okra, dried shrimps, coconut, cashews, and peanuts).

Caruru
Caruru

 

Falafel is fried in canola or vegetable oil. Acarajé is fried in palm oil (iconic foods), yielding that reddish-orange vibrant color on the fritter.

Acarajes
Acarajés frying in palm oil.

 

You can find the recipe for Acarajé in my cookbook The Brazilian Kitchen (e-mail me if you’d like more info).

To the Twin Fritters, Lechaim (in Hebrew) and Saúde (in Portuguese)!

 

This recipe for Falafel is adapted from Adeena Sussman’s cookbook Sababa.

You might also like other recipes from Sababa’s cookbook and other Israeli dishes on my website.

Eggplant and Tomato Galette

Short Ribs with  Eggplant, Silan and Nigela Seeds 

Tahini Caramel Tart

 

Falafel

Makes about 24 falafel balls

 

Ingredients:

2/3 cups dried chickpeas

1 cup coarsely chopped parsley leaves

1 cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves

½ onion, coarsely chopped

2 garlic cloves

½ small jalapeno, seeded and coarsely chopped

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon sesame seeds

Canola or Vegetable Oil for Frying

 

Prepare the Chickpeas: Place the chickpeas in a bowl, cover with 4 inches of water and soak in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

Drain and rinse the chickpeas, place them in the bowl of a food processor, and process until they’re pulverized into large crumb-like pieces, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl if necessary, 30 to 45 seconds. Add the parsley and cilantro to the processor with the onion, garlic, jalapeno, and 2 tablespoons of water and pulse until a unified and bright green mixture is formed, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl if necessary, 20 to 30 seconds (add an extra tablespoon of water if necessary).

In a small bowl, combine the salt, cumin, coriander, and sesame seeds. Just before frying the falafel, add the spices to the food processor and pulse until incorporated, 10-15 pulses.

Heat 2 inches of oil in a high-sided skillet over medium-high heat until it reads 350˚F on a candy thermometer, or a small piece of white bread begins to sizzle and brown immediately when dropped into the oil.  Set a colander over a bowl or line a plate with paper towels. Using two spoons or a small ice cream scoop, shape the falafel into balls the size of small walnuts. Fry in batches, making sure not to over crowd the skillet or let the oil temperature drop below about 340˚F, until deep golden, 1-2 minutes but no more. Serve hot, seasoning with more salt if desired.

 

 

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Moroccan Couscous with Winter Squash

Moroccan Couscous with Winter Squash

To celebrate my father’s 70th birthday, I am cooking tons of Moroccan food this month. He is from Morocco, and  immigrated to Brazil when he was a young teenager. I turned to the amazing book Modern Jewish Cooking and found this amazing recipe. Right up our alley!

 

Moroccan Couscous with Winter Squash

Recipe inspired by Leah Koenig’s Modern Jewish Cookbook

 

Serves 6 to 8

 

¼ cup olive oil

2 onions, thinly sliced

4 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely minced

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon paprika

One 15 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

3 cups (¾ lb) cubed butternut squash

2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks

¼ cup golden raisins

2 ½ cups vegetable (or chicken) broth

kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

2 ½ cups water

2 cups Morrocan style couscous

¼ cup freshly chopped parsley

 

  • Prepare the Sofritto: In a medium saucepan, warm the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and cook until it just starts to turn golden, about 2 minutes. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until it’s nice and soft, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until softened, about 5 more minutes. add the cinnamon, ginger, cumin, coriander and paprika and cook, stirring often until fragrant.
  • Add the chickpeas, squash, carrots, raisins, broth and 1 teaspoon kosher salt and some twists of pepper. Bring the mixture to a simmer over low heat, cover, and cook gently until the vegetables are soft and tender, about 15 minutes. Uncover and continue simmering until the mixture thickens slightly, another 5 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
  • Cook the Couscous: Meanwhile bring the water to a boil in a separate saucepan over high heat. Once boiling, turn off the heat, add a pinch of kosher salt and the couscous. Cover the pan, set at the back of the stove (off the heat) and let it stand until the couscous absorbs all the liquid, 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Uncover the couscous and fluff with a fork. Carefully spoon the couscous onto a large serving platter. Make a well in the center and ladle the vegetable mixture right in the center. Or, you can serve individual portions, but be sure to spoon the liquid of the vegetables as well. Sprinkle with parsley and serve hot.

 

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Brazilian Haroset for Passover

Brazilian Haroset for Passover

 

Brazilian Haroset

Every time I make Jewish food for the Holidays, I think of my Tia (aunt) Sarita who immigrated from Tangier, Morocco to Rio de Janeiro in the 60’s.

Aunt Sarita and me
Aunt Sarita and me

I also think about Brazilian ingredients, the tropical flavors associated with my country, and how Brazilian Jews slowly incorporated that into a new, forming cuisine. Unanimously we think about lime, coconut, mango, papaya, peanuts, cashews and so many other delicious foods. But it took a while until my aunt started using these ingredients in her own cooking.

I called my aunt, who lives in Rio de Janeiro, to chat about Haroset. An animated 82-year old with short cropped black and white hair, my aunt speaks with me in so many languages, shifting from Spanish, French, Haketia (a Sephardic dialect) and Portuguese, as she searches for words to describe the ingredients of Tangier, Rio, and how she creates her recipes.

From left: me, my son Thomas, aunt Sarita, my daughter Bianca Laila and my father Salomon
From left: me, my son Thomas, aunt Sarita, my daughter Bianca Laila and my father Salomon

Her cooking makes me feel at home, with deep roots in Jewish, Spanish, North African and Brazilian culture.

I wanted to come up with a recipe that preserves the apple essence of haroset, but alters the flavor profile with our own tropical twist. I called Tia Sarita to tell her about my idea for a Brazilian Haroset. My first change from the classic was to replace the usual almonds/walnuts with with cashews and peanuts. Not only do they add creaminess to the haroset, but I also love their gentle sweetness and freshness, Brazilian style, of course.

Then I added lime to accentuate the brightness of the apples and spices like coriander and ginger. The banana adds creaminess. The coconut adds nutty flavors, and the wine refreshes everything. The flavors shimmered in my mouth.  This year my aunt is cooking this version of Haroset, and I hope to get good reports from the rest of the family—and from you!

 

Brazilian Haroset

IMG_0106

Makes about 3 Cups

Ingredients:

2 apples, peeled, cored and diced

1 banana, peeled and diced

1/3 cup (40g) peanuts, lightly toasted and chopped finely

1/3 cup cashews (48g), lightly toasted and chopped finely

1/3 cup (18g) coconut chips

1 lime, zested, cut into segments, and diced

1/3 cup Kosher sweet red wine

3 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon gound coriender

½ teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

 

Procedure: Combine all the fruits and nuts. Add the lime, wine, honey, spices and mix well using a rubber spatula and folding carefully until fruits and nuts are completely covered. Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate to let the flavors marry for a few hours or overnight. Bring to room temperature when ready to serve. Adjust the seasoning, adding more lime, honey and cinnamon if desired.

 

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