Creating different falafel recipes has become a sort of hobby for me ever since I met my husband thirteen years ago. A falafel wrap is his favorite meal of all times, and he is definitely the person to ask about the best falafel in town – any town that he is familiar with. One of our favorite Lebanese restaurants serves falafel with fresh radishes and crunchy pickled vegetables, which are the perfect, refreshing addition to a Lebanese meal. After some research, I learned that those delicious pickles are turnips, which are traditionally pickled with beets to make for the most brilliant pink colour. In this recipe, I shredded the turnips with a spiralizer for a pretty presentation, but you can simply slice them before pickling.
I came up with the recipe for these colorful veggie falafel for cooking with Paloma, who loves to help out in the kitchen as long as bright colours and fun shapes are involved. Our market is full of fresh, bright, local varieties of vegetables (growing season here!), just in time for this colourful meal. But those of you in wintery weather can also enjoy this spicy, warming falafel, as flavours of sweet potato, beets and spinach are involved.
Colourful Veggie Falafel
for the falafel
4 tablespoons flax meal/ground flax seeds – divided
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
1/2 cup pecans
1 1/4 cups cooked or canned chickpeas – drained well and dried with paper towels
3 tablespoons sesame tahini
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons coconut sugar
1 garlic clove – minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt or more to taste
large handful each parsley and mint leaves (optional)
1/2 tablespoon cumin seeds
2 cardamom pods – crushed, green shells discarded (optional)
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds (optional)
2 cups loosely packed spinach leaves
1 small or 1/2 medium sweet potato – peeled and finely shredded
1 small or 1/2 medium beet – peeled and finely shredded
to prepare the falafel
1. Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C). Combine 3 tablespoons of flax meal with the sesame seeds and set aside for coating the falafel.
2. In a food processor, grind the pecans into a coarse meal. Add in the reserved 1 tablespoon of flax meal, chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, coconut sugar, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and herbs (if using).
3. Grind the cumin, cardamom and mustard seeds in a mortar and pestle or a designated coffee grinder, then add to the food processor.
4. Process everything until well combined, scraping the walls of the food processor if needed. Take care not to puree, the mixture should remain somewhat chunky.
5. Divide the mixture into three even portions, leaving one in the food processor. Add the spinach to the food processor and combine well. Remove from the processor into a designated bowl and wipe the machine clean.
6. Put the second portion of the chickpea mixture into the food processor, along with the shredded sweet potato, and process to combine. Remove the sweet potato/chickpea mixture into a designated bowl, no need clean the food processor this time.
7. Repeat the same with the shredded beet and the last portion of the chickpea mixture.
8. Form falafel balls of three different colours, rolling each ball in the flax and sesame coating as you go. Place them on a parchment paper covered baking tray. If the spinach and/or beet mixture turned out too moist for handling, simply add about 1/4 cup of ground rolled oats to absorb the extra moisture.
9. Bake for 15 minutes, turning the falafel every 5 minutes to achieve even colour. Let cool.
10. Serve wrapped in any favorite green leaves (lettuce, collard greens or cabbage) or in pita bread pockets. Garnish with pink pickled turnips, fresh radish and cucumber slices, Greek style yogurt with lime juice to taste mixed in, herbs and/or hummus.
Pink Pickled Turnips
1 1/2 cup water
2 1/2 tablespoons sea salt
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 lb turnips – spiralized or peeled and sliced into sticks or any other way you prefer
1/2 small beet – peeled and sliced
1 bay leaf
1 garlic clove – thinly sliced
a few sprigs of fresh dill or dill flower (optional)
dash of red pepper flakes (optional)
1. In a small saucepan, heat 1/2 cup of water with the salt to dissolve. Let cool.
2. Place the turnips, beet, bay leaf, garlic, dill and pepper flakes into a clean glass jar.
3. Add the vinegar and the remaining 1 cup of water to the salty water, and pour the brine over the vegetables. Cover and let sit at room temperature to pickle for one week. Refrigerate until ready to serve and use within one month.