King of Falafel & Shawarma's Falafel from 'New York a la Cart'


[Photograph: Clay Williams]

I eat a lot of falafel. It can come from a cart, a restaurant, or even a deli case; I don't really discriminate. But I probably should be more picky because most of the falafel isn't great. So much of the falafel out there is greasy and falling apart or dense and dry.

But after making King of Falafel & Shawarma's falafel recipe in Alexandra Penfold and Siobhan Wallace's new cookbook, New York a la Cart, I may stop buying my falafel pre-made (unless of course I happen to be in Astoria and can visit the Falafel King himself).

These falafel are made properly, with soaked dried chickpeas and a whole party of spices. Rolled into small balls and fried for just a few minutes, they emerge crisp-tender and fragrant. They're perfect in pita sandwiches or eaten one by one, with your hands, dipped into a giant bowl of tahini.

Why I picked this recipe: Falafel is probably my favorite street food. Making this version was a no-brainer.

What worked: Each of these falafel's deep brown and crunchy exteriors gives way to a warm, fragrant, and tender center. They're fairly easy to make, and miles better than the leaden pucks masquerading as food in many a Middle Eastern wrap.

What didn't: I couldn't eek out 24 falafels from the recipe (more like 18), and they cooked a bit more quickly than advertised (4 minutes instead of 5). If you're a big falafel eater (or feeding a crowd) double up on the recipe for sure.

Suggested tweaks: You can fry these and reheat them in the oven if necessary. 350 for 8 to 10 minutes does the trick. As written, the falafels are fairly spicy; if you're looking to tone it down, reduce the chili flakes to 1/4 or 1/8 teaspoon.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of New York a la Cart to give away this week.