The best-tasting veggie burger I’ve ever met is falafel. A product of the Middle East, falafel are deep-fried fritters made from ground chickpeas or fava beans that are tucked into pita pockets and drizzled with tahini. They are delicious, hearty, inexpensive and relatively healthful.
If you’re a home cook and want to make your falafel from scratch, you face some challenges. The classic recipe calls for dried chickpeas or fava beans, which must be soaked in water overnight, a time-consuming requirement that might persuade you to call the whole thing off.
Happily, fava beans are in season now, so my recipe calls for fresh ones, which saves you from having to mess with the dried version the night before. However, because fresh beans have more moisture than dried, getting them to hold their shape when pureed and formed into patties means adding a binder, in this case, an egg.
The second hurdle for the home cook is frying. The process itself is really a pain, and it isn’t healthful. I figured there had to be a better way to cook falafel, a way that kissed off deep-frying and yet somehow retained their trademark crunchiness.
Panko – those super-crispy Japanese breadcrumbs – were the answer. After I pureed the fava beans and added the flavorings, I chilled the mixture in the refrigerator to help it firm up. Then I shaped the puree into burgers, coated them with the panko and placed them in a hot skillet with just a little oil. They crisped up beautifully.
I topped the falafel with a garlicky cucumber yogurt sauce, which is just as refreshing and flavorful as tahini but has far fewer calories. The family attacked these burgers with gusto.
Fava Bean Falafel Burgers With Cucumber Yogurt Sauce 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
11/2 teaspoons minced garlic, divided
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon hot smoked paprika or cayenne pepper
13/4 cups shelled peeled fresh fava beans or frozen lima beans (thawed)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons tahini (stir well before measuring)
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 cup plain, nonfat Greek yogurt
4-inch slice seedless cucumber, coarsely grated (about 1/2 cup, packed)
3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
Note: If you buy fresh fava beans, you’ll need to peel and cook them. To do this, remove the beans from the pods and cook in boiling salted water until just tender. Depending on the size of the bean, this should take 2-8 minutes. Drain and transfer to a bowl of ice water. When cool, slip the skins off the beans and proceed with the recipe. Some grocers also sell fresh or frozen peeled favas. If you can’t find favas, substitute frozen lima beans.
In a large skillet over medium, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Reduce the heat to medium low, add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon of the garlic, the cumin, coriander and paprika, then cook for 1 minute, stirring. Transfer to a medium bowl.
In a food processor, pulse the fava beans just until they are coarsely chopped. Transfer 1/2 cup of the chopped favas to the onion mixture.
To the food processor, add the egg, tahini, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and pepper to taste. Process the mixture until finely ground, then stir it into the onion mixture. Cover the mixture and chill it for 30 minutes.
While the mixture is chilling, in a small bowl combine the yogurt, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon garlic, the cucumber and salt to taste. Set aside.
Shape the chilled falafel mixture into 4 patties (the mixture will be loose). Spread the panko on a sheet of parchment paper and coat patties with panko on all sides.
In a large nonstick skillet over medium, heat 11/2 tablespoons of the remaining oil. Add the falafel patties and cook until crisp and golden on one side, about 3 minutes. Add the remaining 11/2 tablespoons of oil and turn the patties; cook for another 3 minutes, or until golden.
Transfer patties to serving plates and top with yogurt sauce.
Per serving: 620 calories; 200 calories from fat (32 percent of total calories); 22 g fat (3.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 45 mg cholesterol; 76 g carbohydrate; 21 g fiber; 30 g sugar; 34 g protein; 670 mg sodium.Start to finish: 1 hour (30 minutes active) Servings: 4