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Spinach Falafel With Tahini Sauce

serves 4-6

This non-traditional falafel is a light twist on the classic (which is often too heavy, especially as a side dish or mezze). It pairs wonderfully with a glass of pinot noir.

Read more about this recipe in Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterreanean


Tahini Sauce:
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
Ice cubes
3/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1 pound spinach leaves
1 cup milk
1/3 teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste
3/4 cup chickpea flour
1/4 cup cooked or canned chickpeas
2 teaspoons lemon juice
4 to 6 cups canola oil for frying
1/4 cup flour for dredging
2 rectangles lavash bread
Salad greens for garnish


prep: 50 minutes
total: 1 hour , plus at least 2 hours chilling time


small saute pan
medium bowl
medium saucepan
baking sheet or shallow roasting dish
large, heavy saucepan or countertop fryer


1. Place all tahini sauce ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

2. In a small sauté pan over medium-high heat, sauté the onion in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the cumin and allspice. Cook, stirring from time to time, for about 6 minutes, until the onions are soft and translucent. Reduce the heat to medium if the onions cook too quickly; they should not brown. Remove the onions from the heat and set aside.

2. Prepare a medium bowl of ice water.

3. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil and add salt to taste. Drop the spinach in and cook for 1 minute, until it becomes limp and dark green. Drain and drop the spinach into the ice water. Let the spinach sit in the ice water for a couple of minutes until completely chilled.

4. Remove the spinach from the ice water, little by little, squeezing it dry in small amounts. Squeeze as much water as possible from the leaves (squeeze hard between the palms of your hands). You should have about 2 cups of blanched spinach.

5. Chop the spinach into small pieces and set aside.

6. In a medium saucepan, bring the milk to a boil (when it rises up in the pan) on high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and whisk in 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/3 teaspoon pepper. Taste the milk to make sure it is seasoned well and add more salt or pepper to taste.

7. Slowly whisk in the chickpea flour, little by little, until it is so thick that you can't whisk it anymore. Switch to a wooden spoon and stir in the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil; keep stirring for another minute, until it is incorporated. Reduce the heat to very low and cook for about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Be careful not to get your face too close to the pan because it can bubble and spit, like polenta. When done, the edges should pull away from the sides of the pan and the mixture should be very thick.

8. In a large mixing bowl, combine the chickpeas, lemon juice, onion mixture, chickpea mixture and chopped spinach. Stir until the ingredients are incorporated into the chickpea mixture, which is the binder for all the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

9. Scrape the mixture onto a baking sheet or shallow roasting dish and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.

10. Form the falafel into 15 or 16 balls, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter.

11. Place the canola oil in a large, heavy saucepan or countertop fryer and heat to 350F.

12. Dredge each falafel ball in flour and carefully drop them one by one into the hot oil. Cook for about 4 minutes, until golden brown and hot inside. Remove the falafel from the oil and drain them on paper towels. Sprinkle lightly with salt.

13. Line a platter with the lavash bread and top them with the hot falafel. Spoon a couple of teaspoons of tahini sauce over the top of each falafel and garnish with a few salad greens. Serve immediately, passing around tahini sauce.

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