Baked Sweet Potato Falafel
Do you believe in sharing your food? I don’t mean “sharing” in the (laudable) sense of offering your excess tomatoes to an elderly neighbor who can’t grow her own any more, or asking your single, cash-strapped nephew to your holiday feast, or donating part of your groceries to the local shelter; when I say “sharing,” what I mean is this: do you permit your book-club buddy to use the same spoon as you to taste your cherry cheesecake? Do you offer your yoga partner a sip from your Starbucks chai latte, thereby risking some backwash into your cup? Would you offer your friendly office mate a nibble of your glazed tofu even though her fork had already delivered some pasta salad to her own mouth a moment before?
So what I’m really wondering is this: what is your stance on double dipping?
Okay, maybe I’m being too anal about it all. But I just don’t feel comfortable sharing utensils, drinking vessels, or plates of already-sampled food. I recall once seeing a commercial featuring a quintessentially cute kid–blonde curls, sapphire eyes, impossibly chubby cheeks–seated on a curb while clutching a huge, melty ice cream cone, her loyal Golden Retriever by her side. Without warning, the dog leaned in and swiped a copious slurp of the ice cream–just like that! The little Cutie Patootie simply giggled and continued to lick–right over the exact spot where the dog’s tongue had just landed. Ewwwww! I still have no idea what the commercial was advertising–I’ve been frozen at “she’s licking where the dog’s tongue just licked! Ewww! Ewww!” ever since.
Then, of course, there are the couples for whom sharing restaurant meals is a regular ritual. Mr. Bon Vivant might order one dish, Ms. Bonne Vivante another, and they switch halfway through. Or perhaps Ms BV doth protest too much about not wanting dessert, but then proceeds to consume half of Mr BV’s order (though really, Ms BV can blame it on the wait-person, that fellow who so thoughtfully brought along two spoons with that White Chocolate-Mango-Persimmon Profiterole).
When my friend Sterlin and I went on our epic California vacation back in the 70s, we ended up at dinner one night with two Parisians whom we’d met because we overheard them speaking French and (hailing from Montreal ourselves and everything), we actually understood what they were saying and struck up a conversation. Next thing we knew, we were at a restaurant in San Diego, entirely smitten by the two young men (who professed to be medical interns visiting the US as part of a work term to learn about other cultures and increase their ability to help more people in their unending quest to heal the world . . . entirely altruistic, you understand).
Well, when it came time to order dinner, Jean-Marc (the nerdy one, who, as it turned out, liked Sterlin better) insisted he wasn’t hungry, ordering just a coffee. Phillippe (the suave and sexy one, who, as it turned out, liked me–whoopee!) ordered a full meal. About halfway through, the waitress came by to top up Jean-Marc’s coffee cup. The moment her back was turned, Jean-Marc slid the cup across to Phillippe, who simultaneously pushed his own half-eaten meal over to Jean-Marc. Then J-M proceeded to wolf down his (shared) dinner, while Phillippe sipped on his (shared–and from the same cup, yet!) coffee. Needless to say, that put the kibosh on any chance of romance for me and the suave Frenchman.
The HH has his own idiosyncratic twist on the “couples sharing” concept. If you were to ask him, he’d insist that he’s opposed to sharing. When we head to our favorite (read: the only one where I can actually get food I can eat on my wacky diet) Middle Eastern restaurant, I almost always order the same thing: hummus and Israeli Salad (chopped cucumber, tomato, onion in oil/lemon dressing). The HH orders whatever he darned well pleases, which usually involves a skewer and paschal undertones. But then my dinner arrives first, and the HH invariably ends up dipping his pita in my hummus (which sounds vaguely naughty for some reason, doesn’t it?). Last time we dined there, I opted for the falafel balls (again, naughty!) and, as usual, the HH asked if he could try a little sample.
“Hey! Stick to your own balls!” I snapped (the naughtiness never ends), but of course, his plate was full of greasy, stringy cubes of meat, and my balls looked infinitely more appealing (I won’t even say it). So he ended up sharing my meal as well as eating his own.
Sadly, it turned out that the restaurant’s falafel was (despite their promise to the contrary) plumped up with some wheat flour-filler, and I suffered the rest of the evening and into the next day for it. I don’t have celiac disease, but I do react pretty badly to wheat, usually feeling as if my intestines are a car tire that’s been over-inflated. I promptly decided to make my own falafel, at home.
This recipe is based on one by one of my favorite health gurus, Dr. Ben Kim. What I loved was that the falafel contains no grains whatsoever–the “filler” added to the chickpeas is potato (Dr. Kim used a white potato, but I decided to stretch the idea further with a sweet potato, and I’m glad I did). While the final result is a bit moister in the middle than conventional falafel, the flavor is outstanding. Not too spicy yet rife with exotic aromas of cumin and turmeric, these little balls are a perfect base for a light dinner or take-along lunch. And since they maintain their shape rather well once baked, they transport easily for packed lunches. In fact, the distinct orbs are perfect for sharing–no utensils or double dipping required.
Of course, once you taste them, you may decide you don’t want to share after all.
“Mum, I think you’re right, that dog should never have licked that little girls’s ice cream. He should have just eaten the entire thing–forget about sharing!”
Baked Sweet Potato Falafel Balls (adapted from Ben Kim’s recipe)
Suitable for ACD All Stages
1 medium sweet potato, baked (8-9.5 oz or 225-270 g when raw, with skin)
2 cups (480 ml) cooked chickpeas, or 1 can (19 oz or 540 ml), well rinsed and drained
1 medium onion, cut in chunks
1/2 cup (120 ml) fresh cilantro or parsley (I used cilantro)
3 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 heaping Tbsp (20 ml) tahini (sesame paste)
1 Tbsp (15 ml) fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) turmeric
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) coriander
1 tsp (5 ml) cumin
1/4 tsp (1 ml) fine sea salt
more tahini or another creamy sauce, for serving
Garnishes, for serving (sliced tomato, onion, cucumber, radish, black olives etc)
Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Line a large cookie sheet with parchment, or spray with nonstick spray.
Once the potato is cool, cut in half, scoop out the flesh, and place it in the bowl of a food processor. Add the remaining ingredients except for extra tahini and garnishes, and process until almost smooth (it’s okay if there’s still a bit of texture and you can see flecks of the cilantro–this is actually better).
Using a small ice cream scoop or tablespoon, scoop out bits of the mixture and roll into balls. Place the balls on the cookie sheet and flatten slightly on top if desired (I flatten the top so that they are easier to turn over halfway through–the flat top becomes a solid bottom at that point that prevents them from rolling around on the cookie sheet).
Bake for 25 minutes, until the tops are dry. Flip the falafel over and continue to bake for another 20-25 minutes, until browned. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature with tahini or other sauce and garnishes of choice. Makes 15-20 falafel balls. May be frozen.
Three Years Ago: Hi–And Hiatus