Creating innovative and health-minded recipes is nothing new for foodie blogger Anya, the mastermind behind the drool-worthy, Golubka. Yearning for a fabulous version of the classic Middle Eastern favorite, falafel, Golubka was one of the first blogs we hit. Whipped up with an array of nutrient-dense vegetables and paired with gut-friendly pickled turnips, this once-fried vegetarian dish has been reborn as a farm-to-table foodie’s dream. Now, don’t be turned off by the concept of pickled turnips, this adventurous recipe is worth overcoming any apprehension. Here’s Anya…
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, anyways. 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 color. 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 baked falafels when cooking with my five-year-old daughter, who loves to help out in the kitchen, as long as bright colors and fun shapes are involved.
Baked Veggie Falafel
(makes about 30)
4 Tbsp flax meal/ground flax seeds, divided
3 Tbsp sesame seeds
1/2 cup pecans
1 1/4 cups cooked or canned chickpeas, drained well and dried with paper towels
3 Tbsp sesame tahini
3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp coconut sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tsp sea salt, or more to taste
1/2 Tbsp cumin seeds
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
large handful each parsley and mint leaves (optional)
2 cardamom pods, crushed, green shells discarded (optional)
1/2 tsp mustard seeds (optional)
Preheat oven to 375 F. Combine 3 Tbps of flax meal with the sesame seeds and set aside for coating the falafel.
In a food processor, grind the pecans into a coarse meal. Add in the reserved 1 Tbsp of flax meal, chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, coconut sugar, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and herbs (if using).
Grind the cumin, cardamom and mustard seeds in a mortar and pestle or a designated coffee grinder, then add to the food processor.
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.
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.
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.
Repeat the same with the shredded beet and the last portion of the chickpea mixture.
Form falafel balls of three different colors, rolling each ball in the flax and sesame coating as you go. Place them on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. If the spinach and/or beet mixture is too moist for handling, simply add about 1/4 cup of ground rolled oats to absorb the extra moisture.
Bake for 15 minutes, turning the falafel every 5 minutes to achieve even color. Let cool.
Wrap falafel in any type of green leaves (lettuce, collard greens or cabbage) or pita bread pockets. Garnish with pink pickled turnips, fresh radish and cucumber slices, Greek-style yogurt with lime juice, herbs and/or hummus.
Pink Pickled Turnips
1 1/2 cup water
2 1/2 Tbsp 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)
In a small saucepan, heat 1/2 cup of water with the salt to dissolve. Let cool.
Place the turnips, beet, bay leaf, garlic, dill and pepper flakes into a clean glass jar. 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.