More than 225 produce industry members attended the Fresh Produce and Floral Council Northern California luncheon where Connie Stukenberg, CAC retail marketing director, presided over the luncheon as FPFC Board Chair.
Falafel is a favorite topic of mine. These Egyptian and Middle Eastern fritters, made from chickpeas or fava beans (or a combination of the two), are traditionally deep-fried and served in a pita sandwich, as part of a meze (Middle Eastern tray of appetizers), or as a snack.
Confession time: I have an enormous weakness for falafel. If we go out to eat and it’s the menu, there’s really no point in looking any further because that’s what I will order. There’s a restaurant near our house that sells a Mediterranean salad topped with baked falafel that I love, but if I were to go there to order that salad as often as I crave it, it would most likely destroy our food budget, so I decided that it was time to come up with my own baked falafel recipe.
The problem with some falafel is that they get really dense. The problem with a lot of baked falafel is that they are really dry. So my mission for a baked falafel recipe was two-fold: a version that wasn’t dense or dry. My solutions? Making sure not to over process the falafel mixture in the food processor and the addition of a secret ingredient: part of a California Avocado. Over-processing the falafel mixture turns it into a dense paste which results in a dense falafel. Adding California Avocado adds moisture to the falafel as well as acting as a binder.
Making the falafel is easy. Just throw all the ingredients into a food processor and process until you have a cohesive, textured dough, then transfer the dough to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for a couple of hours to let it set up. Then scoop out tablespoons of the dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, lightly pat the dough down into small discs so that they bake more evenly, then bake them in a preheated oven.
The finished falafel won’t have brown exteriors like falafel that have been deep-fried. If you want more browning, you can always brush them with some oil during baking, but I like going without, since part of the point of making baked falafel is making them healthier, right? These falafel are very light and fluffy, and full of bright flavor from the mix of cilantro, parsley, and mint used in the dough. If you want your falafel to be a bit firmer, you can stir 1 to 2 tablespoons of oat flour into the dough before putting the dough into the refrigerator to rest.
Now you may be wondering, what do I do with the rest of my avocado, since we only use part of it in the falafel dough? The answer to this is actually my favorite part of this recipe. You use it to make a tahini dipping sauce to serve with the falafel.
The avocado makes the sauce incredibly creamy and smooth and adding fresh lemon juice makes all of the flavors pop and prevents the avocado from browning, so that you can whip this sauce up ahead of time and keep it in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it. If you’re not making falafel, and just want to make the sauce, go ahead and throw the whole avocado in. Or just add 3/4 of the avocado, like the recipe directs, and eat the remaining 1/4…nobody will judge you.
Baked Avocado Falafel with Avocado Lemon Tahini Sauce Recipe
Makes 2 – 3 servings
Ingredients For the Avocado Falafel (makes approximately 17 small falafel):
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed, drained and patted dry
1/4 large California Avocado, chopped
2/3 cup roughly chopped cilantro
2/3 cup roughly chopped parsley
2/3 cup roughly chopped mint
6 scallions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon freshy squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 – 2 tablespoons oat flour, if needed
Ingredients For the Avocado Lemon Tahini Sauce (makes approximately 1 1/3 cups sauce):
3/4 large California Avocado
1/4 cup tahini
1/3 cup warm water
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 large clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt, more to taste
Make the avocado falafel: Pulse all of the falafel ingredients in a food processor until combined. The mixture should form a textured dough, not a paste. Transfer the mixture to a bowl. If you want your falafel to a bit more dense/firm, or if the mixture is too wet to form into patties, stir in 1 tablespoons of oat flour at a time until the mixture is dry enough to handle.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours to chill and firm up. You can skip this step, but the falafel will be more fragile when cooking.
When you are ready to bake the falafel, preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Scoop out rounded tablespoons of the chilled mixture (I used a 1 tablespoon scoop) onto a parchment lined baking sheet and use your fingers to gently pat them down until they are approximately ½-inch thick (or slightly more).
Bake the falafel in the preheated oven for 22 minutes, then gently flip the falafel over. If they won’t flip bake them for several more minutes and then try again. Bake them for additional 8 minutes, for a total of 30 minutes of baking time, then remove them from the oven and let them cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.
Make the avocado lemon tahini sauce: Process all of the sauce ingredients in a food processor until smooth and creamy. Add additional warm water if you want a thinner sauce. Transfer to a glass container and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. Serve with the baked avocado falafel!
I was first introduced to balela when a local retailer began selling it. I bought it once, devoured it quickly, and when I returned to buy it again, they were out and haven’t stocked it again since. At first I was upset because they stopped carrying it… I mean, how dare they get me hooked on something, only to take it away? But now I’m grateful, because it meant I had to get into the kitchen and come up with my own version.
If you’ve never had balela, then you are in for a treat. It is a Middle Eastern chickpea and black bean salad that is fresh, full of flavor and probably easier to make in your own kitchen than it is to get in the car and go buy it in the store.
I make no claims that my version is authentic—I just made it up based on the ingredients list on the back of the container the store bought version came in, and tweaked it based on my taste memories. I also add avocado to the dressing and as a topping which replaces the olive oil in the dressing, making it even creamier and making the dressing completely unprocessed. I also add avocado as a final salad topping, because, why not? Although it may not be authentic or traditional, it is delicious!
All that you have to do to make it is chop up some herbs and veggies, rinse and drain some beans, mix the salad ingredients together, blend all the dressing ingredients in a blender, then mix the dressing with the salad and finish it off by topping it with sliced California Avocados. It couldn’t be easier!
You can serve balela as a main dish or as a side salad. If you’re me, you whip up a batch, stick it in the fridge, and snack on it all day long until you realize that you’ve emptied the bowl. The salad can be made several hours ahead of time. Just be sure to add the sliced avocados right before serving!
California Avocado Balela Recipe
Makes 6 servings
For the salad:
2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 (15.2-ounce) can black beans rinsed and drained
8 ounces grape tomatoes, cut into quarters
1/4 small red onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1/3 cup finely chopped mint
1 large, ripe California avocado, thinly sliced
For the dressing:
1 large, ripe California avocado
2/3 cup water
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Mix together all of the salad ingredients, except for the avocado, in a serving bowl
Put all of the dressing ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to mix. Arrange the avocado slices on top of the salad, or divide the salad into individual bowls and top with avocado slices
Did you know that every single Hass Avocado is a California native, able to trace its origin to a single tree grown just down the coast in La Habra Heights, California? With its gentle sunshine, crisp coastal breezes and rich soil, California provides the perfect canvas to grow the beloved avocados. We partnered with renowned artist John Van Hamersveld to honor California and create celebratory canvases of our own. Inspired by the climate, creativity and culture of California, Van Hamersveld got to work on four pieces honoring San Diego, Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Francisco. All four pieces in the cohesive series highlight our favorite green fruit over a striking depiction of each city.
For San Diego, Van Hamersveld focused on the skyline and one of San Diego’s favorite pastimes: sailing.
Van Hamersveld recreated the stunning coastline and mountainous horizon in his depiction of California’s most populous city.
The largest river in California, the Sacramento River, flows through Sacramento and Van Hamersveld’s interpretation of California’s capital.
Finally, Van Hamersveld crafted this work showcasing San Francisco and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. This work, which started as a sketch in Van Hamersveld’s studio, was transformed into a mural in San Francisco’s SoMa district.
Does Van Hamersveld’s style look familiar to you? If so, it may be because he is the mastermind behind “The Endless Summer” film poster, iconic rock posters and album covers from the 1960s and ’70s, and the surf-inspired mural in Hermosa Beach, among many other successes. We’re honored to have worked with him and hope you enjoy the pieces as much as we do.
Speaking of enjoyment, be sure to pick up now in-season California Avocados on your next grocery run!