You may not take Falafel shopping down Michigan Avenue with you, call her to vent about your latest troubles, or meet her for cocktails on a Friday night, but you should certainly consider her one of your friends, and I’ll tell you why.
Okay, hold it. Before you run out to your favorite Middle Eastern restaurant and put back a few dozen little falafel balls, you should know that not all falafel is created equal. Oftentimes, if not always, falafel is deep fried. So, while the nutritional content on the inside may be high enough to leave a veggie sandwich shaking in its 9-grain bread, the sinfully-delicious fried exterior can knock the overall healthiness of this dish back a few notches. In accordance with my mom’s mantra (she's one incredible woman); I believe that all foods are healthy when consumed in moderation. So, it’s perfectly healthy to indulge in a fried falafel sandwich every now and then. However, the thought of enjoying falafel on an infrequent basis makes me a bit sad, so I found an alternative: a healthy and awesomely-tasty homemade falafel sandwich that I can enjoy guilt-free as often as I please.
Now that I’ve got your attention, let’s get back to why this falafel is your bestie. Reason #1: flavor. This falafel sandwich has enough flavor to sustain the attention of even the most distractible of taste buds. Reason #2: healthiness. This healthier alternative to your ex-bestie, DFF (deep fried falafel), is packed with calcium, protein, and fiber and low on fat, calories, and cholesterol. Reason #3: It’s awesome. It’s pretty awesome to be able to say that you made your own falafel. Reason #4: It’s easy. This dish is impressive to make for friends, family, or your significant other, yet easy enough that it won’t cause any undue stress in the kitchen. Reason #5: It’s the best. No, seriously. This dish was rated Cooking Light’s Best Vegetarian Entrée. Alright, no more reasons needed; Reason #5 is reason enough. Get cooking.
Falafel Sandwich with Mashed Avocado Spread
(Serves 4: 1 stuffed pita half)
Adapted from Cooking Light
1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
½ cup (2 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
¼ cup finely crushed baked tortilla chips
2 tbsp finely chopped green onions
1 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
1 large egg white
1 ½ tsp canola oil
Mashed Avocado Spread
¼ cup mashed peeled avocado
2 tbsp finely chopped tomato
1 tbsp finely chopped red onion
2 tbsp reduced-fat sour cream
1 tsp fresh lime juice
Pinch of sea salt
2 (6-inch) pitas, each cut in half
4 thin red onion slices, separated into rings
1 cup arugula, microgreens, watercress, or pea shoots
1. Prepare the patties by placing pinto beans in a medium bowl; partially mash beans with a fork. Add cheese and next 5 ingredients (through egg white); stir until combined. Shape bean mixture into 4 (½-inch-thick) oval patties.
2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add bean patties to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until patties are browned and thoroughly heated.
3. To prepare mashed avocado spread, combine avocado and next 5 ingredients and mix well.
4. Place 1 patty in each pita half. Spread 2 tablespoons mashed avocado spread over patty in each pita half; top with red onions and greens.