Monday, April 12, 2010

Tasty new life for your couscous

By Helen Klein

Recently, a container of cooked couscous in the corner of my fridge got me thinking about ways in which the leftover grains could be utilized.

Quick action was essential. Otherwise, the container would slowly migrate toward the back of the refrigerator and toward the unfortunate oblivion that faces so many extra foodstuffs.

I was helped in my quest because I had noticed that, when cold, the couscous behaved sort of like polenta, forming a solid mass. Could it become the basis for some sort of cake or patty?

Turns out it could. Combined with coarsely puréed chickpeas, onions, garlic and some spices, the couscous makes fabulous falafel, crusty on the outside, delicate on the inside, and with a haunting flavor that brings in its wake images of a middle eastern spice market.

They’re relatively quick and easy to prepare, too, as long as you have a food processor and, by making them flat, rather than round, you don’t need to heat as much cooking oil as you would otherwise have to, to submerse them.

One caveat: During cooking, you may need to skim the oil to removed burned bits, as the patties are delicate, and can splinter as they fry.

Couscous Falafel

1-1/2 cups cooked couscous
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained
1 medium onion
4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup Italian parsley leaves
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 cup chick pea flour
1 tsp. coriander, ground
1 tsp. cumin, ground
1 tsp. Hungarian paprika
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Oil, for frying

Chop garlic finely in food processor in quick on and off bursts. Add onion and chop. Add parsley and cilantro and continue to chop. Add chickpeas and chop, pulsing, until the mixture forms a coarse purée. Scrape down bowl. Add couscous, chickpea flour, spices, baking soda, and salt and pepper., and whirl in food processor till combined, scraping down bowl sides as necessary.

Heat 1 inch oil in large skillet over high flame till very hot. Form the falafel mixture into flattened two-inch rounds, and add as many to the pan as will fit without crowding.

Cook over high heat, watching carefully and adjusting flame as necessary, approximately two minutes till first side is golden, then flip, and cook another one-and-one-half to two minutes before removing to a paper-toweled plate to drain.

Depending on how many batches you make, you may find yourself turning the heat down and then up again, to prevent the falafel from cooking too quickly, or, alternatively, absorbing too much oil because they are being cooked on too low a flame.

Note: Chickpea flour, also known as chana or besan, is available at East Asian food markets.

Makes 12-15


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