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Falafel Burgers with Homemade Harissa & Tahini

Falafel Burgers with Homemade Harissa Paste & Tahini

Oh, these burgers!

I am a big fan of falafel but I rarely eat it these days because it’s hard to eat all that oil without feeling like I’ve swallowed a deep-fried hockey puck. I still love the flavors, though, and the protein boost that comes from my favorite plump little legume, the humble chickpea. (I love that they look like they have little tushies. Yes, I’m weird.) Mashing up the familiar flavors of falafel with creamy tahini as the binder and we’ve got a patty that packs a great punch: the tang of lemon, the earthy-smoky spices and dense, buttery chickpeas all puréed together. Pair this burger with homemade harissa, the classic spicy Tunisian chile purée, cooling cucumbers and a squiggle of tahini sauce and you’ve got a burger that hits all the right notes. Warning: these did not work on the grill -- too fragile and sticky -- but if you don't want to bake them, they would probably work in a lightly oiled skillet just fine.

Falafel Burgers

(Makes four large burgers)

15 oz. cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup onion, generous
1/3 cup tahini
3 cloves cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chickpea flour or flour of your choice
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt, ground pepper to taste
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne

Process all the above ingredients in a food processor until well-mixed, a minute or two. It can have some texture. Process longer for smoother patties. If it clumps together in the food processor, smooth it out with a spoon. Refrigerate the “batter” for at least one hour to firm.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Using a scooper (an ice cream scoop worked best for me), place four burgers on a parchment-lined baking sheet. This is fairly sticky stuff, so having a second spoon for scooping out and damp hands for shaping helped. Bake for 16 minutes, carefully flip with a spatula and bake for 13 more minutes. They are ready to eat.

Before making the burgers, start your harissa paste.

Harissa paste

4 oz. dried chiles (I used a combination of guajillo and arbol peppers)
Boiling water
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground caraway
1 teaspoon ground cumin seed
1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 - 2 tablespoons reserved soaking water

Place the chiles in a heat-proof bowl and cover with hot water, then cover the bowl. Let this sit for 30 minutes, then remove the steams and seeds from your softened chiles. (Reserve a little soaking liquid for thinning out your paste.) Gloves are helpful here! No matter what, though, don’t touch your eyes without washing your hands thoroughly. You don't need to remove all the seeds.

Place the chiles in your food processor along with the rest of the ingredients except for the olive oil and soaking water. Make a chunky paste by pulsing together. With the food processor running, trickle in the olive oil. Scrape down the bowl of your food processor as necessary, and add a little reserved soaking water until you get the texture you want.

This paste can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a month with a thin layer of olive oil on top to preserve freshness.

Tahini Sauce

1/4 cup tahini
Juice of 1/2 lemon

In a cup, mix together the tahini and lemon juice until you have a thick paste. Add water a little at a time until you reach the desired thinness.

Toast your bun or pita bread.

Garnish with:
Romaine lettuce
Red onion

Place a thin layer of harissa, then the falafel burger, then the veggies you like (cucumbers and tomatoes are a classic combination with falafel), and a squiggle of tahini sauce. Enjoy!

© 2013, 2014, Vegan Street

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