Just as I introduced Z to herbs and spices early on, I look for opportunities to share a wide variety of foods and flavor profiles with him on a weekly basis. I absolutely love Middle Eastern food (okay, I absolutely love most kinds of food…) and falafel was low-hanging fruit for baby or toddler food: easy to eat and high protein.
For this recipe, I strayed from tradition in several significant ways. First, I used cooked chickpeas rather than soaking dried beans – this was both for convenience and out of a little fear of the uncooked chickpeas. It probably would have been fine, but I find that beans even a little al dente don’t always sit well with me and didn’t want Z’s first exposure to falafel to risk a negative outcome. Second, I baked the falafel instead of frying them. Fried falafel would be a great option at home, but I wanted these to be portable, and the fried version would make for a greasy finger food. And speaking of finger food, the final change was to make them a different shape so they would be easy for little hands to hold and eat.
They were a success, if Z’s appetite for them is any indication! He needed help figuring out how to dip the falafel in the sauce but was otherwise content to chomp away on his Middle Eastern lunch.
Baked Falafel Finger Food
3 c cooked chickpeas (or 2-15 oz cans)
1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 large handfuls each parsley and cilantro, roughly chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
2 pinches salt and 1 pinch pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
1. Preheat oven to 425º. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray or line with parchment paper. Add all ingredients to a food processor or blender and process until combined but not completely smooth – you still want some chickpea, onion, and herb chunks to remain.
2. Form the chickpea mixture into your desired shape – I opted for a size and shape similar to mozzarella sticks. Place on the prepared baking sheet with enough room to roll over each one. Bake about 20 minutes, rolling over each falafel about halfway through to ensure even browning.
Makes about 20 falafel.
Optional serving dip: Mix equal parts tahini and plain yogurt with a squeeze of lemon juice.