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This isn’t your street vendor’s dry, leaden falafel.  Light and creamy, this recipe calls for chickpea flour and lots of fresh spinach.  I like it for lunch in a pita with vinegary, garlicky pickled pears.

Spinach Falafel

Adapted from Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean by Ana Sortun

Yield: Makes about 20, serves 6 to 8.

1 small onion, finely chopped

1/4 c. olive oil, divided

1 tbsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. allspice

1 1/2 tsp. sea salt, plus more to taste

1 lb. fresh baby spinach

2 c. milk (soy or rice milk is fine)

freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 c. chickpea flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill)

2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice (1-2 lemons)

1/4 c. all-purpose flour for dredging (subbing a light, gluten-free flour — or even cornstarch — is fine)

1/4 c. canola or safflower oil for pan-frying

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In a small saute pan over medium heat, cook onion, cumin, and allspice in 1 tbsp. olive oil until onion is soft, about 8 minutes.  Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Bring an inch or two of salted water to boil in a dutch oven.  Add spinach and cook, turning a few times, until wilted, about one minute.  Drain.  Run spinach under cold water until completely chilled.  Squeeze as much water from spinach as possible, pressing it firmly between your palms, then chop fine and add to onion in mixing bowl.

Bring milk to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Lower heat, add 1 1/2 tsp. salt, a few grinds of pepper, remaining 3 tbsp. olive oil, and gradually whisk in chickpea flour, stirring constantly with a whisk.  When mixture gets too thick for whisk, switch to a wooden spoon, reduce heat to low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is very thick and pulls away from sides of pan.

Scrape chickpea mixture into bowl with onions and spinach, add lemon juice, and stir vigorously to combine.  Taste for salt and pepper, and adjust seasoning accordingly.  At this point, you can refrigerate the mixture overnight if you like.

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Form falafel into golf ball sized rounds, then gently flatten into patties (you can freeze these before frying — arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze, then transfer frozen patties to a zip-top bag).  Heat 2 tbsp. canola or safflower oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.  Dredge half of patties in flour, patting off excess, and fry a few minutes per side, until nicely browned and heated through.  Repeat with remaining 2 tbsp. oil and second half of patties.  Serve immediately, with tahini sauce and pita.

Tahini Sauce

Adapted from Spice

Yield: Makes 1 cup.

1/2 c. tahini

1/2 c. good quality extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin

1 large or two small garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice (or 1 tbsp. fresh orange juice)

salt and pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl, or blend in a blender for a smoother consistency.  Tahini sauce keeps about a week in the refrigerator.  Bring to room temperature before serving.

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