“As an eight-year-old, I wanted McDonald’s!” declared cookbook author and television personality Shahir Massoud on a recent Zoom call. “But, when my parents wanted a real treat, they wanted Egyptian falafel.” His adolescent dreams dashed, Massoud would accompany his parents whenever their craving-fueled outings drove them to the “one or two places” in Toronto that sold the real deal: deep-fried, light-as-air discs encased in a perfectly crisp shell. Break one open and you’ll reveal a vibrant green center.
That green center is important, Massoud says. In his new cookbook, Eat, Habibi, Eat!, he writes that you’ll often see Egyptians break open a falafel before eating to make sure they’re legit. The green color in Egyptian falafel comes from the use of fava beans in combination with a blend of herbs—most falafel is made with chickpeas, which results in a beige center instead.
At an Egyptian falafel stand, those fried discs will usually be packed into aish baladi (a puffy, pocket-style bread made with whole wheat flour and yeast; there’s a recipe for it in Massoud’s book) along with tomatoes, lettuce, fresh herbs, hot sauce, and lots of tahini thinned out with water or lemon juice.
These days, Massoud doesn’t do a lot of frying at home. Instead, he tends to rely on a one-two punch for cooking falafel. Step one: Bake the falafel in the oven to cook them through. Step two: Sear the baked discs in an oil-slicked skillet until the surface of each is dark brown and crispy. He also breaks tradition by using frozen shelled edamame, which is often easier to find in North American grocery stores than prepared fava beans. Occasionally, Massoud shifts even further from tradition—rather than making small discs and stuffing them into baladi bread, he forms the falafel into thick patties and slides them onto toasted brioche burger buns.
Massoud’s two-step cooking method means the falafel burgers are an easy make-ahead project. After baking, they can be cooled and then stored in the fridge for several days—or frozen, individually wrapped, for up to three months. (To finish, thaw the burgers in the fridge overnight and let sit out at room temperature for about 10 minutes before searing.)
Making the patties is easy if you have a food processor (or high-powered blender) that can handle the thick paste. Pile blanched edamame and peas into the machine with a little flour, plenty of herbs (parsley, cilantro, dill, and mint), onion, garlic, a trio of spices (cumin, coriander, caraway seeds), plus chile flakes for mild heat, and a little baking powder for lift. Pulse until the mixture resembles wet sand, then form into patties and bake. The results after searing are creamy on the inside with a crusty, crunchy surface. The combination of herbs and spices gives them lush, verdant flavor, while the edamame and peas lend buttery sweetness.
Massoud says that if you’re lucky enough to find frozen peeled fava beans in the store (or if you want to prepare your own from fresh), you can substitute them in equal amounts for the edamame—but you may need to adjust cooking time. “Frozen edamame has a lot of moisture,” Massoud warns. “Baking the patties helps eliminate some of that moisture so that the burgers don’t become gummy.” If you go the fava bean route, start checking the baking patties early and rely on the visual cues in the recipe (look for firm patties with golden brown tops that hold their shape when pressed gently with a finger).
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You can also play with the size of your falafels if you’d like. For burgers, you’ll want to shape them to match the size of your buns—Massoud has even made them into sliders (again, if you go that small, start checking for doneness early). What’s important, he says, is “the ratio of crispy exterior to creamy interior—don’t go too thin or too thick” when forming your patties.
Massoud tops his falafel burgers with tahini mayo. An inspired condiment, to be sure, it’s earthy and luscious with a silky texture and would be welcome at nearly any burger party. Make it once and you’ll make it for life. Simply mix equal parts homemade garlicky mayonnaise and tahini. If you want to simplify, it works well with store-bought mayonnaise (plus a little grated garlic) too.
He rounds out the toppings with shredded lettuce, juicy tomatoes, and pickles—but not just any pickles. Massoud is partial to neon pink Middle Eastern pickled turnips. Don’t want to make them yourself? Pick up a jar on your next grocery run—or go ahead and buy some now online. Massoud says these burgers (crisp and creamy and tangy and rich as they are) marry his childlike pining for a Quarter Pounder with his parents’ falafel-loving fervor. We’ll just say, they’re quite the summer treat.Shahir Massoud
Originally Appeared on Epicurious