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The Kitchn: Tonight we veg with Roasted Falafel-Spiced Tofu with Whipped Tahini

By Grace Elkus on

TheKitchn.com

My relationship with falafel is complicated. When it's good, it's good -- few things compare to biting into a freshly fried falafel's deep brown crunchy coating, revealing a creamy center of garlicky, herb-packed chickpea goodness. And when said falafel is smothered in tahini sauce or tzatziki and tucked into a warm pita packed with crunchy veg? Nothing is better.

But making that kind of falafel at home is a different story -- at least for me. That's because I don't like deep-frying. I think of deep-fried foods as a treat. On the rare occasions I eat them, I leave making it to the experts. But I recently stumbled across a trick that lets me enjoy all the flavors of falafel in a healthier way, and with much less fuss -- I think you'll want in on it.

Falafel spice is my new favorite flavor-booster -- and it's easy to make at home

After continuing to spot the descriptor "falafel-spiced" on restaurant menus and recipe titles (falafel-spiced tomatoes, falafel-spiced chickpeas), I had to know: Were these recipes using a homemade spice blend or something pre-mixed? As it turns out, my local Middle Eastern market (Brooklyn-based spice importer Sahadi's) sells Falafel Seasoning. You can buy it directly from them, but it's available on Amazon, too). It's a blend of cumin, coriander, black pepper, nutmeg, paprika, red pepper, and cloves. Spice Bazaar also sells one -- theirs is a combo of coriander, cumin, white pepper, salt, garlic, and cayenne.

I quickly began to brainstorm all the potential uses for this new-to-me spice blend (which is officially the best spice-aisle discovery since Everything Bagel Spice). I could use it to season raw or roasted vegetables, or sprinkle onto dips. I could make falafel-spiced croutons, or popcorn, or pita chips. But I decided the simplest and most straightforward thing would be to make falafel-spiced roasted tofu and then give it the full falafel treatment, complete with tahini and fresh herbs and warm pita bread.

 

Unlike baked falafel, which I find usually turns out dry, baked tofu emerges from the oven with super-crisp edges and a soft, chewy interior, making it a much better candidate for my falafel cravings.

So that you don't have to wait to get your hands on falafel seasoning (or have something shipped) I created a homemade blend that works very well. It's a mix of garlic powder, cumin, coriander, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. If you want, you can triple or quadruple the mixture and keep it in bulk, then sprinkle it onto anything that needs a boost of flavor.

How to serve your crispy falafel-spiced tofu

I crave the nutty flavor of tahini when I eat falafel, but instead of a drizzly sauce, I decided on a dippable, swoosh-able base for the tofu and pita. Enter: whipped tahini, the product of whipping tahini in a food processor to aerate it. Here, I've added yogurt for extra creaminess (and to mellow the bitterness of the tahini), a squeeze of lemon juice for tang, and a bit of harissa for some kick.

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