Falafel Burgers with Creamy Yogurt Sauce
Now 20 years into motherhood, I can reflect back and see what an amazing ride it’s been…and a hard one, too. As a new mom, I was so exhausted I would fantasize about building a padded room full of child-safe toys so I could sleep on the floor while the kids played. Having three girls under the age of six was sometimes so demanding, I wanted to lock myself in that padded room. Alone.
One thing that wasn’t hard for me, though, was the fertility part of the equation. Pregnancy and childbirth weren’t exactly a breeze, but getting myself in the family way was. In the years since then I’ve gained enormous empathy for couples who struggle with infertility. Like most of us, I’ve heard too many stories to count of miscarriages, failed IVFs, and unsuccessful attempts at adoption. Among the most heartbreaking and hopeful, though, was the story food blogger Sonja Overhiser shared over dinner when we met last spring.
A Bumpy Ride
Sonja is the voice behind the blog A Couple Cooks, a job she shares with her husband in what appears to be a pretty seamless operation. She’s also a mom, a role that came to her only after a journey far bumpier than is fair for any one person. It started with a cancer diagnosis requiring medication that is anything but pregnancy-friendly. Following a miscarriage, she and her husband decided to adopt, only to learn not once or twice, but three times, that the baby they had planned for would no longer be theirs.
Thankfully, the story has a happy ending. Her cancer is in remission and she and her husband ultimately adopted a darling baby boy, whose delightful face makes regular appearances on their Instagram page.
About those Falafel Burgers
So you might be wondering what any of this has to do with Falafel Burgers. Here’s what: the recipe is Sonja and her husband’s. It’s featured in their vegetarian cookbook Pretty Simple Cooking, which I bought last spring when they made an appearance at my local bookstore. The truth is, with more cookbooks than I have room for already, I had no business adding to my collection. But her story tugged at my heart strings and I wanted to lend my support, even in this one tiny way.
If you feel intimidated by the idea of making your own falafel, don’t. It sounds exotic, yes, but is nothing more than pulsing together chick peas, a few vegetables, and spices in a food processor and forming it into patties. After cooking the burgers, you tuck them into buns topped with a generous spoonful of dill-spiked yogurt sauce. They’re delicious, a vast improvement over the “just add water” mixes and frozen falafel you find in the supermarket.
Best of all, these burgers will perfume your kitchen with warming spices, fill your belly, and make you forget, even for a minute, just how hard mothering can be.
Sidenote: This is the third installation in the Cook from Books series, where I work my way through my newest cookbooks and share favorite recipes with all of you. Check out the other recipes I’ve featured so far: Fancy Smashed Pea Toast, Halibut in Parchment with Corn and Mushrooms and Easy Homemade Hot Fudge Sauce. Stay tuned for more…coming soon.
Falafel Burgers with Yogurt Dill Sauce
For the Falafel:
- Two 15-ounce cans chickpeas (3 cups cooked)
- ¼ cup sesame seeds
- 6 medium garlic cloves (reduce it to 2 to 3 cloves if you're sensitive to garlic)
- 1 medium red onion
- 2 large carrots
- 1 cup packed cilantro leaves and tender stems
- ¾ cup whole wheat flour (gluten-free flour can be substituted)
- 4 teaspoons cumin
- 4 teaspoons coriander
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
For the Dill Yogurt Sauce:
- 2 small garlic cloves (optional)
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
- ¼ cup lemon juice (1 large lemon)
- 2 cups plain Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cucumber
- 1 large tomato
- 8 English muffins, pita breads, or large lettuce leaves
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Make the burgers: Drain and rinse the chickpeas. Blot them with a paper towel or clean dish towel to remove any extra moisture, then place them in the bowl of a large food processor. Add the sesame seeds and process for a minute or so until a paste-like consistency is formed (if necessary, stop and scrape the sides of the bowl, and process again). Scrape the mixture into a large bowl.
Peel the garlic, red onion, and carrots. Chop the onion and carrot in rough chunks. Add the garlic, carrot and onion to the food processor and pulse several times until finely chopped. Add the cilantro to the processor and pulse a few more times until chopped.
Scrape the vegetables into the bowl with the chickpeas. Stir in the flour, cumin, coriander, cayenne, kosher salt, and black pepper. Mix with a spoon or with your hands until fully combined, then form 8 round patties and place them on a baking sheet.
In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add 4 of the burgers and fry them for 1 to 2 minutes per side, until golden brown. Remove the cooked burgers and place them back on the baking sheet. Wipe out the pan, add an additional drizzle of oil, and fry the remaining 4 burgers, keeping in mind that the pan will be hotter and the cooking time slightly quicker for the second batch.
Once all burgers are browned, place them in the oven on the baking sheet and bake 15 minutes on one side, then flip and bake another 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool for at least 10 minutes.
Make the sauce: Peel and finely mince the garlic. Chop the dill. Juice the lemon. In a small bowl, stir together the garlic, dill, lemon juice, Greek yogurt, olive oil, kosher salt, and 2 tablespoons water. Store leftovers in a sealed container in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 weeks.
Assemble the burgers on lightly toasted english muffins or pita breads with a generous spoonful of yogurt sauce and desired fixings.
Adapted and used with permission from Pretty Simple Cooking: 100 Delicious Vegetarian Recipes to Make You Fall in Love with Real Food (Hachette, 2018) by Sonja Overhiser and Alex Overhiser.