I adore felafel. I can't remember the first time I tasted it, but I do remember clearly the felafel cart at 116th Street and Broadway in New York that adorned my gray year of journalism school. Before I went to journalism school, the journalists of my acquaintance told me that was where you learned to go to cocktail parties. After I went, I decided it was more like boot camp. When friends asked me how I liked it I told them we weren't supposed to like it.
But the felafel cart was definitely a bright spot, as was Chock Full O'Nuts across the street. I went back a few years ago and Chock Full O'Nuts had become a pasta place. The whole neighborhood had gone to hell.
The closest thing that DC has to the felafel cart of 116th Street and Broadway is the Amsterdam Felafel Shop on 18th Street in Adams Morgan. Unfortunately, I don't make it to 18th Street very much, but Amsterdam is probably better than the cart, because it has way more toppings and because there are places to sit down. Also, they supposedly take Euros, but the one time we tried to pay in Euros, the young man behind the register had no idea what to do with them.
Amsterdam felafels are big, about the size of a ping pong ball, uniform because they make them with some sort of a small ice cream scoop, and crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. They are also flavorful because they use spices.
Hewitt's felafels are not as flavorful as they could be. I made them in the blender, which meant that since the raw materials are dry, I got an intractable mass that did not blend too well. The paprika that it said to add stuck on the side of the blender. If I was to make this again, I would put in more garlic, although two cloves was daringly ambitious for the 60s, and maybe cumin or coriander. Also, I would make it in the food processor, not the blender.
Please don't think you can use canned chick peas. I didn't even try that one. I got dried chick peas at Whole Foods. The new Whole Foods in Friendship Heights, not to be confused with the new new Whole Foods on Rockville Pike, (they're springing up like weeds all over the city,) is better laid out than the Whole Foods in Tenleytown, so it's easier to find stuff, and one doesn't have to risk dealing with the United Nations of employees who don't recognize the word chick peas. Also, this is a day before recipe, so you have to soak the chick peas overnight.
(If you are an actual new reader, please note that I am an English as a second language teacher, and I love immigrants. It just frustrates me that these poor people are thrown into a job with no training in the language that most of the customers speak.)
If you live somewhere where felafel is an unknown, I'll go a step better than Hewitt and tell you how you eat these things. You put three or four of them into a pita pocket with tomatoes and lettuce and chopped cucumber, and drizzle the whole thing with tahini sauce, available at Safeway or Giant.
1/2 pound dried chick peas
2 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon paprika
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon dry bread crumbs
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
oil for deep frying
1. Soak the chick-peas overnight in water to cover.
2. Nest day, drain, rinse and grind the chickpeas. Grind again with the garlic, paprika, salt, pepper, baking soda and bread crumbs.
3 Mix in one-quarter cup water and the parsley and form into tiny balls.
4. Fry the balls in oil or fat heated to 360 degrees. Do not burn. Drain and serve hot. (Since you can't fry them all at once unless you work at a McDonald's and can sneak in after hours to use the fry basket, keep them warm in the oven as you fry them in batches.)
Makes six servings.