The Fifth Sunday in Lent

Various qualities identify Lenten foods. Some have obvious symbolic meaning, like prayer-shaped pretzels and hot buns with crosses imprinted on them. Others illustrate a Lenten lesson, like the onion of Dostoevsky's story of the miserly woman who is a warning to those who do not repent and the sweet simnel cake that reminds us of the joys to come in the new Jerusalem. Many other foods are appropriate to Lent because of their simplicity and because their ingredients conform to the traditional rules of Lenten abstinence. As usual, we remind ourselves that Sundays, even the Sundays in Lent, are never fast days. Nevertheless, Lenten simplicity still spills over onto these Sundays and there is nothing wrong with preparing and eating food today that is also appropriate for the days of abstinence in Lent. Today's Lenten food is falafel. In fact, it is found throughout the year at the stands of street vendors in the Middle East. We first tasted it on the streets of Jerusalem where it is "fast food" in the secular sense, as well. In addition to being a tasty vegetarian dish, its flavor is redolent of the land in which Jesus lived.

Falafel consists of seasoned balls of mashed chick peas or fava beans which have been fried in oil. They may be served wrapped with lettuce, tomatoes, and tahini in pita bread, or as an appetizer served on a salad and garnished with tahini and/or hummus. Recipes for falafel vary in three ways. First, while chick peas are most often called for, the Lebanese use fava beans and if necessary almost any kind of beans could be substituted. Secondly, some recipes call for cooking the beans before mixing them with the other ingredients while other recipes direct that the beans are mashed without cooking. Finally, there are variations in the amount of garlic and the use of other spices. Cumin is standard but coriander, pepper, cilantro, and other spices and herbs may also be used. In other words: experiment--or if you know someone who makes falafel the way you like it, get the recipe.



1- 16 oz can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), washed and drained
1/4 cup loosely chopped parsley
2-4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika or red pepper flakes
1 large onion chopped fine
2 tablespoons flour
salt/ pepper to taste
oil for frying

Begin heating 1-2 inches of oil on high heat in a deep pan.
Place remaining ingredients into a food processor or blender. Process to a thick paste.
Form golf ball sized balls of batter and flatten slightly.
Add falafel balls to oil when hot and fry 5-7 minutes, until golden on all sides.
Serve hot.


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