Meatless Monday: Falafel-crusted potatoes with red sauce
Mashed potato patties are coated with the Middle Eastern staple falafel, baked and served with Italian red sauce.
We frequently talk about what inspires our cooking here. Marion actually got the idea for this hearty meal from some finger food. I’ll turn the kitchen over to her to tell you about it.
Last year, at one food-related event we attended, the standout for me was a low-key, earthy vegan dish: Potatoes, cut into discs and coated with falafel. Alongside the dazzling array on the several buffet tables, this dish was almost the country cousin, quiet and shy in its simplicity. But when I remember that evening, this is the only dish I actually recall. There were a lot of other very wonderful things, sophisticated and clever and fun; I distinctly remember saying “Wow, this is great too!” several times, but this homely little presentation really fastened itself into my head. I don’t remember who made it, but I remember it.
Fast forward to last weekend, when thanks to absent-minded shopping, we suddenly had a surfeit of potatoes in the house. Yukon golds, purples, little red potatoes, waxy russets. We had ‘em all, and now what? That was when I once again recalled this potato dish.
Rather than use sliced potatoes, I chose to take the next step and mash them because I wanted something a little more citified. In this version, the potatoes are simmered, then mashed, and then they are formed into little patties, dredged in falafel mix and baked until they turn lightly gold. In another experimental version, I mixed the falafel flour with water and coated the patties with that – a presentation with a thicker crust. But that did not work out so well in the oven; the outsides just kind of stayed beige – in the end, I pan fried those patties to give them the appropriate golden-brown look. They were good, but the version with the dredged coating that you see here was better, more delicate and tasty and less fatty.
For the tomato sauce, Terry’s photo shows a quickly put together homemade Italian sausage, mushroom and tomato sauce, but a vegetarian tomato sauce would be super and would, of course, make this a vegetarian recipe. And omitting dairy from the mashing process makes this a really good vegan dish. In the interest of time saving, go with a good-quality bottled sauce if you wish. In any case, I recommend aiming for chunkier style sauces.
Falafel-crusted Potatoes with Red Sauce
2 pounds of potatoes, peeled and sliced (Yukon gold, russet or a combination of the two)
3 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt or buttermilk (optional)
1/2 cup falafel mix
a bowl of room-temperature water
red sauce of your choice
2 teaspoons basil, sliced very fine, per person
First, cook the potatoes in salted water to cover until they are just barely tender. Drain them, then return to pan. Mash them with 2 tablespoons olive oil, yogurt or buttermilk, and salt and pepper to taste. The potatoes should be smooth but pretty stiff. Cool them enough to handle (just a few minutes should do).
While potatoes are cooking, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Pour the falafel mix onto a dinner plate. You may need a little more, depending on how wet your potatoes are. Divide the mashed potatoes into eight portions. Form each portion into a little round patty , about 3 inches across. Dip it into water, then dredge in the felafel mix. Press the mix into the surface of the potatoes. Set each patty into a 9×13-inch glass baking dish oiled with olive oil.
Put in oven on center rack; after about 30 minutes, they should be golden brown on top. Very gently turn them (the bottom will be even more golden) and return to the oven for about 15 more minutes, or until more uniformly golden brown.
Separately, heat the tomato sauce of your choice. When the patties are ready, dish the heated tomato sauce into a soup plate – about 1/2 cup per person – then set two patties on the sauce and scatter the fresh basil generously over all. (Terry’s photo shows one patty, I know, but that was just for looks – use two.)
If you have leftovers, they actually hold over pretty well to the next day.
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