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Mucho Gusto

Valeria’s Baked Beet Falafels

This is the thirty-fifth installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!

With their vibrant, eccentric color and the stereotypical belief that they taste like dirt,  beets tend to scare people away. This bright red root vegetable grows below the soil just like carrots and radishes. Thus, the common misconception is that the soil perforates into the beetroot, giving the vegetable its characteristic earthy taste and smell. 

Beets should not be judged by their cover. Some people, like me, love this rich, natural flavor. They have a distinct sweet and bitter tang and along with a vivacious color that gives an extra pop to any dish. Beets are actually one of my favorite vegetables! I vividly remember being 5 years old, eating roasted beets for lunch. I absolutely loved the vegetable that left my tongue and lips stained pink. 

Beets are believed to have originated along the coasts of the Mediterranean and are presently used in various food recipes, as a dye or colorant, and even in medicine. They have a lot of health benefits and an impressive nutritional value. They are low in calories and are a natural antioxidant containing a bit of each of the vitamins and minerals that a human needs. 

In this recipe I chose to ignore beets’ controversial flavor and experiment with one of my favorite Middle Eastern dishes, Falafel, to create a healthy snack. Falafels are known as a very versatile street food because there are multiple ways to eat it and can be easily combined with other flavors. They are usually deep fried balls or patties made primarily with chickpeas but I decided to give them a healthy twist by baking them and mixing beets into the batter.

Ingredients:

  • 2 raw beets, peeled and diced
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 2 tbsp of cilantro leaves
  • 1 can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • ½ cup of rice flour (you can make this yourself by grinding up ½ cup of uncooked rice in the blender)
  • 1 tbsp of lemon juice
  • ½ tsp of salt
  • ⅛ tsp of ground cumin

Instructions:

Boil the raw beets for 10 minutes or until a fork goes through them easily. Drain the beets and set them aside to cool. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and lightly grease two 12 hole muffin pans and set aside. 

Place the diced red onions, minced garlic, and cilantro leaves in a blender or food processor and blend at a low speed for 10 seconds. Add the cooked beets, chickpeas, rice flour, lemon juice, salt and cumin to the blender and blend until everything is chunky but still well mixed. The small chunks will add extra crunchiness to the falafel. 

Using your hands, divide the batter into golf ball sized balls and place each ball into the individual holes of the muffin pans. Beware– your hands will become stained in pink from handling the batter! Gently press down the small balls to form patties.

Bake the patties for 12-15 minutes or until the falafel starts to crack. Cool the falafels for 5 minutes before removing them from the muffin pan. It is imperative that you do not remove the falafels before they have cooled so that the falafels do not break or crack.

This recipe pairs well with a cucumber and yogurt dip, which gives the falafel patties creaminess and freshness in contrast to the dense beet falafels. 

This recipe usually makes 24 beet falafel patties.

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