My Oh My, Falafel Pie: Vegan Gluten-free Cauliflower and Broccoli Crusted Falafel and Veggie Pie with Zucchini Almond Hummus

I was a college student in New York City in the 90’s. Things were cheaper than they are now, but as a college student there was not much one could afford. During those years, eating out meant I subsisted on carbs – bagels and pizza because they were two dollar meals that filled me up. One day when visiting a friend working at a hole in the wall coffee shop called Java the Hut in the West Village, she suggested we grab a bite to eat. She brought me to Mamoun’s, a Middle Eastern shop where you could get a falafel “sandwich” for just $2.50. It was a large pita stuffed with 4 freshly made mouth watering falafels, hummus, another cooling mint yogurt sauce, cucumber, tomato and pickled peppers. I was in heaven for the rest of my college days Mamoun’s was a staple of my life. The other day I was visiting a vegan cafe here in Los Angeles and ordered what they called a “falafel quiche” which was tasty but essentially a typical white flour quiche crust filled with a tasty falafel – but it was very heavy and lacked a healthy dose of veggies. I decided to create my own vegan gluten-free falafel pie made with oat flour broccoli and cauliflower crust, loaded with veggies, bound with chia seed and topped with hummus and a fresh salad. But since falafel is made with chickpea, rather than double up on chickpea in hummus, I made my legume free zucchini almond hummus. Tasty, filling and full of veggies.

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Falafels have become a standard food in many places and even popular enough for Trader Joe’s to have a make-at-home falafel mix. Over the years I have changed how I have eaten falafel – baking them instead of frying, eating as part of a salad or wrapped in a collard leaf instead of a pita and so many other ways.  So a baked falafel pie seemed right up my alley.

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I made this pie two ways – the first was the real deal, starting with chickpeas, parsley, cilantro, onion, spices and oat flour to make the falafel. The second version is my I’m-a-working-mom-and-don’t-have-time-to-get-more-groceries using the boxed TJ’s falafel mix. Both turned out great and I provide recipes for both.

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Rather than use a traditional pie crust with more flour and carbs, I decided to make a cauliflower crust – but decided to add some broccoli too. Because, well I got tired of only working with cauliflower and they are in the same family…so why not? You can use both the broccoli flowers and the stem. The steam is the sweetest part of the broccoli. Just be sure to trim the stem but cutting off the hard outer edge all around to get the soft sweet inside of the stem.

Start by preparing the “egg” – I used chia seed and an egg replacer. It has nutritional value, lacks flavor and forms a perfect gelatinous binder. Start by mixing the chia see with hot water and setting aside for sometime. You can also make this a day ahead and store in the fridge overnight. It should be jelly like when you use it.

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Then rice the cauliflower and broccoli using a food processor or grater.

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Lightly steam in the microwave or on the stove top.

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Drain any liquid at the bottom of the bowl or pot. Once cool enough to touch, place it in a clean dish towel or cheesecloth over a bowl, and squeeze out as much moisture as possible. A lot of water should come out. Save the liquid for the falafel because it contains nutrients and why let those go to waste?

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Add the chia to the cauliflower and broccoli and mix well. Whisk the oat flour with the oregano, garlic, and salt and mix into the cauliflower/broccoli/chia and mix together, bringing the dough into a ball. I use oat flour because it lacks gluten for people who prefer gluten-free and it soaks up liquid better than other gluten-free flours.

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Press the ball down into an oiled pie pan or baking sheet and bake for 10 min at 450 degrees F to set the crust. Set aside

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To make the falafel – let’s start with the boxed version. I was impressed by the simple list of ingredients. Baking powder was the only non-natural ingredient and I use that in the fresh version as well.

The mix is simply 3/4 cups of mix to one cup of water. This is when I use the broccoli/cauliflower water. Mix well in a bowl, cover with a clean dishtowel and let sit for 30 min to an hour. Then it is ready to use. That is it!

For the fresh version, I used a can of chickpeas, well rinsed. Place it in a food processor with onion, parsley, cilantro, salt, red pepper flakes, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and cumin and blend – but do not process so much that it looks like hummus. It should be grainy.  In a separate bowl whisk together baking powder and oat flour. Add in puree. Incorporate and form into a ball. If it is too dry, add some of the broccoli/cauliflower water, if it is too wet, add in flour. It should be the consistency of a loose dough. That’s it!

Both are simple. I just keep the box in the pantry because it is nice to have for quick meals, especially when returning from a work trip, vacation or quick get away and not having anything in the fridge.

The next thing is to prepare the vegetable – I quickly shred, grate or dice up whatever I have around – cabbage, carrot, kale, chard, spinach, brussel sprout. In a pan with one tablespoon coconut oil over medium heat, simply sautee the veg with a bit of salt for a few min until tender but still firm.

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Add it to the falafel mix.

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Add in the chia egg and mix well.

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Pat the mixture down on the crust and brush the top with olive oil.

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Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-30 min until slightly dry and cooked through. Let cool. Slice and serve.

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The crust holds the falafel together.

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Since there is so much chickpea in the pie already, rather than serving with a chickpea hummus, I made my zucchini almond hummus to add some variety in nutrients and protein/fat sources to the dish. The hummus is easy as you add soaked nuts, raw zucchini, tahini, lemon juice, salt, cumin and garlic to the food processor and blend until smooth. It is a tasty green hummus.

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I also topped it with a simple tomato, cucumber, olive, baby spinach salad for some freshness – simply tossed with lemon juice, oil and salt.

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Top the pie piece.

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And dig in.

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Flavorful with cumin and a hint of chili. Freshness from the salad. Moisture from the hummus. The falafel is lightened with the veg. I’ll have another bite.

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This is the perfect food to travel with for my work trip. My own home made lunch to go.

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And dinner for tonight.

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Happy Eating!

Vegan and Gluten-free Falafel and Vegetable Pie with a Cauliflower Broccoli Crust

Crust

  • 2 Tbs chia seed
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 3 cup cauliflower, riced
  • 3 cup broccoli, riced
  • 2/3 cup oat flour
  • 1 Tbs dried oregano
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp salt

Mix together chia and water, then set aside for one hour or in the fridge overnight.

Preheat oven to 450 F. Oil a baking dish.

Rice the cauliflower and broccoli using a food processor or grater and lightly steam in the microwave or on the stove top. Once cool enough to touch, place it in a clean dish towel or cheesecloth over a bowl, and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Save the liquid for the falafel.

Add in the chia and mix well to incorporate.

Whisk the oat flour with the oregano, garlic, and salt. Add to the cauliflower and mix together, bringing the dough into a ball.

Place into oiled baking dish and press down to form the crust.

Bake for 10 minutes, remove from oven and add falafel mixture.

Falafel filling (Two ways)

Trader Joe’s Box Mix

  • TJ’s falafel mix, made according to package instructions using the cauliflower/broccoli water
  • 2 Tbs chia
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 Tbs coconut oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cup shredded vegetable (cabbage, zucchini, carrot, kale, chard, etc)
  • Olive oil for brushing

Mix together chia and water, then set aside for one hour or in the fridge overnight.

Set oven to 350 degrees F.

In a skillet over medium heat, add 1 Tbs coconut oil. Add in vegetable and salt and sautee for about 5 min, until tender yet still firm. Remove from heat and place into the bowl. Add in falafel mixture and mix well. Add in chia seed mixture and mix until completely incorporated.

Fill cauliflower broccoli pie crust with falafel mixture. Brush the top with olive oil. Cook for 20-30 min until slightly dry on top and falafel mixture feels firm and set. Be careful not to overcook or it will dry out. Let cool slightly, but serve warm. Top with hummus and salad.

Home made falafel

  • 2 Tbs chia
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 4 tablespoons chickpea or oat flour + extra if needed
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 1 Tbs coconut oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cup shredded vegetable (cabbage, zucchini, carrot, kale, chard, etc)
  • Olive oil for brushing

Mix together chia and water, then set aside for one hour or in the fridge overnight.

Set oven to 350 degrees F.

Place chickpeas, onion, parsley, cilantro, salt, red pepper flakes, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and cumin in a food processor and process until blended but not pureed.

Whisk together oat flour and baking soda. Add in chickpea mixture and mix thoroughly forming a dough like consistency. Add water (broccoli cauliflower water from crust) if too dry and flour if too wet. Only add in tsp increments.

In a skillet over medium heat, add 1 Tbs coconut oil. Add in vegetable and salt and sautee for about 5 min, until tender yet still firm. Remove from heat and place into the bowl. Add in falafel mixture and mix well. Add in chia seed mixture and mix until completely incorporated.

Fill cauliflower broccoli pie crust with falafel mixture. Brush the top with olive oil. Cook for 20-30 min until slightly dry on top and falafel mixture feels firm and set. Be careful not to overcook or it will dry out. Let cool slightly, but serve warm. Top with hummus and salad.

 

Legume-free Zucchini Almond Hummus

  • 1 cup almonds, soaked overnight (with or without skin)
  • 1/2 cup cashews, soaked overnight
  • 2 medium zucchini, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup raw tahini
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup + 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3-5 cloves garlic, peeled (depends on your liking of garlic)
  • 1 Tbs cumin
  • 2 Tsp salt

Drain almonds and cashews and place into a food processor with 1/2 cup olive oil. Blend, pushing down the sides as needed, until smooth (about 5-10 minutes depending on the food processor). Set aside.  Place zucchini, tahini, lemon juice, remaining olive oil, garlic, salt and cumin into the food processor and blend until smooth. Add back in pureed nuts and blend adding a small amount of water (1 tsp at a time) or olive oil until smooth and at desired consistency. Store covered in fridge up to one week.

Olive, tomato, cucumber salad

  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1 small cucumber, chopped with or without peel
  • 1 cup olives, bit removed and chopped
  • 1 cup baby spinach
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbs lemon juice
  • 2 Tbs olive oil

Mix olive oil, lemon juice and salt in a bowl. Add in vegetables and toss together.

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