Lentil and Mini Falafel Salad

BellaFina™ peppers may be used to create a wide variety of recipes, from appetizers to main dishes. BellaFina peppers are often used in salads, vegetables trays with or without dip, cooked in stews and sauces and stuffed with meat, cheese and grains.

Grown on the vine in the field, BellaFina peppers are a great source of vitamins and nutrients. They are low calorie, fat free, sodium free and high in Vitamin C.

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Makes: 4 to 6 salads

Kosher or sea salt
Ground black pepper

Falafel (or use this easier, but less authentic, recipe):
1¼ C dried chickpeas, soaked 12 to 24 hours, drained, and rinsed
½ C chopped white or yellow onion
¼ C packed parsley or cilantro leaves
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
½ t baking soda
2 t ground cumin
½ t ground coriander
¼ t cayenne pepper
½ t ground turmeric
2 T all-purpose flour
2 C vegetable or canola oil

Roasted pepper tahini dressing:
1 roasted red bell pepper, chopped (roasting instructions here, or use ⅓ cup chopped jarred peppers)
⅓ C tahini
⅓ C water
4 t lemon juice (about half a lemon)
Salad assembly (quantities are flexible – use more or less as desired):
1 C cooked lentils from ½ C dry
1 pkg. (3 hearts) romaine lettuce, chopped
6 scallions, thinly sliced
1 English cucumber, seeded and chopped
2-3 Bellafina peppers, seeded and chopped
1 C diced, seeded tomatoes or halved baby tomatoes
½ C chopped toasted walnuts

Make It:

Finely chop chickpeas in a food processor by pulsing and scraping down sides as needed. To the processor, add onion, fresh herbs, garlic, baking soda, dry spices, and 1¼ teaspoon salt. Process until everything comes together into a grainy dough. Empty into a bowl and stir in the flour, then press plastic wrap over the surface of the dough and refrigerate at least 15 minutes (up to several hours).

Turn falafel dough onto a work surface, flatten into a thick disc, and divide into quarters. Form a disc from each quarter (this helps to end up with equal sized falafel) and divide each into sixths. Roll each portion (24 total) into a ball (about 1¼” diameter) and place on a plate or baking tray covered with wax paper. You can refrigerate the balls at this stage, covered with plastic wrap, for an hour or two.

Fill a 10 to 12 inch heavy skillet with ½” of oil (you may have some oil left over). Heat gradually to just over medium heat, or 365 degrees (F). Gently lower 6 to 8 falafel into the pan: they should bubble moderately, and you may need to increase heat slightly to maintain the correct temp. Fry falafel for 2 to 3 minutes, then roll them to the other side with a wooden spoon and fry another 2 to 3 minutes. Remove to paper towels or a wire rack and sprinkle with salt. Fry remaining falafel in batches until done. They’re just fine served at room temperature, but to keep warm, transfer to a low (170 F) oven and cover with foil if they begin to darken.

Combine ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Thin dressing to desired consistency with more water. Keeps for nearly a week in the refrigerator.

Toss lentils, romaine, scallions,Bellafina pepper, and cucumber with plenty of dressing to coat. Top with tomatoes and walnuts, and serve each individual portion with three to six mini falafel.

Although the shallow fry is much safer than deep frying at home, please be careful! A high temp thermometer is highly encouraged to help keep your oil from getting too hot and posing a fire hazard. It will also ensure that you avoid oily falafel which result from frying at too low a temperature.

You could certainly soak more chickpeas than needed, proceeding to cook the extra and freeze or refrigerate them for later. If you do so, you’ll need 3 cups of chickpeas that have soaked 12 to 24 hours for the falafel.

For a little extra red pepper flavor in the dressing, add a tablespoon of the juices that gather when you peel and seed a homemade roasted bell pepper.

I boil my lentils with a bay leaf, a smashed garlic clove, a generous pinch of salt, and a few big chunks of onion or celery, if I have them on hand. They’re extra flavorful that way!

Falafel recipe adapted from Joy of Cooking.

Salad recipe slightly adapted from naturalcomfortkitchen.com