Southwestern Falafel with Avocado Spread

If you're a vegetarian or have ever dabbled in meatless eating to any degree whatsoever, it's more than likely that you've had your fair share of falafel. (If you aren't in the know, falafel is a Middle Eastern street-food delicacy of mashed chickpeas shaped into balls or patties and fried, usually served in pita with tahini sauce.) Every vegetarian can tell you where and when they ate the best falafel they've ever had. Randomly, Joe and I both had the best-ever falafel in Zurich, Switzerland -- but not together. I've also had great falafel in Arequipa, Peru and of course, right here in D.C.

Falafel isn't always the healthiest vegetarian meal, but it's easy enough to lighten up and it's a great source of protein and fiber. This version is one of my very favorites and puts a Southwestern twist on traditional falafel. Instead of chickpeas, the base is pinto beans. The patties also have Monterey Jack cheese and crushed tortilla chips mixed in for lots of extra flavor. And instead of your typical tahini, it's got a guacamole-ish spread that's oh so creamy and delicious.

Southwestern Falafel with Avocado Spread
From Cooking Light
  • Patties:
    • 15-oz can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
    • 1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
    • 1/4 cup finely crushed tortilla chips (baked chips if you're feeling extra healthy)
    • 2 tablespoons chopped scallions
    • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
    • Big pinch of ground cumin
    • Egg white
    • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • Spread:
    • Half an avocado, mashed
    • 2 tablespoons finely chopped tomato
    • 1 tablespoon finely chopped red onion
    • 2 tablespoons light sour cream
    • 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
    • Salt to taste
  • Remaining ingredients:
    • Two six-inch whole wheat pitas, cut in half crosswise
    • Thin red onion slices
    • Microgreens or sprouts
To prepare patties, place pinto beans in a medium bowl; partially mash with a fork. Add cheese and next 5 ingredients (through egg white); stir until well combined. Shape bean mixture into 8 small round patties.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add patties to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until patties are browned and thoroughly heated.

To prepare spread, combine avocado and next 5 ingredients (through salt), stirring well. Place 2 patties in each pita half. Spread about 2 tablespoons avocado spread over patty in each pita half; top with onions and greens/sprouts.