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Thai red curry paste adds spark to falafel

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Thai red curry paste, a spicy staple of many Thai recipes, lends gentle oomph to this rethinking of falafel (fritters made from chopped chickpeas and herbs). Jars of curry paste can be found in the ethnic food aisle of most large grocers.

These Middle Eastern fritters traditionally are served with a yogurt sauce, which cuts some of the heat. This version uses thick slices of avocado instead. The fat in the avocado plays the same cooling role as the yogurt.

A food processor makes easy work of this recipe, but be careful not to overprocess the chickpeas. Process for too long and you'll end up with hummus (though it probably will be delicious).

And don't be intimidated by the spicy factor. The "heat" of Thai red curry paste is more akin to a vinegary bite than to a hot pepper burn.

Red Curry Falafel

5 ml (1 tsp) Thai red curry paste

30 ml (2 tbsp) chopped fresh cilantro

30 ml (2 tbsp) chopped fresh parsley

5 ml (1 tsp) cumin

5 ml (1 tsp) salt

1 ml ( 1/4 tsp) ground black pepper

4 slices bread (about 125 g/4 oz)

Zest of 1 lemon

1 can (426 ml/15 oz) chickpeas, drained

30 ml (2 tbsp) canola or vegetable oil, divided

3 flatbreads, warmed

Smoked paprika, to garnish

1 avocado, pitted, skinned and cut into slices

1 large tomato, cut into wedges

In a food processor, combine red curry paste, cilantro, parsley, cumin, salt, pepper, bread and lemon zest. Pulse until bread is chopped to mostly fine crumbs. Add chickpeas and pulse until chickpeas are well chopped.

Form mixture into 9 patties, using about 50 ml ( 1/4 cup) of the mixture for each.

In a large skillet over medium, heat 15 ml (1 tbsp) of the canola oil. Fry half of the patties until bottoms are lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Use a spatula to carefully flip falafel and brown on other side, another 1 to 2 minutes.

Transfer falafel to a paper towel-lined plate. Add remaining 15 ml (1 tbsp) of oil to pan and repeat with remaining ingredients. To serve, arrange 3 falafel on each flatbread. Sprinkle with paprika, then top with avocado and tomato wedges.

Makes 3 servings.

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