When we think Hollywood cocktail parties, the foods that come to mind are of the caviar and oysters variety. Yet one of the dishes that A-list celebrity caterer Kathleen Schaffer is best known for—that she served at a Beverly Hills event where George Clooney was a guest of honor—is essentially an inventive take on the classic street food: falafel.

Schaffer, who with her husband owns a Los Angeles catering business, says her version of falafel balls is one of the company's signature hors d'oeuvres. It's familiar, but what makes it unique is the addition of grated beets. Schaffer created the recipe years ago and still serves it at most of her events, including the recent Clooney fete as well as the Breaking Bad series finale party, The Handmaid's Tale season premiere party, and a Vanity Fair magazine shoot with Angelina Jolie. It's "always a huge hit, with carnivores and vegetarians alike," she says, and—great news for home cooks who like to entertain—easy to make in advance.

Just as with traditional recipes, this one starts with chickpeas; you puree them in a food processor with lemon juice and olive oil. The addition of fresh, grated beets is untraditional, imparting a sweet flavor and a gorgeous hue. The rest of the ingredients are pretty standard: lemon zest, minced onions, garlic, salt, panko, parsley, honey, curry powder and eggs. You refrigerate the mixture for a few hours, to help all of these elements bind together; then use a cookie or ice cream scoop to form balls. At this point, you can chill the uncooked falafel for up to 24 hours. When you're ready to serve the dish, fry the falafel in oil until each ball is golden and crisp.

Schaffer places these delicious bites on a platter with a sauce she makes from equal parts harissa (a North African chili paste) and honey. And while she mainly serves them at cocktail parties, she says the falafel balls are also tasty tucked into a pita with arugula and tahini for lunch. Because if working as a caterer to the stars has taught Schaffer anything, it's flexibility.

Get the recipe: Beet Falafel


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