lola rugula red lentil chili with black beans

Homemade Falafel

The first time I had falafel was over 20 years ago at Mamoun’s in New Haven, CT. Incredibly, I didn’t even really know what it was that first time I tried it, but friends insisted I would love it and I did.

Fried balls of ground chickpeas may not sound like much but when combined with garlic, onion, spices, and fresh herbs, they become tasty little fritters that you can serve as an appetizer or pile into a pita for a vegetarian sandwich.

I don’t eat very many fried foods but it’s the best way to go with falafel. I’ve tried baking them but they tend to dry out more in the oven and don’t get that beautiful mix of a crispy outside and tender inside.

Also, don’t make these with canned chickpeas – they have to be dried chickpeas to achieve the right texture. I soak mine for a full 24 hours, plus I refrigerate my uncooked falafel for a few hours so it does take a bit of planning ahead to make these.

lola rugula falafel and tahini sauce

Falafel RecipeI

This recipe makes about 65 falafel with a full pound of chickpeas. I can easily pile 10 into one sandwich, if that helps put the amount in persepective.

(Tahini sauce recipe follows, below)

  • 1 lb dried chickpeas
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seed
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seed
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 large onion, cut into thirds
  • 3 scallions, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • Canola, corn or other vegetable oil for frying
  1. Place chickpeas in a large bowl or pan and fill with cold water. Make sure they’ve covered by at least 4-5 inches of water.
  2. Let sit for 24 hours.
  3. Drain, rinse and drain again well in a colander.
  4. Place cumin seed and coriander seed in a small pan and toast over medium heat for about 5 minutes, tossing the seeds often.
  5. Put toasted seeds in food processor
  6. Add garlic, onion, scallions to the food processor
  7. Pulse until everything is finely chopped
  8. Add 1/2 of the chickpeas & blend well, stopping to scrape the sides and the bottom a few times. You want a nice fine meal but don’t want to puree it until everything’s liquified.
  9. Scrape everything out into a large bowl
  10. Add remaining whole chickpeas to food processor
  11. Add cilantro, parsley, salt, red pepper flakes, lemon zest and lemon juice to food processor
  12. Blend well, scraping sides and bottom a few times
  13. Transfer to the same large bowl with the other 1/2 of chickpea mixture
  14. Stir everything to combine it all very well
  15. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours
  16. Gently form golf ball size balls – try not to pack them too tightly, just tight enough to hold together well. Place finished balls on a large baking sheet or serving plate (I typically use 2 baking sheets) If you just cannot get the balls to hold together, add 2-3 tablespoons of flour to the mixture and mix well. I’ve never had to add flour to mine but a number of things could result in their lack of stickiness, such as old beans or not grinding your mixture enough.
  17. Fill a large skillet (my big cast iron works great for this) with about 2 inches of oil and heat over medium heat
  18. Pinch off a bit of a ball and put it in the oil to test the heat
  19. When the bit of batter sizzles, test one or two balls in the center of the pan
  20. When oil is ready, fry the balls for about 5-6 minutes in all,  turning about 3 minutes in, until nicely browned all the way around. I can typically fit about 10-12 into my large skillet and still be able to move them around easily.
  21. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, carefully remove cooked falafel and place on paper towels to drain.
  22. Repeat with remaining falafel


  1. Don’t crowd the pan with too many at once
  2. Don’t try to turn them until they’ve been in the oil for a couple of minutes – this will assure that they hold together

Here’s a shot of some of my falafel pre-frying:

lola rugula how to make falafel

You can serve falafel a number of ways, such as an appetizer with a tahini sauce or hummus served alongside it. My favorite way (and the first way I ever had it) is piled into a pita with fresh veggies and tahini sauce.

Here’s how to make tahini sauce:

Tahini Sauce Recipe

  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 3/4 cup tahini – make sure it’s been stirred very, very well before using
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • Juice of 1 large lemon; about 2 tablespoons
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  1. In a food processor, blend garlic until finely minced
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and process until well blended, about 2-3 minutes
  3. If the sauce is still a little thick, add 1 tablespoon of water and blend well again
  4. Transfer to a bowl and set aside

When I make falafel sandwiches, I may not make them in the traditional way but this is the way I love them; piled with falafel, onion, tomato, thin cucumber slices and tahini sauce.  I cut my falafel in half before adding them because they are easier to eat this way, plus I can stuff more of them in. 🙂 I can typically fit 8-10 falafel into one pita half.

lola rugula falafel sandwich

Making falafel at the holidays serves double duty since one batch makes so many. I can serve half of them as an appetizer at holiday gatherings, and then make sandwiches for me and my husband when it’s just the two of us. Works out perfectly!

These are also really good with tzatziki sauce and, when making sandwiches, don’t be shy with your topping. Add what you love and make it your own.

I hope you’re all enjoying your holidays!

lola rugula red lentil chili with black beans

homemade grape juice and jelly

homemade grape jelly recipe lola rugula

If you follow me on Facebook, you know that I was in jelly making mode a couple of weeks ago. Anyone who says that homemade grape jam or jelly is easy to make either A) has never actually had to harvest those grapes and then pick through all of them for just the beautiful, ripe ones or B) has actually done A, still thinks it’s easy and is just certifiably insane. If, however, someone has handed you or you have just purchased a bunch of beautiful, ripe concord grapes, this is pretty easy.

That being said, whether you have the fortitude (read: crazy) to start from harvest as I do, or have recently become the recipient of a ton of concord grapes, here’s how to make your own homemade grape juice and grape jelly. I’d  like to note: this is how to make grape juice and/or jelly without skinning the damned grapes beforehand.


Whoever is skinning all those grapes has either  A) has never actually had to harvest those grapes and then pick through all of them for just the beautiful, ripe ones or B) has done so and is certifiably insane, with a lot of free time on their hands at the asylum.

We only have 4 grape vines and I thank God for this. It took me over an hour to just to harvest all the grapes, thrashing through the grape vines and fighting off mosquitoes and such, in the early morning hours. Then it took me at least another hour to pick through my 6 bags of grapes to find only the healthiest and ripest ones. There’s over 2 hours of my life right there that I’ll never get back. My husband thinks I’m nuts. I just happen to really love homemade grape jelly. You decide. When all was picked and picked-through, I ended up with just over 20 pounds of grapes. Okay, maybe I’m a little nuts.

Let’s start with how to make homemade grape juice:

  • Fill a large stock pot about 1/2 way full with clean concord grapes. Using a potato masher, mash up the grapes a bit, to release their juice. Add some more grapes, if need be, and mash again. Don’t fill your pot more than 3/4 full, as it will just be cumbersome once you get to the “I have to drain these” point. Cover pan.
  • Turn on burner to medium and bring grapes to a boil
  • Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes, mashing the grapes around every 10 minutes or so. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan when mashing, to make sure there aren’t grapes sticking to the bottom of the pan.

You’ll start with a pretty clear juice in the pan but, as the grapes begin to simmer, pop and separate, you’ll see the juice start to darken and your kitchen will begin to smell like grape juice.

You are doing awesome! Reward yourself with a glass of red wine which is, poetically, also made from grapes.

Once 30 minutes is up, let the grapes cool for a bit and then strain the juice through a colander into another large pan or bowl. Discard grapes (I put ours in our compost pile). You’re now left with a murky, purple juice.

To achieve a beautiful, clear juice, I strain mine again through a fine-mesh colander. Then, using a cheesecloth-lined colander set atop a large pan, I strain it again overnight in the refrigerator. This takes a while, so just plan on letting it sit overnight. Pushing the juice through the cheesecloth won’t give you a clear juice, so just be patient and let it sit.

The next day, discard the sediment-filled cheesecloth and enjoy looking at your beautiful, homemade grape juice.

Congratulate yourself with a glass of wine.

If you’d like to make homemade grape jelly without pectin from your beautiful, homemade grape juice, here’s the recipe:

homemade grape jelly without pectin recipe lola rugula

homemade grape jelly without pectin recipe

*Before beginning, place a small freezer-safe plate in the freezer. You’ll use this plate to test whether your jelly will set up or not.

Have canner with water filled, hot and ready to go, with jars, lids and bands sterilized.

Makes 6 half-pint jars

  • 6 cups grape juice
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 4 cups sugar

Add grape juice and lemon juice to stock pot and heat to a simmer over medium heat. Add sugar, stirring well until completely dissolved, about 5 minutes.

Bring mixture to a rolling boil,, reduce back to a simmer and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring ever few minutes.

Bring back to a roiling boil, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Shut off heat, remove plate from freezer and place a good tablespoon or two of jelly on the plate. Place back in freezer for about 2 minutes.

Remove plate and test jelly. The jelly should have formed a bit of film on top. If you tip the plate sideways, the jelly should move slowly and appear gel-like, as opposed to runny. If jelly is still runny, wipe the plate and return it to the freezer. Bring jelly mixture back to a rolling boil, stirring constantly for another minute or two and repeat the freezer test until jelly sets.

Remove pan from heat and, using a ladle and jar filler, fill sterilized jelly jars to 1/4 inch below rim. Place lids and bands in place and process in canner for 10 minutes.

Remove from canner and let sit until all lids have sealed and jelly has cooled. Allow 12-24 hours for jelly to completely set. If, for some reason, jelly has not set, you can start over from the boiling jelly point or you can just say never mind and enjoy your grape juice.

Hopefully though, you’ve just made grape jelly! Have a glass of wine to celebrate.

homemade grape jelly recipe lola rugulaHopefully I didn’t miss any steps but feel free to let me know if I did. Sometimes, what seems clear to me is as clear as mud to someone else.

Next year, I’m finally going to try my hand at making homemade rhubarb preserves with the rhubarb plants my parents gave me.