Friday, January 19, 2018

I was wrong in thinking a bit of bad news would spoil my appetite for dolma. Really, nothing could!

I’ve been slacking in my consumption of Armenian coffee lately, so I’m moving slowly. That’s the best excuse I have for not writing sooner about Azerbaijan’s claim to victory over Armenia in the quest for international dolma supremacy.

Stuffed grape leaves, also known as sarma, yalanchi, yaprakh ...
Our friend Lucine Kasbarian passed along news a few weeks back that UNESCO, the UN’s cultural arm, had included Azerbaijani dolma on its cultural heritage list. I replied at the time that it's a good thing I didn’t read her email before dinner or I’d have lost my appetite.

I’m ready to argue with anyone who thinks dolma isn’t Armenian, although I’ve more often argued with Armenians who have different ideas about dolma.
The Armenian Kitchen's Eggplant dolma
When Mom said she was cooking dolma for dinner, I expected stuffed baby eggplants. Sometimes she’d stuff peppers, too, or zucchini or even cucumbers. Armenians will stuff just about any vegetable fat enough to be hollowed out and small enough to be tucked in a pot and covered in broth.

It’s all good, and its even better the next day.

The dolma Armenia and Azerbaijan have been tussling over in recent years  is the stuffed grape leaf variety, which no one I knew called dolma. It was sarma or yalanchi or yaprakh or . . . well, the list just seems to go on.  

Don’t bother to tell me that this name is Turkish or that one’s Arabic, or that the Greeks call their version dolmades while the Persians call theirs dolmeh. As I said, it’s all good.  

So I’m not going to get into a stew about Azerbaijan’s boast but I do think the outcome raises an important point for Armenians to consider before we move on to the next dispute over culinary origins—and make no mistake: there will surely be a next dispute.

Simply put, international recognition can be both sweet and sour.

After all, Armenians celebrated this same group’s recognition of lavash as an Armenian heritage food just a few years ago. Reading through the cultural heritage list, it’s clear to me that the honors aren’t necessarily based on science.

Read the text closely and you’ll see that UNESCO does not conclude that Azeris invented dolma. It basically recognizes dolma’s rolling-and-stuffing ritual as a national tradition. Yet that’s also clearly the case within the borders of any country between Iran and Hungary.

It’s also important not to get too wrapped up (so to speak) in the varied naming protocols noted above. The folks at UNESCO did just that and wound up taking a wrong turn before cresting the Caucuses.

The UNESCO citation states that the word dolma is derived from the "Turkic word" doldurma, meaning stuffed. I don't speak Turkish, so I won't dispute their root.

But to accept that explanation you'd have to believe the Azeris and their Turkish cousins came up with a name identical to ours by sheer coincidence before ever encountering an Armenian.

In fact, Armenian scholars note that our word tolma (remember that Eastern Armenian transliteraion reverses the "t" and "d" sounds) dates to our Urartuan ancestors, long before the first Turkic nomads arrived in Asia Minor. It is derived from the name for Armenia's wild grape vines, toli. 

You can read more about this but I'm satisfied that we're right. I'll be even more satisfied by a large bowl of dolma with a portion of lavash for dinner.

(Note to Robyn: I'll get the pot on the stove if you make sure there's plenty of madzoon to go with it!)

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Braised Lamb Shanks with Vegetables

We’re finding it harder and harder to find American lamb. So when Doug and I were strolling through the meat department at BJ’s, we were delighted to see various forms of American lamb – ground, chops, and shanks.

We opted to purchase a package of ground lamb and a twin-pack of shanks. Ground lamb can be used for so many recipes – lule kebab, various meatball recipes, lahmajoun topping, kufteh, kufteh balls, lamb burgers, etc.

One lamb shank is often a hearty meal on its own. The two that we purchased were meaty enough to feed a small army!

My sous chef, Doug, chose to make braised lamb shanks with vegetables – a two-day process.

Our lamb shank and vegetable dinner!

Here’s what he did:

Day 1: Doug parboiled the shanks in a large pot in lightly salted water for about 2 hours. By doing this, he cut down on the cooking time on serving day, and ended up with a large bowl of lamb broth for future recipes – soup, lamb and string bean stew, or whatever we were inspired to prepare.

NOTE: The broth was allowed to cool a bit, then placed in a large bowl with a cover. He refrigerated it overnight. Next day, he skimmed any fat that rose to the top. Some broth was used to prepare the shanks; the remaining broth was stored in smaller containers and placed in the freezer for future recipes.

Day 2 – Serving Day:
Lamb shanks and vegetables ready to serve
First, Doug sautéed 1 medium onion - chopped, 3 chopped carrots, 2 stalks chopped celery and 2 chopped garlic cloves in 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a large pot. Then he added the shanks, 2 bay leaves, 2 cups of the lamb broth, and seasoned with salt and pepper to taste.

He placed a cover on the pot; brought it to a boil, then reduced the heat to simmer -at this point the pot cover was tilted. The shanks simmered for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours while Doug checked periodically to make sure there was still enough liquid and that everything was cooking without burning. He checked to see if the seasonings needed to be adjusted.

Once done, the tender, falling-off-the-bone lamb, was served in individual bowls over a bed of cooked noodles (rice or bulgur pilaf would be great side dishes, too!) with plenty of the veggies and cooking liquid from the pot.

Crusty bread (for dipping into the juices) and salad accompaniments helped make this a most-satisfying meal!

By the way, one shank fed the two of us!

Some of the meat from the second shank was shredded and added to a string bean stew, while smaller bits of leftover meat were turned into a breakfast hash with over-medium eggs on top!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Lamb Meatballs with Pomegranate Glaze - a tasty holiday appetizer!

Armenian Christmas is almost here!

Two recipes which are must-haves for Armenian Christmas Eve and Armenian Christmas Day include Nevik (spelling varies!) and Anoush Abour.
Nevik, an Armenian Christmas Eve specialty
Anoush Abour, literally meaning 'sweet soup' which is traditionally  served on Armenian Christmas Day - January 6th.
For a delicious addition to your celebration menu – or anytime, you might like to try these lamb meatballs with pomegranate glaze as an appetizer. This recipe was adapted from one found in the NY Times. For a little something extra, prepare a minty-yogurt sauce to serve as a dip.

The Armenian Kitchen wishes you and yours, Shnorhavor Nor Dari yev Soorp Dznount – Happy New Year and Merry Christmas!
Lamb Meatballs with Pomegranate Glaze (Photo from the NY Times)

Lamb Meatballs with Pomegranate Glaze

1 pound ground lamb
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. lemon zest
1 to 2 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. dried mint, crushed
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
 Olive oil, for cooking

Glaze: 3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (sold in Middle Eastern stores, or you can make your own)
Garnish: finely chopped fresh mint, parsley, and/or pomegranate arils, if desired


In a large bowl, gently mix together the lamb, garlic, lemon zest and juice, crushed dried mint, salt, and pepper until combined. Form into 1-inch meatballs.

Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Arrange meatballs so that they are not touching. Cook on all sides until browned on the surface and cooked through in the center. (About 7-10 minutes.) NOTE: If meatballs begin to get too brown, reduce heat to prevent burning.

Place cooked meatballs on a paper towel-lined plate to remove any excess grease.
Arrange meatballs on a serving dish and brush with pomegranate molasses. 

Garnish with chopped mint, parsley, and/or pomegranate arils, if desired. 
Serve using frilly toothpicks for a festive touch!

Minty Yogurt Sauce
(Make this at least one hour before serving so that flavors can combine.)

3/4 cup plain yogurt
dash of kosher salt
3 Tbsp. fresh mint, finely chopped, or 1 tsp. dried mint, crushed

Mix the ingredients together until blended. Cover and refrigerate until serving time.

Friday, December 29, 2017

It’s time to revisit two traditional Armenian recipes for the New Year!

Sonia Tashjian has been a contributor and friend  to The Armenian Kitchen for many years. 

Today, I am re-posting two of her special recipes which are traditionally served in celebration of the New Year.

Dare Hats, a traditional bread, and Tsal-Tsul, paklava. (Click on the recipe names to view each post.)

Sonia Tashjian's Dare Hats

Sonia's Tsal-Tsul

We at The Armenian Kitchen wish you a New Year filled with Joy, Peace, Love, and Good Eating!

Friday, December 22, 2017

It’s not too late to make these sweet treats for Christmas!

Christmastime conjures up images of tables filled with beautifully adorned cookies, candies and sweets. Over the years, The Armenian Kitchen has posted a fair share of specialty desserts suitable for holidays – or any day!

Because Christmas Day is near, here a just a few simple recipes you might like to make.

Armenian Cookies (Kahke)

3 Tbsp. butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
4 ½ to 5 cups flour (perhaps a little more)
2 eggs
½ tsp. vanilla
2 heaping Tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
½ cup warm milk

1. Using an electric hand or stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar, until blended.
2. Add eggs, vanilla, baking powder, salt, and milk. Mix until blended.
3. Add flour, one cup at a time, mixing well after each addition until a dough forms. At this point, gently work dough with your hands on a lightly floured surface. If the dough is too sticky, you might need to add a little more flour.
4. Pinch off about a walnut-size piece of dough and roll it into a 6 inch rope. Shape into a circle (doughnut-shape) with lightly floured hands by pressing rope ends together. Continue this process until all dough is used.
5. Place cookies on a lightly greased baking sheet.
6. Place baking sheet on bottom rack in the oven. Bake in a preheated 375°F oven for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.
7. Cool completely on a wire rack.
8. Store in an air-tight container.

Apricot Crescent Cookies
Apricot Crescent Cookies
Yield: approximately 3 dozen

2 cups sifted flour
½ lb. butter or margarine
1 egg yolk
¾ cup sour cream
¾ cup chopped walnuts (pecans work well in this, too)
One jar apricot preserves
Cut butter into flour, using fingertips. Add yolk and sour cream. Mix well. Dough should be sticky. Shape into ball and sprinkle with flour.

Wrap in waxed paper and chill several hours. Divide dough into 3 parts.

Roll each section out to a large circle like a pie shell. Cut, as you would a pie wedge, into 12 sections or less. Mix nuts into apricot preserves.

Place heaping teaspoon into large section and start rolling toward small point to make crescent-shape (using fingers) as you place on (ungreased) cookie sheet. Bake in 350° oven 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown.

For the record: The procedure I used to make this varied a bit. Here are the changes I made:
1. I used a pastry blender instead of my fingers.
2. After making the dough, I separated it into 3 equal balls, wrapped them individually, then refrigerated as directed. I kept the other balls of dough in the refrigerator until I was ready to use them.
3. After rolling each ball into a 12 inch circle, I spread 1/3 of a 10-ounce jar of apricot preserves on the surface of the dough.
4. Then I sprinkled about 2 or 3 Tbsp. of chopped pecans over the apricot.
5. I used a pizza wheel to cut the dough into 12 wedges. The wheel made this so easy! After that I prepared the recipe as directed.
6. Be sure to cool the cookies on a wire rack. Store in a container with a tight fitting lid.

Kourabia, ala The Armenian Kitchen
Yield: Approx. 2 ½ dozen cookies

2 sticks (1/2 lb.) unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. Arak (or cognac, or whiskey)
1 egg yolk
2 cups flour
½ tsp. baking powder
Dash salt
Sliced blanched almonds
Powdered sugar for dusting, optional

1.    Using a wooden spoon, cream the softened butter until fluffy. Beat in powdered sugar, mixing well.
2.    Beat in egg yolk and Arak.
3.    Stir the baking powder and salt into the flour. Gradually add the flour mixture into butter/sugar mixture. Stir with your hands until a soft dough is formed. (If dough feels too sticky, add a little more flour.)
4.    With lightly floured hands, pinch off pieces of dough and roll into 1- inch balls.
5.    Place on ungreased baking sheets. Flatten slightly and press a blanched almond slice in the center of each cookie.
6.    Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for about 20 minutes. Cool completely on baking sheet. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired.

Apricot Logs
Apricot Logs
Yields about 60 pieces
NOTE: The recipe can easily be doubled.

1 lb. dried apricots
1/3 cup powdered (Confectioner’s) sugar (Note: Add up to ½ cup powdered sugar, if you prefer it sweeter.)
4 tsp. orange juice, optional
Coating options: Finely ground pistachio nuts, finely shredded coconut, or powdered sugar

Place apricots in a bowl with enough warm water to cover; soak for 10 minutes or until apricots become plump. Drain; pat dry with paper towels.

In a food processor fitted with a metal “S” blade, pulse half of the apricots a few times. Remove from the processor, and pulse the rest of the apricots.

Place all of the pulsed apricots to the in the processor, along with powdered sugar and orange juice (if using); process until a paste is formed. Make sure all of the sugar is blended in with the apricots.

Place the apricot paste in a bowl; refrigerate about 30 minutes.

Divide the apricot mixture into fourths. Working with ¼ mixture at a time, place it on a piece on parchment paper on a work surface. Shape and roll it into a rope about ½-inch in diameter. Cut the rope into one inch pieces.

Coat each piece in either ground pistachios, shredded coconut, or powdered sugar. Place coated pieces on a parchment-lined plate and refrigerate for about 30 minutes so they can firm-up.

Store in a container with a tight-fitting lid. (Note: If you store the candies in layers, place parchment paper or waxed paper in between the layers to prevent the candies from sticking together.)

To serve: Place each in a mini paper or foil liner.

Special Note: This recipe was adapted from a recipe submitted to the ‘Hovnanian School Cookbook’ by Maral Medzadourian

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Bulgur - Beef Burgers topped with Vegetables By Christine Vartanian Datian

Christine Datian's Bulgur-Beef-Vegetable Burger
This is NOT your ordinary burger. Christine Datian has transformed what could have been an ordinary burger into a veritable feast! With the addition of meat, grain, vegetables, dairy and bread, you’ve got a complete meal – and then some.

You’d better use a very large platter to serve this to your family or friends!

Christine hopes you’ll enjoy her recent contribution to The Armenian Mirror-Spectator’s ‘Recipe Corner’.

Bulgur - Beef Burgers topped with Vegetables 
by Christine Vartanian Datian

Serves 4-6.


1 cup fine grain bulgur (#1)
2 cups water or low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 pound lean ground beef or lamb
1 medium red or white onion, minced (about 1/2 cup minced onion should suffice)
1 egg, beaten
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste or tomato puree
2 tablespoons walnuts, finely chopped (optional)
1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
Sea or Kosher salt, black pepper, paprika, dried sweet basil, or Aleppo pepper to taste

For frying: Olive oil, unsalted butter or canola oil

Garnishing options: Finely chopped green onions, mint, green and red bell pepper, parsley, tomatoes and cucumbers 

Vegetable Toppings: Fresh spinach, Romaine lettuce or chopped greens

On the side: Yogurt, sour cream, lemon wedges

Accompaniments: Assorted breads or crackers, assorted cheeses, olives, roasted vegetables, and condiments


In a medium pot, bring the water or broth to a full boil, add the bulgur, stir, cover, lower heat, and simmer for 15-20 minutes until bulgur and liquid have been absorbed. Remove pan from heat and let cool 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the bulgur with the ground meat, minced onions, egg, garlic, tomato paste, walnuts (if using), parsley, salt, pepper and choice of spices, and knead a few minutes until smooth. Add a few drops of water if mixture is too dry. Form mixture into small patties (round or oval shape) and fry in oil or butter until golden brown on both sides.

Place patties on a tray or platter and generously sprinkle with chopped green onions, mint, bell pepper, parsley, tomatoes and cucumbers. Serve immediately with spinach, Romaine lettuce, Armenian bread, pita bread or cracker bread, and assorted cheeses, olives, roasted vegetables, and condiments.

Serve with yogurt, sour cream and lemon wedges on the side, if desired.

*Christine’s recipes have been published in the Fresno Bee newspaper, Sunset magazine, Cooking Light magazine, and at

Friday, December 8, 2017

Almond - Pine Nut Cookies

Christmas is right around the corner! It’s time to dust-off your baking sheets and crank-up your ovens.

This recipe is slightly adapted from one offered by my local grocer. It’s pretty easy to do – the hardest part might be separating the egg yolks from the egg whites.

In any case, if you like the taste of almonds and pine nuts, I think you’ll like this recipe.

Can’t tolerate pine nuts? Use slivered almonds instead!
Almond-Pine nut Cookies (Photo from Publix Aprons)

Almond Pine Nut Cookies
Yields about 2 dozen cookies

3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups commercially prepared almond paste**
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
3/4 cup pine nuts (NOTE: If you do not like pine nuts, replace them with slivered almonds.)  
Parchment paper for baking


Preheat oven to 300°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
Separate eggs. Place whites in a separate bowl. Save yolks for another use by placing yolks in a container. Add 1 Tbsp. cold water over the yolks; cover tightly and refrigerate yolks for no more than 3 days. Use yolks as an egg wash, in an omelet, in Armenian Chicken-Lemon Soup!
A commercial brand of almond paste
Place almond paste in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment; beat on medium speed until softened (about 1 minute). Add half of the egg whites and beat on medium speed until smooth (about 1 more minute).

Reduce speed to low and gradually add in sugar while beating constantly. Scrap the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, as needed, until sugar is fully incorporated and mixture is smooth (about 2 minutes). Add remaining egg whites and beat until batter has thickened.

Spoon batter by the heaping tablespoonful onto two prepared baking sheets, placing spoonfuls about 1 inch apart. Sprinkle each with 1 teaspoon pine nuts, lightly pressing them in place.

Bake 18–20 minutes or until cookies are puffed and lightly golden. About halfway through baking, switch cookie sheets from top to bottom rack.

Allow cookies to cool completely before carefully removing them from parchment paper.

** Almond paste can generally be found in the baking aisle of most supermarkets.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Armenian Chicken, Rice and Lemon Soup from Christine Datian

The Armenian Kitchen has posted countless soup recipes over the years. Just type the word ‘soup’ in our search bar and you’ll see what I mean.

Christine Datian’s latest recipe in The Armenian Mirror-Spectator, ‘Armenian Chicken, Rice and Lemon Soup’ is rich, thick, tangy, and soothing - just the ticket on a cold, wintry day. With her addition of cooked chicken, this recipe is a one-pot meal the entire family will enjoy.

(Click here to see our recipe for Armenian Chicken Noodle Soup with Egg and Lemon and our related video.) 

Christine Datian's Armenian Chicken, Rice and Lemon Soup

Armenian Chicken, Rice and Lemon Soup by Christine Datian
Serves 4-6

4 cups fresh or canned chicken broth (turkey broth may be substituted)
4 cups water
2 skinless boneless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded or diced (or any cooked chicken)
1/2 medium onion, minced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
3/4 cup basmati rice or a large handful of crushed vermicelli (or egg noodles)
Juice of 2 lemons -and- zest from 1 lemon, optional
2 eggs, beaten
Dried crushed mint and chopped parsley
1 teaspoon sea or Kosher salt
Black or white pepper and paprika

Garnishes: Parsley, dried crushed mint, paprika and sliced lemons


In a large pot, bring the chicken broth and water to a full boil. Season with salt and pepper, add the rice or vermicelli, onion, celery and carrot, and cook over medium heat until rice is tender, about 20-22 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the shredded chicken, stir a few times, and cook for 10 minutes longer until fully combined.

Beat the eggs with the lemon juice in a medium bowl for a few minutes until frothy, slowly stir in 1/2 cup of the soup broth, and then gradually pour the egg mixture into soup; season to taste. Add the lemon zest, if desired, and stir constantly taking care that broth does not curdle. Remove from heat when soup is hot.

Garnish with parsley, dried crushed mint, paprika and sliced lemons. 
Serve with Armenian madzoon or Greek yogurt, a crusty Italian or French bread or warm pita bread on the side.

*Christine’s recipes have been published in the Fresno Bee newspaper, Sunset magazine, Cooking Light magazine, and at

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Post Thanksgiving Turkey Vegetable Soup

In the style of our forefathers – rather fore-mothers, we are not ones to waste any portion of an animal product.

That said, here’s what became of our Thanksgiving turkey, once carved:

Even before our Thanksgiving meal was over, Doug took it upon himself to place the turkey carcass in a large pot of water to cook. 
Chilled, gelatinous turkey broth
This resulted in a huge bowl of turkey broth, which, once chilled, became a gelatinous mass – which is a good thing. Any remaining meat left on the carcass was removed (by me) creating a fair amount of turkey tidbits – the beginning of a hearty soup. 
Bits of turkey removed from the boiled bones

Here’s how we created our ‘Post-Thanksgiving Turkey Vegetable Soup’:

Turkey Vegetable Soup
Serves 4 to 5


½ cup each of coarsely chopped celery, carrots and onions
2 Tbsp. each of butter and olive oil
5 cups gelled turkey broth
Salt, pepper, dried herbs – such as marjoram and thyme - to taste
2 bay leaves
2 tsp.  ‘Better than Bouillon’ Roasted Chicken Base, optional
** ½ cup to 1 cup uncooked pasta (egg noodles, elbows, orzo, etc.)
2 cups turkey tidbits
** Gloria-Hachigian-Ericsen adds rice, barley or beans to her version of this recipe for added protein.

Garnish with chopped parsley, if desired


In a large pot, heat the butter and olive oil. Add the chopped vegetables and sauté, stirring frequently, until softened. Season with a little salt and pepper.

Add the gelled broth and allow to thin-out from the heat. Add the dried herbs, to taste, and bay leaves. Bring broth to a boil. Taste to determine if the bouillon needs to be added.

Add the uncooked pasta, stirring, so it won’t stick, and cook until the pasta is tender. (Refer to directions on the pasta package for cooking time.)

NOTE: You might have to add broth or water, a little at a time, since the pasta will absorb some of the liquid as it cooks.

Remove and discard bay leaves. Add 2 cups of turkey tidbits. Simmer soup for 10 minutes. 

Garnish with chopped parsley, if you wish.

Serve with a salad for a complete meal!