Sunday, July 8, 2018

An Armenian Immigrant and His Successful Candy Company - a Story by Joel Denker

If you’re old enough, you might remember a TV commercial jingle that started out with these lyrics: ‘Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t …’

If you DO remember this, then you’ll know that the rest of the jingle referred to Peter Paul Almond Joy and Mounds candy bars.

Peter Halajian, founder of Peter Paul Manufacturing Company
Joel Denker sent me the link to a very interesting story he posted on his ‘Food Passages’ blog last month. The topic: Peter Halajian, founder of the Peter Paul Manufacturing Company.

Click here to read Joel's story about how this Armenian came to America  and ended up starting what turned out to be a very successful business.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

No Bake Key Lime Cream Cheese Pie

We’re getting ready for the Fourth of July and boy, is it HOT outside! A lot of neighbors I’ve spoken to don’t want to bake,  use their stove tops, or even grill! I’m with them – up to a point.

We’re keeping our menu simple and as cool as possible.

The dessert on the menu is one I’ve been making for years - No-bake Key Lime Cream Cheese Pie - my son-in-law's favorite! 
Even though this recipe is not Armenian in any way, shape or form, I thought I’d pass it along because it's so darn good!

Wishing you all a Happy Fourth of July!!

No Bake Key Lime Cream Cheese Pie (Image from

No Bake Key Lime Cream Cheese Pie

1-9“ commercially-prepared graham cracker crust
8 oz. Cream cheese, softened (low-fat may be used)
1-14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk (fat-free may be substituted)
¼ cup to 1/3 cup Key Lime juice (depending on the degree of tartness you desire)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1       Leave the cream cheese at room temperature for about 30 minutes before starting.
2     Using an electric mixer, beat the softened cream cheese until smooth.
3      Add the condensed milk and vanilla, beating until blended.
4      Add the desired amount of Key Lime juice and beat thoroughly.
5      Pour mixture into prepared crust. Cover and chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
6      To serve, top with whipped cream, if desired.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

An Easy, Summertime Labneh Recipe from Chef John Minas

Chef John Mikhail Minas 

In 2011, Doug and I were introduced to Chef John Minas by way of Taniel Koushakjian, founder and editor-in-chief of
the Florida Armenians Face Book page. At the time, Chef Minas was newly selected as the Executive Chef for Governor Rick Scott and his First Lady at the Governor’s Mansion, Tallahassee, FL. 
Quite an achievement for such a young chef!

(Click here to read Doug's original story about Chef Minas’ background and early days as an Executive Chef.) 

When the article was written, Chef Minas was just getting started. He’d planned to stay in Tallahassee for a long time, which he did. When asked what his future plans were, he stated, “… who knows?”

Since his departure from the Governor’s Mansion, Chef Minas became the Executive Chef/ Managing Partner at the Edison Restaurant (Tallahassee), and is now the Founder/Executive Chef at Minas Hospitality

Who could ask for more?

We wish Chef Minas the very best!!

The following recipe and photo are from Chef Minas’ Blog, and are printed here with his permission.

Chef Minas' Labneh

2 Quarts Greek Yogurt, whole milk
2 tsp. Kosher Salt
Mix all ingredients together thoroughly.
Place four large layers of cheesecloth over a colander (leave plenty of overhang).
Pour yogurt mixture into center of cheesecloth. Lift sides of overhanging cheesecloth to form a pouch (some water will leak out from the yogurt and that is expected).
Twist the pouch until the yogurt forms a tight ball and tie into a knot. Hang in refrigerator for 3 days with a bowl underneath to catch excess water.
After 3 days, remove yogurt from cheesecloth and store into a container with a tight lid.
Serve with Aleppo pepper, dried mint, olive oil and fresh pita.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Keep Dad COOL, this Father's Day with these recipes by Christine Datian!

Christine Vartanian-Datian lives in Las Vegas, I don't need to tell you how hot it can get there. She likes to keep things cool by preparing recipes that don't take long to make and/or won't heat up the kitchen. 
Here are two of her recipes which recently appeared in the Armenian Mirror Spectator, Chilled Summer Squash and Potato Soup, and Broccoli and Walnut, Grapes, and Feta Salad.

Have a COOL and Happy Day, Dads!!

Christine Datian's Chilled Summer Squash and Potato Soup

Chilled Summer Squash and Potato Soup   
Serves 4-6                                    


6-7 medium zucchini, yellow crookneck or pattypan squash, sliced or diced (Choose your favorite, or combine a few.)
1 large onion, diced
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 cups potatoes, peeled, cubed or diced
2 medium stalks celery, diced (plus tops)
2 medium carrots, diced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (to taste)
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 teaspoon white or black pepper
Pinch of dried thyme

Garnishes: Non-fat plain yogurt, chopped chives, basil, parsley, paprika or mint

In a large pot, sauté the squash you have chosen to use, onions, garlic, potatoes, celery and carrots in butter and olive oil for 10-12 minutes or until vegetables are tender; toss occasionally.

Add the broth, lemon juice, salt, pepper and thyme, stir, and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes. Remove from heat and cool for 10 minutes.

In a food processor or blender, puree soup (in batches) until medium smooth, but there are traces of zucchini and carrots visible.

Place soup in a container, cover, and chill for 4-6 hours or overnight. Soup can be served at room temperature, if desired.

If desired, whisk in a little half-and-half or ricotta cheese and a little lemon juice before serving. 
Top with a dollop of yogurt and sprinkle with choice of chives, basil, parsley, paprika or mint.

Drizzle with olive oil and serve lemon wedges on the side.

Christine's Broccoli Salad with Walnuts, Grapes, and Feta

Broccoli Salad with Walnuts, Grapes and Feta
Serves 4-6


1 large head broccoli, cleaned, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup red seedless grapes
1 red apple, peel on, cored and diced
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup celery (and tops), chopped
1/2 cup green onions (scallions), sliced or chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup red onions, minced
10 grape tomatoes, cut in half
1/4 cup green olives, chopped, optional
2 tablespoons brown sugar, optional
Juice and zest of one large lemon, optional
1 cup Italian or creamy salad dressing (to taste)

1 cup walnuts halves or slivered almonds
6-8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
Kosher salt and black pepper (to taste)


In a large glass bowl, combine all ingredients except the walnuts, cheese, salt and pepper, and toss with dressing.  Cover and chill for up to 8 hours, tossing occasionally.

To serve, toss with walnuts (or slivered almonds), Feta cheese, salt and pepper, and garnish with more walnuts or almonds, if desired.

Serve salad on a bed of fresh spinach, endive, arugula or lettuce with sliced avocados and tomatoes or fresh sliced fruit on the side.

Serve with extra dressing.

*This salad is best if made the night before serving, so that flavors can blend.

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

Friday, June 8, 2018

An Untimely Passing

Barely three weeks ago, the Armenian community watched with pride, as Anthony Bourdain's program featuring Armenia aired. 

Sadly, today, we mourn his passing.

Thank you, Mr. Bourdain, for sharing your culinary expertise and recent tour of Armenia with the world.

You will be missed.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Our South Carolina Home Blessing

It's official!

Our Home Blessing
Doug and I are now legal residents of South Carolina, and, we have been welcomed into the Armenian community in the Carolinas. What I mean by that is, on May 31st, our new home was blessed by Father Samuel Rith-Najarian of St. Sarkis Armenian Church in Charlotte, NC.

We’ve been living in our home for almost 3 months now. We’re unpacked and enjoying our new surroundings. Our daughter, son-in-law, and our dear friend from Maine have already visited us in our new abode. My sister will join us here in a few weeks.

That said, Doug and still I felt a bit unsettled, that is, until Father Sam blessed our home as a few friends - new and old - witnessed this event.

Now that our home, we, and anyone who may ever pass through our doors, have been blessed, we are feeling quite content and happy. Thank you, Father Sam!
(L-R) Me, Father Samuel, and Doug in our dining room. Once the food was blessed, it was time to dine! 
(Photos by Andy Kabasakalian)
A home blessing isn’t complete (at least to me) unless a meal follows. Our celebration menu consisted of Lule Kebab, pita bread, Sarma Gurgood (aka Tabbouleh), tossed salad, yogurt-tahini sauce, marinated red onions with sumac, and for dessert, cheese kadaif, and fresh fruit.

I believe all in attendance enjoyed the event and sustenance, as much as Doug and I did.

It’s great to be HOME!

For more information on Home Blessings, please click here.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Memorial Day… a day of Thanks and Reflection

As you light up your grills this Memorial Day, please be mindful of the reason we celebrate this day – to honor and thank the men and women who have given their lives to ensure America’s freedom.

With that in mind, here are a few of The Armenian Kitchen’s favorite Armenian-American side dishes to celebrate this, or any summertime occasion, without heating up the kitchen.

And don’t forget the watermelon!

Armenian potato salad (Photo courtesy of Sonia Tashjian)

White bean, roasted red pepper, and tomato plaki

Maque Choux

Watermelon and string cheese, no recipe required!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

What do Anthony Bourdain and The Armenian Kitchen have in common? Read on!

The Armenian community is all a-buzz with the knowledge that Chef Anthony Bourdain’s next 'Parts Unknown', which airs on Sunday, May 20th at 9 PM (ET/PT) on CNN, will feature Armenia! (Check your local listings for the exact time.)

I, too, am excited, because in early April, I was contacted by a member of, the website associated with Bourdain's TV show. I was asked if I’d be interested in having my lahmajoun recipe appear in their companion online publication, but I'd have to decide quickly as it was a time-sensitive offer.

The Armenian Kitchen's Lahmajoun

Would I be interested?? Were they serious? OF COURSE I would. (Disclosure, I received a modest payment for this.)

My reaction went from shock, to elation, to sheer humility. 

Before sharing my recipe which includes making dough from scratch, I thought it wise to make it – in my new kitchen – to make sure the measurements and technique were correct and easy to understand. Once I was sure the final product was just right, Bourdain’s editorial staff examined the wording of the directions, making suggestions to improve my explanation.

I guess the recipe was approved, because I just noticed my recipe’s appearance on the Exploration Parts Unknown website!

If time is of the essence, make lahmajoun using the short-cut method.

I’ll bet you’re asking what Bourdain and The Armenian Kitchen have in common. Well, we’ve never met, but he – and we - have been to Armenia! And perhaps someday he’ll try my lahmajoun recipe.

Enjoy the program, and while you're at it, enjoy 
some lahmajoun, too!

Friday, May 11, 2018

A Mother's Day Recipe: Apricot Walnut Cake with Cinnamon Lemon Glaze by Christine Datian

Christian Datian’s Apricot Walnut Cake with Cinnamon Lemon Glaze will delight anyone. But since this Sunday is Mother’s Day, show her how much she is loved with this tantalizing cake.

Christine Datian's Apricot Walnut Cake with Lemon Cinnamon Glaze

Christine makes it easy by using a cake mix. The addition of some unexpected ingredients turns it into something extraordinary!

Warning: Young bakers will need a helping hand!


Apricot Walnut Cake with Cinnamon Lemon Glaze
by Christine Vartanian Datian

1 (18.25 oz.) yellow or lemon cake mix
1 (16 oz.) can apricots, drained (reserve syrup)
2 tablespoons apricot brandy or brandy of choice, optional
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chopped golden raisins or dates


Note: Use apricots and syrup to replace the water in this recipe.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan or Bundt pan and set aside.

Drain and dice apricots, reserve syrup in a bowl, and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, prepare cake mix (using all ingredients except water) according to the directions on box. Add the apricots, syrup, brandy, vanilla, cinnamon, zest, and allspice to the bowl, and beat for 3-4 minutes at medium speed. Fold in the walnuts and raisins or dates and toss to combine.

Sprinkle some walnuts on the bottom of the pan, pour the batter into the pan, and bake according to the directions on the cake box. Cool cake in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan and cool it completely on wire rack.

Drizzle with Cinnamon Lemon Glaze (see recipe below) and garnish with walnuts or diced dried or fresh chopped apricots. Serve with fresh whipped cream.

Cinnamon Lemon Glaze

Sift 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar with 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon in a bowl. Add one tablespoon milk or cream, one teaspoon vanilla, and one teaspoon lemon juice, and mix until smooth. Add a few more drops of milk or cream if ingredients are too stiff. Drizzle glaze on top and over sides of cake and let dry before serving.

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

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Food Festival!! Where? St. Sarkis Armenian Church, Charlotte, NC

It's that time of year ... Food Festival Time, that is. 

If you're in the area, stop by for some delicious food and family fun!

See you there!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Are you in the market for sturgeon meat or caviar? If you live in the Carolinas, you’re in luck. If you don’t live in the Carolinas, you’re in luck, too.

In February, just before Doug and I moved to the Carolinas, I received an email from Lianne Won, whose family owns  Marshallberg Farm, in N.C. They have two facilities – one in Lenoir, NC (near Boone) and another in Smyrna, NC (near Beaufort). They raise Russian sturgeon for its meat and caviar. Their website states (in Russian) that they are ‘The largest producer of Russian Sturgeon in the USA’. 

Lianne mentioned that they receive a lot of calls from Armenians in NC (particularly in Charlotte), who are excited to order some fresh sturgeon meat. She asked if I could somehow let the Armenian-Russian community know about their products.

Since Lianne’s first email, I learned that her company’s sturgeon is now available at Super G Mart, a gigantic international market, on the east side of Charlotte, as well as online. 
Sturgeon kebab from the Ararat 17 Restaurant in Indian Trail, NC
I’d never eaten sturgeon before, but noticed that it’s on the menu at the Ararat 17 restaurant. As it turns out, Marshallberg Farm provides the sturgeon served at this restaurant. 

I made a point of ordering the sturgeon kebab on our last visit.
Our server warned me that the taste might be strong. Despite this warning, I ordered it anyway. I can happily report that the flavor was rather mild. Some might object to the texture, however, as it is firm – not flaky - and a bit chewy, but that might have been the result of its preparation.

To be fair, I contacted Lianne to ask about the texture of cooked sturgeon. 
Lianne noted that the sturgeon's texture is indeed dictated by  it's preparation. When she prepares sturgeon, Lianne  bakes the fish slowly at 350 degrees F in a covered pan for about 20 minutes. Then she grills it quickly to get the grill marks and a charcoal taste. Lianne states that sturgeon meat comes out better when it is not cooked over direct heat.  

My sturgeon kebab was attractively presented with the two side dishes I selected (fluffy rice and a very tasty hummus). 
A small cup of pomegranate molasses accompanied the dish. The owner, Vardan, happened to stop by our table, so I asked why the pomegranate molasses was on the plate. He said they serve the sturgeon that way because many of their Armenian customers from Baku prefer it. 
I'm not one to argue, so I dipped a piece of the kebab into the sweet, tangy, pomegranate molasses, and decided I liked it better plain.

I didn’t ask Vardan for their sturgeon kebab recipe, but Lianne’s site offers some impressive ways to prepare sturgeon, including one for kebab. 

With Lianne's permission, here is the Sturgeon Kebab recipe from Marshallberg Farm.
Marshallberg Farm's Sturgeon Kebab
Sturgeon Kebab
 Kebab Ingredients:
1 1/2 pounds sturgeon fillet
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 onions (small, sweet if available)
10 button mushrooms (large)

Marinade Ingredients:
2 tablespoons chopped onion
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary (chopped)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup olive oil

For serving: 2 lemons (cut into wedges)

Cut all the fish and veggies into similar-sized pieces; this helps everything lay flat when it is on the grill.
Marinate the fish and vegetables: To make the marinade, purée the chopped onion, rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper in a food processor. Drizzle in the olive oil while puréeing, continue to purée until smooth, about 1-2 minutes. Coat the fish and veggies in the marinade. Set in the fridge for at least an hour and up to overnight.
Thread onto skewers: When skewering the fish and vegetables, pierce the fish against the grain, and select pieces of veggies that are close to the same size as your fish. This is important, because if the pieces are different widths, some things will be charred and others undercooked.
Grill on high, direct heat: Prepare the grill for high, direct heat. Clean the grates and wipe them down with a paper towel that has been dipped in vegetable oil. Lay the skewers on the grill.
Don’t move them until the fish pieces are well browned on one side, about 3-6 minutes.
Then using tongs, carefully turn the skewers over and cook them until they are seared on the other side.
Serve hot or at room temperature.
Drizzle with lemon juice or serve with lemon wedges.

Friday, April 20, 2018

An Armenian restaurant near Charlotte, NC? Yes, indeed! Welcome to the Ararat 17 Restaurant, Indian Trail, NC

It’s hard to find an Armenian restaurant – unless you’re in Armenia.

We never expected we’d find one across the state line from our new house, but we did – the Ararat 17. I know where they got the name Ararat, but haven’t a clue what the ‘17’ refers to. Maybe we’ll find out some day.
Update: I recently learned that the '17' refers to the year the restaurant opened, 2017 - now I understand!

Our area exploration brought us to the Ararat 17 on a Saturday afternoon for lunch. They serve dinner Tuesday through Sunday, but only serve lunch on the weekends. (Closed Mondays)

The restaurant is tastefully decorated; the music of Mozart gently plays in the background. A well-stocked bar fills one section of the room, and the menu is surprisingly sophisticated. 

Although the menu is not ALL Armenian (there are hints of Russian cuisine, too), they do serve a number of traditional Armenian dishes.

Artak, our server, is the son of owners Vardan and Gayenne Vardanyan. Artak is well-trained, personable, and frankly, adorable! His mom and dad work diligently to prepare delicious food for their guests.
L-R; Gayenne Vardanyan, me, and Vardan Vardanyan (Sorry, I didn't get a picture of Artak.)

Before placing our order, Doug wandered over to the bar to see if they stocked any Armenian spirits. To their credit, they do! Doug spotted Ararat beer from Gyumri, and Armenian Pomegranate wine. Artak offered Doug a sample of the wine, but I took it instead. Doug was very happy with the beer.
Ararat Beer

We wanted to try just about everything on the menu, but chose specific ones which we felt represented the Armenian-side of their offerings.
Pomegranate Wine

A complimentary basket of toasted pita bread and a bowl of dried herbs were brought to the table before we ordered. Artak explained that we were to drizzle olive oil - that was already on the table – onto the herbs, then dip the bread.
Ararat Salad
Tender Stuffed Grape Leaves
Our meal began with the Ararat salad, slices of basturma, and tender, tasty stuffed grape leaves which we shared. We each chose a sandwich and side: lamb lule kebab with hummus, and lamb shish kebab with hummus.

What we didn’t know was that the Greek-style pita for each sandwich was spread with hummus (the same as the side we chose), and topped with a generous amount of Ararat salad! It wasn’t a problem; we took the rest of the appetizer salad home.

When I noticed gatah on the menu, I decided to save room for it for dessert. Doug and I ordered Armenian coffee and a gatah to share, but, alas, no gatah! We ordered the paklava instead, and are happy to report that it was light, crisp, and delicious.

Would we return? In a heartbeat!