Friday, August 17, 2018

Roasted Grape Tomatoes with Pomegranate Molasses Drizzle

I can’t help myself. Whenever I see a grocery store item that’s boasting ‘Buy-One-Get-One-Free’, aka BOGO, I’m going to cave-in and buy it.

Such was the case with one-pint containers of grape tomatoes. I use them mostly in salads, but I snack on them, too. 

Something happened this time around. I didn’t use the tomatoes in a timely manner, so number of them began to shrivel. I heard my mother’s voice from up above saying in my ear, ‘Those tomatoes are perfectly fine. Don’t you dare throw them away; that would be a sin!
Roasted Grape Tomatoes with Pomegranate Molasses Drizzle
I would NEVER do that; my mother taught me too well. So, here’s what I did to salvage the poor little tomatoes:

After I rinsed the tomatoes and patted them with a paper towel, I sliced them in half (they can be left whole).
Placed the tomato halves in a mixing bowl and tossed them with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and oregano to taste.
The tomatoes were placed in a single layer in a  baking dish,  and roasted in a preheated 425°F oven for 15 to 20 minutes.

Note: To make clean-up easier, line the baking pan with parchment paper or foil.

Once done, I arranged the tomatoes on a serving plate, drizzled them with pomegranate molasses**, and garnished the top with crumbled Feta cheese. Deeelicious!

This can be served hot out of the oven or at room temperature. 


** Pomegranate molasses is sold in Middle Eastern stores and in some supermarkets, or, try making your own - it's easy!



Friday, August 10, 2018

Roasted Sweet Potato Spirals

I’ve been on a spiralizing frenzy ever since I received my new ‘toy’ last week. So far, I’ve experimented with zucchini, carrots, and now, sweet potatoes.
My OXO Spiralizer and sweet potato experiment
The sweet potatoes were a big hit as a side dish with roasted turkey breast and gravy, cranberry sauce, and peas. Sounds like a Thanksgiving meal, doesn’t it? But, this was a mid-week, early August dinner for two!
Roasted Sweet Potato Spirals - ready to serve 
Here’s the simple recipe I used for the Roasted Sweet Potato Spirals:

I scrubbed 2 medium-sized sweet potatoes under cool running water, patted them dry, then peeled. 
Freshly spiralized sweet potatoes
Spiralized the potatoes with my new gadget and placed them in a large mixing bowl. Added a splash of olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and a tsp. or so of Herbes de’ Provence, a French blend. (Note: an Italian seasoning blend would work well, too.) Tossed to coat.

Preheated oven to 425°F.

Lightly oiled a large baking pan with one-inch sides. Spread the sweet potatoes in a single layer. Placed tray on a rack set in the center of the oven and roasted for 15 to 20 minutes.

Before serving, a garnish of chopped parsley can be added.

It was that easy; now, come on, you try!


Saturday, August 4, 2018

Poached Salmon with Zucchini 'Noodles'


Years ago I purchased a small hand-held vegetable spiral cutter. After using it a couple of times, I decided it was more trouble than it was worth, so into the back of the cupboard it went. Eventually, it was donated.
My new OXO Spiralizer
All of a sudden, ‘spiralizing’ vegetables has become the RAGE! Recipes for spiralized you-name-it, are popping up all over social media, in blogs, cookbooks, and so on. Heck, even our local Italian restaurant offers spiralized zucchini in place of spaghetti! The last time we dined there, I substituted the spahghetti with the zucchini 'noodles' with my meal and enjoyed it immensely.

I thought long-and-hard about ordering another spiralizer, and decided, why not. One click on Amazon, and 2 days later my tabletop gadget arrived. This time, I got a spiffy model (hey, I deserve it!). It adheres to my counter top beautifully, cranks easily, and produces a mountain of curly, verrrrry long strands of goodness.
Poached Salmon with Zucchini 'Noodles'
When it came time to prepare dinner the other night I didn’t have a particular recipe in mind, but here’s what I made - poached salmon with a side of sautéed zucchini ‘noodles’.

I made spirals out of 2 medium-sized zucchini and quickly sautéed them in a large-enough skillet with just a splash of olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper. For added flavor, I sprinkled on a bit of Parmesan cheese.

The skinless salmon filet was seasoned with salt and pepper and poached in white wine with a squeeze of lemon juice. Dried dill was sprinkled on top just before serving. In no time, we had a quick, satisfying, and delicious meal!

What’s next with the spiralizer? I’ll be experimenting with sweet potatoes!

Friday, July 27, 2018

Christine Datian’s Summer Peach Cobbler with Walnuts and Raisins

According to its license plates, Georgia is referred to as the ‘Peach State’. The truth is that South Carolina, our new home state, is actually the largest peach-producing state on the East Coast.

Someone, somewhere stated that if you bite into a South Carolina peach, you’ll know what summer tastes like. Been there, done that, and it’s absolutely true!

That said, Christine Datian just sent me one of her recipes, featuring summer peaches, which recently appeared in The Armenian Mirror Spectator. Read on, give her recipe a try, and savor the sweet taste of summer!

Summer Peach Cobbler with Walnuts and Raisins
Christine Datian’s Summer Peach Cobbler with Walnuts and Raisins

Ingredients:
8 firm, large ripe peaches, washed, peeled and sliced **(See notes below)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup flour
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium egg
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2-3 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon each ground cinnamon and nutmeg
1/2 cup each chopped walnuts (or pecans or almonds) and golden raisins (to taste)

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Place sliced peaches in a buttered 9"x13" baking or casserole dish.
In a medium bowl, beat the egg with lemon juice and vanilla; sift sugar, flour, baking powder and salt into the bowl, and stir until dry and crumbly.  Sprinkle this mixture over the peaches.
In a separate bowl, combine brown sugar, walnuts, raisins, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Sprinkle mixture over the top of the dish and dot with butter.
Bake for 35-40 minutes or until peaches are bubbly around the edge and the top is golden brown. 
Serve with whipped cream, ice cream, or sliced fruit or berries on the side.

**Notes from Christine:

To the peaches, you can add one or two cups of fresh nectarines, blueberries or boysenberries.

You can substitute 1 cup brown sugar or stevia for the granulated sugar.

Because stevia is so much sweeter than sugar, a direct substitution is not possible. For every cup of sugar your recipe calls for, replace it with either 1 teaspoon of liquid stevia, 1/3 to ½ teaspoon stevia extract powder, 1 tablespoon concentrated stevia liquid, or 18 to 24 individual serving packets.

*Christine’s recipes have been published in the Fresno Bee newspaper, Sunset magazine, Cooking Light magazine, and at http://www.thearmeniankitchen.com/


Thursday, July 19, 2018

Khorovats - the Armenian Barbecue

What exactly is Khorovats? 
According to Irina Petrosian, author of “Armenian Food – Fact, Fiction, and Folklore”, ‘khorovats is an Armenian word for life lived to the fullest and the celebration of good weather’. I couldn’t have said it better.

Doug's shish kebab on mini metal skewers
Over the years, we’ve posted numerous stories about grilling and barbecuing in general - and, of course recipes. The word ‘khorovats’ wasn’t used in our Armenian household, but whenever we grilled or barbecued, the menu consisted of lamb shish kebab or lule kebab.

A shish, or skewer, is a vital tool in the preparation of any kind of kebab – metal, wooden, or bamboo are common materials used to make them. Metal skewers are generally long and flat in design, although the shape might vary slightly.
My dad, Andy Dabbakian, with his hand-made shish kebab machine and skewers -  grilling his own kebab recipe. He was quite a guy!

My father, Andy Dabbakian, a machinist by trade, designed and built his own kebab machine and accompanying skewers which were long, narrow, square-shaped, with a sharply pointed tip. The skewers held the cubes of meat beautifully as his machine rotated each in unison, cooking the kebab evenly every time.

While scrolling through FaceBook, I came across an article about khorovats written by Kate Leahy on the site, www.lavashthebook.com.  Ms. Leahy wrote this for the Smithsonian Institution's Folklife Festival blog. 

Click here to read her story on ‘Armenia’s favorite grilling pastime’.

The next time you feel like grilling, I hope you will be inspired  to 'khorovats' instead!

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 Kraftcanada.com)


No Bake Key Lime Cream Cheese Pie

Ingredients:
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

Directions:
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

Labneh
Ingredients:
2 Quarts Greek Yogurt, whole milk
2 tsp. Kosher Salt
Preparation:
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                                    

Ingredients:

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

Preparation:
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

Ingredients:

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)

Preparation:

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 http://www.thearmeniankitchen.com/



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 explorepartsunknown.com, 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!


HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!

Apricot Walnut Cake with Cinnamon Lemon Glaze
by Christine Vartanian Datian

Ingredients:
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

Instructions:

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 http://www.thearmeniankitchen.com