Everything about Armenian food!

Celebrating a heritage of Armenian recipes

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Preparing for Easter? Hop to it!!

I don’t know about you, but we’re all about tradition when it comes to Easter. Here’s a recap of some our Easter favorites.

Zadigi Kahke (Easter Cookies)
If you haven’t already gathered onion skins to color eggs for Easter, you’ll have to scurry to do so. If that isn’t an option, there are other ways to color hard-cooked eggs naturally. Click here to learn how.
As far as baking goes, chorag takes center-stage at Easter, as do Easter Cookies (Zadigi Kahke).

Just a suggestion: We sometimes have Easter Egg Salad to go with the chorag. It's a nice way to jazz-up otherwise boring hard-cooked eggs.
The main meal? Lamb, of course! Lamb roast ... Lamb shish kebab.
For side dishes, just scroll through our two recipe lists and select what strikes you. (Our go-to side dishes include rice or bulgur pilaf, and fassoulia without the meat.)

Another side dish option, Easter Spinach Salad, comes from Rose Baboian's "Armenian- American" cookbook.

There’s absolutely NO question what dessert will be … Paklava, of course!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

TTVEBAS - A Holy (Maundy) Thursday Armenian Recipe

Cooking enthusiast and Armenian cookbook author, Sonia Tashjian, sent me a recipe for a special food traditionally served on the last Thursday before Easter (Zadik). In Armenian it is ‘Avak Hinkshapti’.
Sonia stated that this recipe is in memory of Jesus’ last moments. When He was on the cross, He begged for water, but the soldiers gave Him vinegar. So this soup is dedicated to that event.
The recipe’s name is TTVEBAS  (TTOU=  sour + BAS= Lent).
Ttvebas - Photos courtesy of Sonia Tashjian
TTVEBAS  - from Sonia Tashjian
(NOTE: This recipe has not yet been tested in The Armenian Kitchen.)

½ cup of dried peas
½ cup of dried chick-peas, soaked in water overnight (NOTE: 1 cup canned, rinsed chick peas may be substituted to speed up the preparation process.)
½ cup of dried lentils (brown or green)
½ cup of shelled wheat (dzedzadz) (Found in most Middle Eastern stores) NOTE: barley can be substituted
Arishda, on right
1 lb. of fresh spinach, washed and coarsely chopped
½ cup of raisins
½ cup of dried plums, cut into small pieces
½ cup of arishda (homemade pasta) NOTE: any small, flat, not – too- thin noodle may be used
black & red pepper, to taste
salt, to taste
Water or vegetable broth – start with about 6 cups, and add more as needed
To Serve: Drizzle each serving with vinegar (white, red wine, or apple cider vinegar)

1. In a large pot, cook the peas and pre-soaked chickpeas, in 6 cups of water (or vegetable broth); cook for about 30 minutes. Add the lentils and shelled wheat (or barley) and continue to cook until they begin to soften, about 20 to 30 minutes more. If using canned chick peas, they should be added after the first 30 minute cooking time.
NOTE: Sonia suggests precooking all of the legumes separately and keeping them in the freezer for recipes such as this.
2. Add the chopped spinach, raisins, dried plums, and pasta; season with salt, and black and red pepper, according to your taste.
3. Continue to cook about 15 minutes, or until all of the ingredients are tender.
4. Serve with a drizzle of vinegar.

Additional Background Information about the Recipe from Sonia:
In reality, the recipe is from before the time of Christ. It is from centuries before, when people used to prepare foods with grains and legumes to serve to the gods. The grain, legumes & dried fruits are from previous year & symbolize the harvest. But the fresh spinach represents the arrival of spring. Because this recipe is full of grain and legumes, the vinegar helps make it more digestible.

Sonia Says:
1. I always use dry peas and chick peas and soak in water overnight.
2. I always cook the legumes separately & keep them in the freezer, so that whenever I need it I can use them. But if you are going to cook the dry legumes together, first put the peas and chickpea in to cook, then the wheat and lentils are added in the same pot.
For the wheat I mean dzedzadz. The reality is in Armenia, they rarely use barley. It's used more in Russian cuisine.
3. This is not a creamy soup; we use a lot of water as the base.
4. It is a Lenten soup, so it must be made without meat broth. There is no butter or oil in the recipe. There are a lot of such soups in Armenian traditional cuisine.
5. In the picture, the pasta on the right is the arishda. You can use the simple Italian pasta, flat & not thin (as a substitute).
6. To serve: Use whatever kind of vinegar you have. I use apple vinegar, because I prepare it in my house.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Grape leaves stuffed with brown rice: A healthy choice you can enjoy without getting all mushy

Brown rice-stuffed grape leaves
Looks can be deceiving, or in this case just not very revealing. 

What you see are stuffed grape leaves, but what you can’t see is what’s inside. It’s always a challenge to pick one up without knowing what you’re about to bite into. 

For me, the unhappiest surprise is mushy rice. 

It’s one of the hazards of restaurant dining. We’ve also made the mistake of sampling the canned variety, as well as those floppy wraps of mysterious origin on the deli bar at the grocery store. 

But things can get a bit squishy even in our own kitchen, especially when Robyn leaves me unsupervised.  (You think she'd know better by now!)

My own preference is for bulgur stuffing, but I find it works best when served hot. For a cold appetizer, I do like rice but I sometimes get tripped up when the leaves are a bit tough and need more cooking time than the rice does. Result: Ugh.

I decided to try brown rice, which is healthy stuff. It has plenty of extra body but it takes quite a while longer to cook. My solution was so-called instant brown rice, which isn’t really instant but is definitely quicker cooking. 

The leaves and rice seemed quite happy simmering together for half an hour. Both had just the right bite, and they remained that way the next day at appetizer time. 

I’ve heard lots of  other tricks, and I bet you know a few. If you have a tip, please pass it along so we can give it a try. I promise to eat as many as I have to.

Brown rice stuffing for two dozen grape leaves
2-1/2 cups quick-cooking brown rice (more or less)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
Pine nuts to taste (about 1/4 cup or so)
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice of one large lemon 

1. Saute the chopped onion in enough of the olive oil to cover.When the onion begins to soften, add the pine nuts. Cook until the onion and pine nuts begin to brown. Remove from heat, and allow to cool slightly.
2. Place the uncooked brown rice in a large mixing bowl.
3. Add the slightly cooled onion mixture to the rice. Add the lemon juice and remaining olive oil to the bowl and mix.
4. Add salt and pepper to taste.
5. Cook as usual for ½ hour.