Saturday, September 15, 2018

And then came Hurricane Florence

Please see update below ...

Would you like to hear a not-so-funny story?

Doug and I moved to inland South Carolina 6 months ago after a 40-year run in south Florida. Our reasons for leaving included the excessive heat, humidity, and annoying hurricane seasons. We’d had enough!

Our new location suits our needs: an Armenian church in Charlotte, proximity to a major airport (so we can visit family and travel to exotic locations), and to avoid the impact of  hurricanes.

And then came Hurricane Florence - barreling into the North and South Carolina coasts! We’re pretty far inland, but  Florence is headed our way as a tropical storm ready to dump A LOT of rain. Power outages are imminent as is major flooding.
So, I’m trying to write and post this before the lights go out.

Are we prepared? You bet. Bottled water, gas grill, canned food, batteries, flashlights, board games, etc.
Right now we’re eating whatever is in the freezer so these foods won’t go to waste.


Freezer foods we must consume!
I don’t know what my neighbors are chowing-down on, but here’s what Doug and I have to consume from the freezer- and fast:
Lahmajoun, kufteh, basterma, lavash, fillo dough (you know, the usual!) and a few other goodies.


I’ll end here so that I can get cooking before it’s too late. I’ll be back after the storm leaves and power is restored.

Until then …


Update: Florence will be a tropical storm when it reaches us. This doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods; it just means the winds won’t be as fierce. The rain is another story.
After I posted the original piece, I got busy in the kitchen and whipped up a tray of spinach pie with the on-hand ingredients (recipe follows). Since the oven was on I heated up some lahmajoun as well. A mini side salad, parsley and onions completed our 'hurricane' lunch. Not a bad meal under the circumstances!
Out of the freezer and into the oven - while we still have electricity!


The Armenian Kitchen's 'Hurricane' Lunch

Easy Spinach Pie

Ingredients:
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1-15 oz. bag frozen, chopped spinach, thawed, and squeezed dry (This is very important!)
1- 4 oz. container crumbled Feta cheese
2 eggs, beaten
2 Tbsp. Greek-style plain yogurt
2 Tbsp. melted butter
Salt, pepper, dried dill, dried oregano, to taste (Note: Go easy on the salt as the Feta cheese provides plenty!)
Fillo dough sheets (I used 5 sheets for this.)
4 Tbsp. melted butter for brushing

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Lightly grease an 8” x 11” baking pan.

In a skillet, sauté the sliced onions in olive oil, until onion is softened, but not browned. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

In a mixing bowl, combined all of the ingredients except the fillo dough and the brushing butter.

Open the fillo pkg. and remove the sheets, covering them with a lightly dampened tea towel and plastic wrap to prevent the sheets from drying out.

Working with one sheet at a time, place in the baking dish so that the sheets hang over the 2 long sides. Brush each sheet with butter until the 5 sheets are used.

Spread the spinach mixture evenly over the fillo sheets which cover the bottom of the baking pan. Fold the hanging fillo sheets toward the center, brushing with extra melted butter, if necessary. Make sure the fillo dough covers the spinach filling. Brush additional butter on the top fillo layer.

Using a sharp knife, cut through the layers into serving pieces.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until top is golden brown.


Saturday, September 8, 2018

Garbanzo Bean and Vegetable Soup by Christine Vartanian Datian

It might still be pretty hot outside, but cooler days are on the horizon. Pumpkins and gourds are already on display in supermarkets, and believe it or not, Christmas decorations are hitting the shelves in certain stores!

It’s safe to say that a good soup recipe is always appropriate to post. Here’s the latest contribution by Christine Datian to both the Armenian Mirror-Spectator – and – The Armenian Kitchen. (Thanks, Chris!)

Enjoy, everyone!!
Christine Datian's Garbanzo Bean and Vegetable Soup

Garbanzo Bean and Vegetable Soup
by Christine Vartanian Datian
Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

2 - 16 oz. cans reduced sodium garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
2-3 tablespoons olive oil or unsalted butter
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 medium onion, chopped (white, brown or yellow)
2 stalks celery (and top greens), chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 medium baking potato or sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 medium red or green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 pound spinach, rinsed, stems removed, and chopped*
8 cups reduced sodium chicken, beef broth or vegetable broth (to taste)
1 8 oz. can reduced sodium tomato sauce or tomato juice
1 -14.5 oz. can stewed or crushed tomatoes or 1 cup fresh diced tomatoes
1/4 cup fine bulgur
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon dried crushed mint
1 bay leaf
Salt, black pepper, dash of allspice
Crushed red pepper flakes, cumin, smoked paprika, basil, oregano or Aleppo pepper (to taste)
Olive oil
Garnishes: Chopped fresh mint, basil or parsley

Preparation:

In a large Dutch oven or pot, sauté garlic, onions, celery, carrots, potatoes, and peppers in olive oil or butter for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add garbanzo beans, broth, tomato sauce or juice, tomatoes, bulgur, lemon juice, and tomato paste, stir and bring to a full boil; add spinach, mint, bay leaf and spices and stir to combine.  Reduce heat, cover, and cook for 45-55 minutes or until tender.  Stir soup occasionally and add more broth or spices as needed.

Remove bay leaf.  Mash beans and potatoes if a thicker consistency is desired.  Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with choice of mint, basil or parsley.  

Drizzle with olive oil and serve with pita bread, garlic bread or bread sticks.

**Suggestions
Spinach may be pan-fried in olive oil and garlic and added to this soup.  Garnish with Armenian or Greek yogurt or sour cream.  Or you can add 1/4 cup chopped dried dates or apricots to this recipe, if desired.

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



Friday, August 31, 2018

Avocado Hummus, a classic dish at Momed Restaurant, Beverly Hills, CA

The back yard of our second house in south Florida was a small garden of Eden. We had a prolific mango tree, 2 abundant avocado trees, grapefruit and orange trees, and a small Meyer lemon tree. We loved that yard and all that it provided.

Back then the only recipe I made with the avocados was guacamole. The avocado has become more sophisticated in its recipe applications, and I’ve tried to branch-out in my use of them, too.

Today you’ll find avocados used in omelets (I love a crab-avocado omelet!), pastas, salads, salad dressings, soups, desserts – such as mousse and ice cream, cocktails (margaritas), of course, the very popular, often expensive menu item - avocado toast, and naturally, hummus.

There’s a restaurant in Beverly Hills, CA called Momed, short for modern Mediterranean. The owner, Alex Sarkissian, has been serving avocado hummus at his establishment ever since it opened almost ten years ago. He calls this particular hummus one of his ‘classic dishes’, in fact, a ‘superstar’- on the menu.  
Image result for avocado hummus momed
California Cookbook - LA Times: Momed's Avocado Hummus
Their recipe is a simple blend of pureed avocados with garlic, lime and lemon juice, tahini, cumin and a touch of salt – no chick peas required. Mr. Sarkissian notes that the recipe does not taste like guacamole due to the addition of tahini.

Dana Slatkin, chef, Culinary Institute of America grad and cookbook author interviewed Mr. Sarkissian when his restaurant first opened. He shared the avocado hummus recipe with her, and I’m passing it on to you.

(See my quickie version below!)

Momed’s Avocado Hummus
Makes about 1 cup

Ingredients:
2 medium ripe avocados
1/4 cup tahini (ground sesame) paste
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons ground cumin (preferably toasted until fragrant)
1 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (optional)
Sea salt, to taste

Directions:
In a food processor, blend all the ingredients except the oil. Through the top of the machine, slowly pour in the oil (You may not need to use it all.). Season to taste with salt and transfer to a serving bowl.

Notes: If you’re not serving this immediately, place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the hummus to prevent discoloration. Can be made 1 day ahead.

If you prefer a heartier hummus, Dana suggests blending-in ½ cup or more of canned, drained, chick peas.


Serve with pita bread triangles, pita chips, crackers, and/or vegetable sticks

FYI: avocado hummus tastes really good on toast!



My quickie version of Avocado Hummus:
My super-quick version of Avocado Hummus

I had one small, ripe Hass avocado waiting to be used. After peeling and de-seeding it, I added about a teaspoon or 2 of tahini, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and a sprinkling of salt, cumin and garlic powder. Mashed it with a fork until smooth and served it on thin crunchy crackers. 



Friday, August 24, 2018

Mama Ghanoush - a great name for a tasty appetizer!


The Armenian Kitchen's Mama Ghanoush garnished with toasted pine nuts.
Doug likes to browse through Middle Eastern restaurant menus online. One day he showed me an amazing menu, each dish sounding more incredible than the next.

The one that caught my eye was 'Mama Ghanoush'. I don't know how it got it's name, but it's the zucchini version of the eggplant-based dish, Baba Ghanoush

Mama Ghanoush isn’t a new recipe, but I’d never seen it on a restaurant menu before now.

Hoping the restaurant was nearby, I enthusiastically asked Doug its name and how soon could we go.

In a soft voice, he reluctantly stated, "The restaurant is called Batchig and it’s in, um, Lebanon."

Lebanon?? Thanks a lot, Doug!! Right away I knew we wouldn’t be dining there anytime soon.

Special Note: Batchig means ‘kiss’, in Armenian. 

Coincidentally, a few days later, I saw a recipe on Face Book for ‘Mama Ghanouj’ – from Oh My Veggies website. 

I took this as a sign that it was time for me to prepare it.

Here is my adapted version of Mama Ghanoush … 
(Note: recipe name spellings often vary.)

Mama Ghanoush
Yields about 1 to 1-1/2  cups

Ingredients:

2 medium to large zucchini (about 1-1/2 to 2 lbs.), washed, unpeeled (Note: Zucchini may be left whole or sliced in half lengthwise, depending on size.)
1/4 c. tahini, well-stirred
1/2 tsp. ground cumin, optional
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt, or to taste
Juice from 1 large lemon
1 or 2 medium cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling on top

Garnishing options: toasted pine nuts, ground cumin, chopped parsley, za'atar, olive oil.

Directions:

Wash each zucchini and pat dry. Slice in half lengthwise, or, leave whole. Lightly oil the zucchini's surface.
Oiled zucchini halves in a lightly oiled stove top grill pan. 
Grilled zucchini halves 
Place zucchini directly on the heated grill grates. Grill, turning from time to time, until softened and lightly charred. Grilling can be done on the stove top using a grill pan, or broiled in the oven, but, turn every so often so they cook evenly.
(I used a stove top grill pan.)
Grilled zuchini chunks
Remove from heat and allow to cool. Slice off the top and the bottom off each zucchini and cut them into large chunks.

In a small mixing bowl combine tahini, cumin, salt, garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil until well-blended.

Place grilled zucchini chunks and tahini mixture in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Adjust seasonings, if necessary.

Transfer to a serving bowl and drizzle additional olive oil on the top.

Garnish with toasted pine nuts, additional ground cumin, chopped parsley, or za'atar, if desired.

Serve with an assortment of fresh vegetable sticks, pita bread triangles, pita chips, or crackers.

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.