Friday, October 20, 2017

Ghapama! Jingyalov Hats! It’s time to make and share these two Armenian specialties!



On Sunday, October 29th, following Divine Liturgy at St. David Armenian Church in Boca Raton, FL, Ghapama (stuffed, baked pumpkin), Jingyalov Hats (lavash bread stuffed with herbs and cooked on a grill or griddle), and more will be served in the Mardigian Fellowship Hall.


GHAPAMA - Photo credit: Pam Aghababianhttp://cavecibum.blogspot.com/


The Armenian Kitchen's Jingalov Hats (Spelling varies!)

Father Paren Galstyan’s wife, Anna-Lusi Simonyan, and her trusted team will prepare and serve these unique recipes to those fortunate enough to be present on that day. 
Anna is a whiz in the kitchen - I know, I’ve sampled her delicious cooking!


The cost is $10; there is no charge for children under 12 years of age. So, bring your family and friends. You won’t want to miss this very special event!

PS: If you haven't already heard, you might be interested to know that chef, author, TV personality, Anthony Bourdain was recently introduced to jingyalov hats in Shushi, Artsakh! Click here to read.



Friday, October 13, 2017

Avocado-Pistachio-Arugula Salad with Lemon-Dijon Vinaigrette

The wrath of Mother Nature has been felt in many parts of the world recently. Sadly, wild fires, earthquakes, hurricanes and floods have ravaged numerous areas and have affected millions of people.
A grove of fallen Florida avocado trees due to Hurricane Irma (Photo source: Terra Fresh Foods) 
Farmland and crops haven't been spared, either. The loss of precious fruits and vegetables is affecting their availability and forcing food prices to sky-rocket.

The Florida avocado is one such crop. It'll be in limited supply for a while, but thankfully, other avocado-producing countries not affected by the weather, will help fill the demand – at a higher price, of course.

Despite it all, I will share an avocado-based recipe that I hope you’ll find worthwhile no matter the price of this Heavenly fruit!
Avocado-Pistachio-Arugula Salad
Avocado – Pistachio - Arugula Salad
Serves about 4

Ingredients:

1 small, ripe avocado, such as Hass
1 bag baby arugula (5–6 oz.), rinsed and spun-dry (Fresh baby spinach may be substituted)
Arugula rinsed and dried
1/3 cup good quality feta cheese, crumbled
1 cup grape tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
Garnish:  1/4 cup shelled pistachios, roasted and finely chopped

Dressing: ¼ cup homemade Lemon-Dijon Vinaigrette (Recipe Below)

Salad Directions:
Cubed avocado and chopped pistachios

Peel avocado; remove seed. Cut avocado into small cubes. 

Place arugula in salad bowl. Top with remaining ingredients – except dressing and pistachios. 

Pour 1/4 cup dressing over salad; toss to coat. 

Garnish with chopped pistachios. Serve immediately.

Lemon-Dijon Vinaigrette
Yields about ¾ cup

Ingredients:
1/2 cup good quality olive oil
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel, optional
1/2 teaspoon sugar or honey, optional
NOTE: If you're a fan of fresh cilantro, add 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves to the dressing.

Directions:
Whisk all ingredients in bowl to blend. Season with salt and pepper. (NOTE: Dressing may be made 1 day in advance. Refrigerate. Bring to room temperature, and whisk just before adding to salad.)





Friday, October 6, 2017

Red Pepper, White Bean, and Feta Soup - an accidental recipe

Sometimes recipes happen by accident. Such is the case of this Red Pepper, White Bean, and Feta Soup.

Doug and I were invited to our friend's home for dinner, so I offered to bring an appetizer dip. I searched my refrigerator and pantry to make use of what I had on hand - plain yogurt and crumbled feta in the refrigerator; a jar of roasted red peppers, a ton of canned white beans (hurricane provisions, you see) in the pantry. I figured if I swirled these together in the food processor with some spices, I’d have a dandy dip.

I got to work immediately because I wanted to make this early enough for the flavors to combine.
Red Pepper, White Bean, and Feta Dip
Here's what I did:
Red Pepper, White Bean, and Feta Dip
Ingredients:
1 - 15-oz can roasted red peppers, drained and rinsed
1 medium clove garlic, mashed
1 - 15-oz can Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup plain Greek-style yogurt
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
A squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Directions:
I placed all ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and processed until well-combined.

After I did this, I tasted it, placed the mixture a serving bowl, covered it, and set it in the frig for a few hours. I checked the flavors again and decided it was okay, but not good enough to share with our friends. 

Not one to discard perfectly good food, I decided to turn the dip into a soup. 
Red Pepper, White Bean, and Feta Soup
To do this, I added 3 cups of chicken broth (Note: Use more broth if you prefer a thinner soup, and vegetable broth may be substituted), 1 tsp. lower-sodium Better Than Bouillon (chicken based), and a dash of Aleppo pepper. I used an immersion blender to combine the ingredients, then gently heated it through. 
I sprinkled some crushed pita chips to garnish.

I'm happy to say, this dip recipe was much better as soup! Next time I'll omit the Feta as part of the soup base, but would use it as garnish.

What appetizer did I end up making?

Well, I actually made 2 - and - our hosts were pleased with both!
 Mexican-Inspired Cheese Dip with Tortilla chips (L);  Artichoke-Olive Tapenade with Pita chips (R)
#1. Mexican-Inspired Cheese Dip

4 oz. shredded Monterey Jack/Colby cheese combo.
4 oz. cream cheese
1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
¼ cup finely chopped onion
Olive oil
½ tsp. Kosher salt
3 Tbsp. water mixed with 1/2 tsp. chicken ‘Better Than Broth’
a few splashes of Cholula (chipotle) Hot Sauce, optional

Directions:
Sauté tomato, jalapeño, and onion in olive oil until onion and pepper are soft. Add water mixture; bring to boil.
Reduce heat; add cheeses, stirring constantly until melted. Stir in chipotle hot sauce, if using, just before serving.
Place in a serving bowl and serve immediately with tortilla chips.

NOTE: I had to refrigerate the cheese dip in a microwave-safe bowl until it was time to leave. Once we got to our friend’s house, I microwaved the cheese dip for 1 ½ minutes at 50% power, stirring every 30 seconds. It worked out great!

#2. Artichoke and Olive Tapenade
More pantry items were found for this. 
1 can black pitted olives (drained), 1 jar marinated artichoke hearts (drained), a few pitted Kalamata olives (for good measure), a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and a drizzle of olive oil.

I whirled it in the food processor and placed it in a serving bowl. Served this with pita chips.



Friday, September 29, 2017

Armenian Tomato and Bulgur Soup by Christine Datian

It’s officially autumn, at least according to the calendar. Eventually the temperature will drop into a more comfortable zone. When it does, you’ll want to ward-off the chill with a nice, hot bowl of Christine Datian’s Armenian Tomato and Bulgur Soup, which was recently featured in The Armenian Mirror-Spectator ( with a few minor changes).
So, gather your ingredients, and head for the kitchen.

Christine Datian's Armenian Tomato and Bulgur Soup


Armenian Tomato and Bulgur Soup by Christine Datian
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 large white onion, finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 medium green bell pepper, seeded, finely chopped
8-9 cups low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
1/2 cup fine grain bulgur
1/2 cup low-sodium tomato sauce
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Juice of one large lemon (more to taste)
Olive oil
Garnish with choice of yogurt, paprika, Aleppo pepper, fresh chopped tomatoes, parsley and mint, and a drizzle of olive oil- or - maybe a dollop of plain yogurt!

Preparation:
1. In a small pan, sauté the onions, garlic, and bell pepper in olive oil for 5 minutes or until the onions are golden brown.  Set aside.
2. In a large pot, bring the broth to a full boil over moderate heat.
3. Add the tomato paste to the boiling broth. Stir until paste is distributed evenly before adding the bulgur, tomato sauce, spices and lemon juice.  Stir, then add the cooked onions, garlic and bell pepper, and bring to a boil again.
4. Lower heat, cover, and simmer for 25-35 minutes, stirring soup a few times before serving.  Garnish as desired.

Note: To make this a hearty main dish, add small lamb or beef meatballs to this soup when cooking.

See recipe below from The Armenian Kitchen for Lamb Meatballs.

Lamb Meatballs

Ingredients:
    ¾ lb. ground lamb (ground beef or ground turkey may be substituted)
    3 Tbsp. finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
    1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
    1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
    1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
    1/4 tsp. Aleppo red pepper, or paprika
    Kosher salt and pepper to taste
   
Directions:
1. In a mixing bowl, add the ground lamb, chopped parsley, lemon juice and seasonings. Mix gently using your hands until well-combined.
2. Shape into small (1/2" to 3/4”) balls until all of the mixture has been used.
3. Drop the meatballs into the soup as it cooks in step # 4. Stir occasionally. Serve as directed above.



Friday, September 22, 2017

Montreal - a French city with a Middle Eastern twist!

After a 6-week excursion to NJ, upstate NY, and Montreal, we’re finally back in Florida. I’m relieved to report our home – and surroundings in general - escaped the worst of Hurricane Irma. Other parts of the state, however, were not as fortunate.

Our hearts go out to areas which have suffered severely from recent storms, wild fires, earthquakes, and whatever else Mother Nature has ‘dished out’.

We are truly feeling blessed.

Doug and I stayed a week longer in the Catskills than we’d planned, due to Irma. When we learned our home had no electricity, we felt no need to rush back, since the house was standing and the roof was intact.

Doug suggested we visit Montreal, a short 300 miles from the Catskills. He’d been suggesting this trip for the past 40 years (He wanted to go there on our honeymoon, but I had other ideas – I won!)
I’m happy I agreed to go this time.

It took us 10-hours by train from Hudson, NY – many stops along the way, plus a 2-hour delay at the border.  We chose to stay at the Best Western Ville - Marie Hotel and Suites, located near McGill University, museums, loads of restaurants and things to do.

Most travelers visit Montreal to experience French dining, language, visitor highlights such at Notre Dame, and the decidedly French ambiance of Old Montreal. We did all of that with the 2-day Hop-on/Hop-off tour, but were also intrigued by the fact that there were so many Middle Eastern establishments in the area.

Our hotel offered an on-site Lebanese restaurant, Zawedeh. The staff was great, and the food was pretty good. Our favorite dinner was the Shish Taouk (chicken kebab) served with toum, a fluffy garlic sauce or puree. (See recipe below.) There’s also Café Castel on the premises which caters to students with specialty coffee, sandwiches and sweet treats. We were told the café also serves lahmajoun – in season. (Funny, we didn’t realize there was a ‘season’ for lahmajoun!) 

Needless to say, many of the hotel staff are Lebanese, but we did find one Armenian, Garo, manning the front desk on the late shift. We were treated very well by all.

Elie, one of our dining room servers (and trained chef), Mary - also dining room staff, Brahim and Mike, both at the concierge desk, tipped us off to many sights including an amazing Middle Eastern market, Adonis, and to a couple of good lahmajoun spots – all an easy walk from our hotel.

Our visit to Adonis was an eye-opener! The store is huge and stocked with cases filled with the most incredible prepared foods – kibbe (kufte); meat, spinach, and cheese turnovers –(boregs); mini, medium, and large-sized lahmajoun – regular or spicy; an array of olives, cheeses, nuts, labne, - and the desserts – Holy Cow!


Kibbe and boreg display at Adonis.

Adonis' olive bar.

Desserts to die for at Adonis!

Our lunch from Adonis

We bought a package of mini lahmajoun, ready-to-eat stuffed vine leaves (yalanchi), and a few kibbe to have for lunch. An assortment of cookies – mamoul, kourabia, and bird’s nests – were enjoyed for several days with our afternoon tea or coffee.
Having a refrigerator and microwave in our mini-suite made dining-in possible and comfortable.


Another outing brought us to Arouch, an Armenian-owned ‘fast-food’ lahmajoun eatery. 
The menu signage at Arouch
Our lunch of lahmajoun and ayran.
The wall behind the counter bears a large sign depicting the menu options. Customers may purchase single items or, in the case of lahmajoun (regular or spicy), a half-dozen or whole dozen to-go - and - the staff will happily heat your choice for dining in. The lahmajoun was fresh and mighty tasty, and Ayran (a yogurt drink) helped wash it down. 

Would we return to Montreal?  You bet. And we'd choose the Best Western Ville-Marie again - during their café's lahmajoun season!

Toum, a Lebanese dipping sauce

Yield: 6 servings
Toum, a fluffy garlic dipping sauce (Recipe and photo from allrecipes.com)
Ingredients:
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 cup vegetable oil, or as needed (Canola, vegetable or peanut oil are best to use)
1 pinch salt
Juice of ½ lemon, or to taste
Directions:
Crush garlic in a mortar and pestle with a generous pinch of salt. Mix in oil a teaspoon at a time until the mixture will absorb no more oil. Stir in the lemon juice.

Serve at room temperature as a dip with Shish Taouk (chicken kebab), Lebanese breads, hummus or Tabbouleh.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Chef Serge Madikians' SEREVAN restaurant, Amenia, NY

Before we left Florida for upstate NY in August, Doug did an online search for Armenian restaurants in our travel route. He came across the SEREVAN restaurant in a small town named A-M-E-N-I-A. (I understand the restaurant's name is an adaptation of Lake Sevan located in Armenia.) I thought the town's name might have been a typographical error, but it is in fact, Amenia.
Chef Serge Madikians (center) took time to speak with us before preparing our unforgettable meal.
The chef-owner is Serge Madikians, an Armenian born in Iran and educated in the US. He is a smart, personable, skilled and talented chef, gardener, as well as a pilot. When the server states 'the evening's fresh catch was flown in by the chef himself', he means it - literally! 
Chef Serge greets his guests with a warm smile and open arms. You can tell many of the diners are longstanding regulars who truly enjoy his food, company, and homey atmosphere.

We chose to dine at Serevan to celebrate our 40th anniversary, and Mandy and Ron's 1st anniversary - a wise decision.
Basturma with labne-mint sauce; oysters with pomegranate mignonette.
Shirazi salad studded with Armenian string cheese.
We started our meal with cocktails - local wine, sour cherry cosmo, and arak. Appetizers included basturma with a labne-mint sauce and pita on the side, fresh oysters with a pomegranate mignonette, (I personally don't eat raw shellfish, but those in our family who do, loved it!), Shirazi salad, complimentary rosemary bread and baguettes accompanied with a bowl of assorted olives.
Sweet, perfectly seared, Cape Cod scallops.
Melt-in-your-mouth Hanger steak.
Local, free-range, tender as can be - chicken.

Perfectly prepared Corvina over a mix of colorful tomatoes and corn in a savory broth.
We dined on Cape Cod scallops, a most-tender portion of hanger steak, free-range chicken, and perfectly cooked Corvina - a firm, mild white fish, all served with a chef-inspired side dish.

Believe it or not, we did save room for dessert. (Sorry, no pictures - we ate them before we realized we hadn't taken any photos!) We shared 3 of the dessert options - creme fraiche cheese cake topped with slices of fresh apricot and a scoop of apricot sorbet on the side; traditional paklava with walnut sorbet, and the dessert of the day - apricot and plum crumble with a dollop of whipped cream. We sipped Armenian coffee to off-set the sweetness of the desserts.

This is a dining experience we'll long remember! 

Would we return? 
In a heartbeat - for amazing food in a friendly, relaxing environment, but most of all, for Chef Serge!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Lamb Shish Kebab marinated in Ararat Brandy - NOT your average kebab!

Last summer, my husband Doug and I gifted our shish kebab machine to our daughter Mandy and son-in-law Ron on the occasion of their wedding. A year has passed, and we're back in the Catskill Mts. of NY visiting the happy couple in their lovely mountain-top home.

To celebrate their first anniversary, the kebab machine was tuned-up and turned-on in order to dine on lamb shish kebab. The first order of business was to find American lamb for the dinner. Last year we purchased it from Heather Ridge Farm in a nearby burg, but orders must be made well in advance.

Since time was of the essence, we turned our sights to Todaro's Salumeria, a local grocer-butcher shop in downtown Windham, NY, where new owner Robert Lani fulfilled our request in lightning-fast time.
Aram Aslanian standing in front of Todaro's Salumeria holding our prized leg-of-lamb!


Doug trimming the leg of lamb
A day after the order was placed, an 11-lb. leg of lamb arrived - just in time for Doug to masterfully trim, cube, and marinate the lean, tender meat.  
The marinating mixture for the lamb.
Aram Aslanian, our best man, and Mandy's Godfather, drove down from Maine as a surprise bringing with him a bottle of Ararat brandy for a celebratory toast. When Aram wasn't looking, Doug took it upon himself to douse the lamb cubes with a hefty amount of the brandy creating an incredible marinade.

Once the bones were removed and the meat was cubed, we estimate there was about 8 lbs. of meat. Some pieces were too small for kebab so they were put aside for another recipe. (See below)

Here's how Doug made the marinade: 
Ready to refrigerate
He placed the meat in a large bowl.
Poured about 1 cup of Ararat brandy over the meat and tossed. Added 2 coarsely chopped tomatoes, 1 coarsely chopped onion, 3 cloves chopped garlic, 2 Tbsp. freshly ground coriander seeds, 2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper. Tossed to coat. Covered and refrigerated overnight for flavors to blend.
Skewered lamb, ready to grill
The next day, just before skewering the meat, Doug adjusted the seasonings and added some salt at the last minute. 

NOTE: If salt is added to the original marinade, too much of the meat's natural juice is extracted causing the kebab to become dried out.  

While the coals were heating up, I made a large pot of rice pilaf, grilled sweet onions along with red, yellow and orange bell peppers, and put together a salad. 
Ready to serve!!
It didn't take long for the kebab to cook, and that was a good thing, for the scent of the kebab was absolutely hypnotic! We ate in silence, savoring every morsel of the brandy-infused lamb. It was one of those O-M-G meals and the BEST kebab experience - EVER!!

In case you were wondering, those smaller lamb pieces were used to make fassoulia (green beans) and lamb.
Lamb pieces too small for kebab were cooked, then added to the green bean recipe. 
Fassoulia made with the cooked lamb bits was served over rice.
 I cooked the lamb bones to make broth which was used as the base of the dish. This yielded about 6 cups of broth which was strained and chilled overnight. (Three cups were used in the recipe; the other 3 cups are in the freezer for another time.) The fat, which rose to the surface and solidified, was removed. 

  • To prepare the dish, I sauteed 1 medium onion and 2 small cloves of crushed garlic in a small amount of olive oil. 
  • Next I added the 3 cups of lamb broth,1- 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes with the juice, 2 Tbsp. red pepper paste, salt, pepper, allspice, ground coriander, dried oregano - amounts as desired.
  • A 1-lb. bag of frozen cut green beans and the lamb bits were added last. This cooked, with pot cover tilted, over a medium-low heat for about 1 hour, or until the beans were very soft. (Be sure to stir now and then.)
  • When done, I let it cool a while, then placed the fassoulia in a container, covered it and refrigerated it overnight. 

It tastes better the next day, believe me!
   

Friday, August 11, 2017

Anahid Krichian's Grill and Bistro - a gem in Paterson, NJ

Over the years, I’ve heard many stories about the delicious food Anahid Krichian catered to Armenian functions in north Jersey. Not only does Anahid cater, she has a very popular restaurant as well.

My sister would tell me how she and her husband Ara would meet our cousin Vivian and her husband John at Anahid’s Grill and Bistro  Paterson, NJ for a relaxing and satisfying Armenian meal - and they’d bring their own bottle of wine – a practice that’s unheard of in our south Florida establishments.

As Doug and I were preparing for our trip to the northeast, Dawn arranged a luncheon date for the four us at Anahid’s along with friends Rose and John Kardashian (no relation to Kim). Upon entering the restaurant, we bumped into a table of long-time friends from St. Leon Armenian Church. It was like old-home week!
Some of the appetizers at Anahid's - manti with yogurt for dipping, and the remaining cheese boreg
The main event was meeting Anahid in the flesh, and dining on her wonderfully comforting food. The six of us shared an assortment of mezzes – babaganoush, Armenian shepherd’s salad with a tangy lemon dressing, cheese boregs, and manti with a yogurt dip. 
The filet mignon kebab platter.

Five of us ordered the filet mignon kebab and ‘wheat-lentil’ side dish – aka mujudara (spelling varies!). Doug had the chicken kebab. Everything was spot-on.

Did we save room for dessert? You bet!
The ice cream dessert Doug and I shared - yum!
One third portion of Anahid's kadaif dessert! 
Most shared the generous kadaif dessert, while Doug and I shared the creamy ice cream topped with ground pistachio nuts and rose jam – delicious! Armenian coffee topped-off the meal.

When we said our good-byes and thanks to Anahid, Dawn, Ara and I continued on to nearby Nouri’s Middle Eastern store to stock-up. Doug went home with the Kardashians because John promised to drive him back to my sister’s house in his CORVETTE. Boys will be boys!

If time and scheduling allows, we’ll most-certainly re-visit Anahid’s before heading back home.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Our Pot-luck Feast!

It’s time for us to leave hot, steamy Florida, for cooler surroundings in the Catskill Mountains.

In order to prepare for our get-away, we started consuming frozen and refrigerated foods, and pantry items weeks ago. Down to our last must-eat morsels, we invited friends to share our pot-luck feast.
Muhammara (left) and easy Midia Dolma (right)

Frozen mussels were transformed into midia dolma, finishing up the rice, pine nuts and currants.
The last ½ cup of commercially prepared red pepper paste turned out a nice bowl of muhammara. (Yes, you can make muhammara with red pepper paste!)

Our pot-luck feast! Clock-wise from top-right: phyllo-cheese spiral, fassoulia with ground meat, bulgur pilaf, and salad.

The frozen lamb broth, green beans, and ground meat, became a tasty fassoulia main dish accompanied with bulgur pilaf.

And because I had one in the freezer, I popped a 5- cheese phyllo spiral from Trader Joe's into the oven to serve along with the main course. A salad, dressed with olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lime, rounded out the meal.

Our guests brought champagne to toast our families, and long-time friendship, and homemade lemon bars to top-off a perfectly lovely evening.


Don’t worry; we’ll resume posting when settle into our ‘mountain kitchen’. Until then, stay cool!