Wednesday, April 19, 2017

What makes coffee Armenian? We do, just by drinking it.

Our YouTube video showing How to Make Armenian Coffee is approaching 50,000 views, and the comments keep coming.

Most have been enthusiastic but some have been downright nasty, and others genuinely obscene. This sure contradicts the idea that there’s nothing like a cup of coffee to bring people together.

The complainers just can’t swallow the idea of Armenian coffee, which is simply the coffee Armenians drink.

As our video makes clear, all cultures of the Near and Middle East consume remarkably similar versions of the same finely ground coffee heated to a frothy finish in a copper pot.

When Greeks make it, it’s Greek coffee. When Turks make it, it’s Turkish coffee. We should probably all call it Ethiopian coffee, given the likely origin of the venerable bean.

I don’t really care whose flag is stenciled on the wrapper, but I do care what’s inside. Despite its popularity around the world, good Armenian-style coffee isn’t easy to find in much of this country.

Even at a Middle Eastern specialty store, you risk getting something that’s been on the shelf since the fall of Troy.

I was grumbling about this dilemma a few weeks ago after finding the cupboard bare at afternoon coffee time. Forays to local shops turned up a couple of choices that were no more than passable. Then an mail popped up from Hrag Kalebjian, “co-owner of Henry's House Of Coffee, and third generation coffee roaster in San Francisco.”

He’d seen our website as well as our YouTube video and offered to send us some fresh-roasted Armenian coffee. It was if he’d somehow sensed that a fellow Armenian on the other side of the continent was thirsty! How could I refuse?

Hrag was in fact kind enough to send three varieties of Armenian coffee: light, dark and half-and-half. We agreed to give each a taste test and relay the results to both him and to you, our readers.

I’m delighted to report that all three were excellent: remarkably smooth with no bitterness—and absolutely no trace of lingering acidity that can be hauntingly familiar to patrons of certain American coffee chains.

We all have our own frames of reference, but here’s mine: Henry’s Armenian Coffee compares to the tin-can grocery store variety as a good 12-year-old single malt compares to no-name bar Scotch.

Robyn doesn’t drink Scotch, so her verdict was more direct: “Wow. This is excellent.” We both agreed that our favorite was the dark roast, with the half-and-half a close second. I liked the depth of both better than the light version.

Your preference might well differ. Hrag says the darker coffee is generally favored by Lebanese Armenians, and the light by Armenians from Iran—but we all have definite opinions. (Surprise!)

Interestingly, there’s no difference in caffeine content among the three varieties although many who try the light version think it’s super-charged because the density of the roast allows more coffee in each scoop.

You can learn more about the subtleties and skill that go into a good cup of soorj by checking out the Henry’s House of Coffee web site. You’ll also find ordering information as well as pricing.

As for what distinguishes Armenian coffee from any other, Hrag offers this answer: “In general, Armenian Coffee refers to the actual grind size (powder sugar consistency) and not necessarily the country of origin, or even the type of coffee."

Henry's dark roast, for example, is made from a blend of beans from Central and South America. "You could technically take any type of coffee, grind it extra fine, and call it Armenian Coffee,” he said.

I guess you could do that. But I think it's better when an Armenian does the grinding—and best of all, when this Armenian does the sipping!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Our family wishes you a Blessed Easter!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Christine Datian's 'Armenian Tomato and Bulgur Soup' is sure to please!

Christine Datian's Armenian Tomato and Bulgur Soup
Ready for another special recipe by Christine Datian? This time, she’s whipped-up a pot of tantalizing tomato-bulgur soup – Armenian style. (Anything with bulgur in it makes it Armenian, as far as we’re concerned!)

Chris notes that this recipe is great for vegetarians and/or Lent by using vegetable broth or water as the base in place of chicken broth.

Thanks, Chris, for sharing your recipe with us!

Armenian Tomato and Bulgur Soup
Serves 4

Ingredients:
6-7 cups low sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 medium green bell pepper, seeded, finely chopped
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
1 cup fine grain bulgur
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 large lemon

Garnishing options: Paprika or Aleppo pepper, fresh chopped tomatoes, parsley and mint, and a drizzle of Olive oil

 Preparation:

 Bring broth (or water) to a full boil over moderate heat in a large pot.

 Meanwhile, in a small pan, sauté the onions and bell pepper in olive oil for 5-8 minutes until the onions are golden brown.  Set aside.

 Add the tomato paste to the boiling broth.  Stir until tomato paste is distributed evenly before adding the bulgur, salt, and pepper.  Stir to combine, then add the cooked onions and bell pepper.

 Cover pot, lower heat, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring a few times before serving.  Serve hot soup with a little lemon juice, and top with paprika or Aleppo pepper; garnish with chopped tomatoes, parsley and mint.  Drizzle with olive oil, if desired.

 *Christine's recipes have been published in the Fresno Bee Newspaper, Sunset and Cooking Light Magazines, and at thearmeniankitchen.com
 Go to: http://www.myrecipes.com/search/site/Datian or http://www.thearmeniankitchen.com/



Friday, April 7, 2017

Apricot Almond Cookie Bites

With the Lenten season coming to an end, I’ve set my sights on finding a dessert recipe that would have just enough sweetness to top off anyone’s Easter meal.

Christine Coyle, blogger of Hye Thyme Café, posted a recipe for Apricot Almond Bar Cookies which sounded pretty close to what I had in mind, so I decided to try it. I tweaked it a bit to suit our taste buds and came up with a mighty-fine two-bite dessert  that’s a little sweet with a hint of tart – perfect with a cup of coffee or tea! 
Apricot Almond Cookie Bites

Apricot Almond Cookie Bites
adapted from Chris Coyle’s recipe at Hye Thyme Café

Yield: about 32 - 1 ½ inch squares

Ingredients:

10 Tbsp. unsalted butter (1 stick, plus 2 Tbsp.)
2 cups light brown sugar, loosely packed
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 ½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 cup dried apricots, diced
1 Tbsp. flour
1 cup toasted almonds, coarsely chopped

Directions:
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the brown sugar and stir until sugar dissolves. Remove saucepan from heat to cool.

Once butter-sugar mixture is cool, stir in the vanilla extract and beaten eggs until well-combined. Transfer the butter mixture to a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually add the flour into the butter mixture, beating after each addition. The batter will be quite thick.

Apricot bits coated in flour
Coat the chopped apricots with 1 Tbsp. flour to help keep the pieces from clumping together.
Finished cookie batter

Fold the apricots and chopped almonds into the batter until evenly distributed.

Skillet-toasted almonds
Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9”x 12” baking pan. Using a rubber spatula, spread the batter evenly into the baking pan.
Batter evenly spread in baking pan

Bake for about 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. 
Place the baking pan on a cooling rack. Cool completely before cutting into 1 ½-inch squares.

For an attractive presentation, place each square in a mini muffin paper liner and arrange on a platter.


Friday, March 31, 2017

Christine Vartanian Datian serves-up 'Yellow Split Pea Soup with Mint, Browned Onion and Yogurt Garnish'

As we are still in the season of Lent, I would like to pass along, with Christine Datian’s permission, her most recent recipe found in TheArmenian Mirror-Spectator - ‘Yellow Split Pea Soup with Mint, Browned Onion and Yogurt Garnish’ – suitable for Lent - minus the use of chicken broth or yogurt garnish, of course!
Christine Datian's 'Yellow Split Pea Soup with Mint, Browned onions, and Yogurt Garnish'

Yellow Split Pea Soup with Mint, Browned Onion and Yogurt Garnish
By Christine Vartanian Datian
Yield: approx. 4 to 6 serving
Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups dried split yellow peas, picked over and rinsed
6-8 cups water, vegetable broth, or chicken broth
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow or white onion, chopped
2 teaspoons dried mint, crushed
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, peeled, thinly sliced or diced
2 stalks celery (and top greens), diced
Extra water or broth, if needed
Kosher or sea salt and white or black pepper to taste
Aleppo pepper, paprika, and red pepper flakes to taste
 Directions:
1.  In a large pot, sauté the onions, garlic, carrot, celery, and a dash of salt for 3 to 5 minutes over medium heat until onions are browned and vegetables are tender; stir so garlic does not burn.  Add the water or broth and the split peas to the pot and stir.
2.   Bring ingredients to a full boil, reduce heat, and cook for 40 to 45 minutes or until split peas are tender.  Stir again, adding more liquid if soup becomes too thick.  Season with salt, pepper, mint, and choice of seasonings to taste.
3. Using a ladle, place small batches of soup in a blender.  Puree each batch then place in a bowl.  Continue until all the soup has been pureed.  If you prefer the soup with more texture, puree only half of the soup.
4. Serve with Yogurt Garnish and additional toppings on the side (see below). 
While the soup is cooking, prepare the Yogurt Garnish.
Yogurt Garnish:
1 cup plain white or Greek-style yogurt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped or 2 teaspoons dried mint, crushed
Dash of sea or Kosher salt
Juice of 1/2 large lemon and 1 tablespoon olive oil
Combine the yogurt, garlic, mint, salt, lemon juice and olive oil in a small bowl.  Cover and chill garnish until ready to serve.

Additional toppings:
 Minced flat-leaf parsley
Olive oil for drizzling
Chopped Kalamata or black olives and chopped Roma tomatoes


Friday, March 24, 2017

Green House Bazaar, 5100 10th Avenue North, Greenacres, FL - A Hidden Gem Found!


When a Middle Eastern grocery store opened in our hometown of Boynton Beach a few years ago, Doug and I couldn’t have been more pleased. We were able to purchase the  must-have Armenian ingredients in order to make our cherished family recipes. The store’s owner, ‘Ken’ had a meat counter, some fresh produce, frozen items, housewares – you name it. He was even planning to have a bakery oven installed for daily-baked pitas, and eventually, a kitchen for freshly prepared food.  Sadly, things didn’t turn out as Ken expected and the business came and went after a short two-year run.

With the arrival of more ethnicities requiring the same cooking ingredients as we use, we’re puzzled by the severe shortage of Middle Eastern specialty shops in this area.

Several years ago, Doug and I stumbled upon a place called Green House Bazaar in Greenacres, a suburb of West Palm Beach, and not far from our home. At the time it was a partially open-air produce stand with a sprinkling of Middle Eastern items on their meagerly stocked shelves, and a kebab counter that didn’t seem to have anyone running it. The place was ok, but we never bothered to return ... until …

… our friend, Adele Abbott, alerted us to the fact that the Persian-owned Green House Bazaar had been enclosed, still had fresh produce, housed numerous shelves of ‘interesting food items’, a refrigerated and frozen food section including phyllo dough, kadaif dough, etc. – and best of all – the kebab café, which she claimed was very good!



This is the only made-in-Armenia product we found.
Doug and I swung by one afternoon to check it out. We were delighted to find lavash, basturma, paklava, and a myriad of ingredients that would be useful in The Armenian Kitchen. They were, however, lacking in products imported from Armenia (we found only one) and items such as prepared lahmajoun and Armenian string cheese.

Our take-out combo plate


Salmon kebab take-out dinner with green rice

While there, we decided to buy two kebab meals-to-go for dinner that night, and are we glad we did!  We chose the combo platter with chicken kebab and beef lule kebab, and the second with salmon kebab. Both meals contained salad, rice – white, or green rice, which was studded with fava beans and lots of dill (we got one of each), grilled tomatoes and red peppers, a piece of freshly made lavash, and a side of a garlic-dill sauce. The salads and veggies were particularly fresh –as the produce stand is just steps away from the kitchen!
Lavash is made right on the premises

Would we return? You bet, but I plan to have a chat with the owner to see about stocking some more of our personal favorites!


Friday, March 17, 2017

CARROT (or APPLE) LENTEN CAKE from Sonia Tashjian

Sonia Tashjian's Carrot Lenten Cake

Periodically, Sonia Tashjian posts a special recipe from her vast repertoire on The Armenian Kitchen. With the Lenten season in full swing, she recently added her recipe for a carrot cake which is suitable for those choosing to follow a strict Lenten diet - or anyone at all!

Without further ado, here is Sonia’s preparation for Carrot Lenten Cake. In parentheses, I have noted that appple juice and applesauce may be substituted for the carrot juice and puree.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Lemon Yogurt Hummus by Christine Datian

Christine Datian's Lemon Yogurt Hummus

Christine Datian has come to my rescue!

Little did she know, but I’ve been swamped this week helping with an upcoming event at our church. In fact, I’ve been taking reservations along with my side-kick, Linda Aginian, and it’s been keeping us on our toes.

How did Chris rescue me? By providing me with her latest recipe, Lemon Yogurt Hummus currently appearing in The Armenian Mirror-Spectator(pg. 15), to post for my readers.  
The recipe is quick, simple, and lip-smacking delicious!

I'll be back in 'The Kitchen' soon!

Lemon Yogurt Hummus
by Christine Datian

Ingredients:
1- 16 oz. can garbanzo beans, drained except for 1/4 cup of the liquid (use this liquid)
1 1/2 cups plain white Greek yogurt (more to taste)
Juice of one large lemon (more lemon juice to taste)
Zest of 1/2 lemon
2 cloves garlic, mashed
2-3 tablespoons tahini
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt and dash of black pepper
3-4 tablespoons olive oil (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper or Aleppo pepper (more to taste)
Fresh lemon wedges, olive oil, minced parsley, chopped tomatoes, paprika and fresh mint as garnish

Preparation:
Place the ingredients, remaining liquid, and spices in a blender, cover, and process until smooth.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.   Place hummus on a platter or in a bowl and serve with sliced vegetables, cracker bread, pita bread, and pita chips.

Garnish with choice of fresh lemon wedges, olive oil, parsley, chopped tomatoes, paprika and mint.

 Note: *This hummus recipe may easily be doubled for more servings.

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

*For Christine’s recipes that have been published in Sunset and Cooking Light Magazines, go to: <http://www.myrecipes.com/search/site/Datian>

Friday, March 3, 2017

Zucchini Yogurt Tahini Dip

Zucchini Yogurt Tahini Dip 
It’s the height of vegetable-growing in south Florida. Locally-grown tomatoes, strawberries and zucchini are at their peak right now. The best part is that the prices for these are at their lowest, so we stock-up on as much as we can consume without having any of it go to waste.

In the past we’ve posted numerous recipes featuring zucchini (see list below), but here is a very tasty appetizer utilizing our locally-grown zucchini, plain yogurt, and tahini. Add some special seasonings and garnish with pomegranate seeds, and you’ve got yourself an eye-appealing, tasty mezze!

Friday, February 24, 2017

White Bean, Spinach and Garlic Soup from Christine Datian



My version of Christine Datian's soup
I don’t know how cold it gets where you live during the winter, but it never gets very cold in south Florida. That’s a fact, not a complaint!


Regardless of the outside temperature, soup is a regular part of our menu.

Christine Datian’s recipe for 'White Bean, Spinach, and Garlic Soup' recently appeared on page 15 in The Armenian Mirror-Spectator, and she’s asked me to share it with you. Before posting it, I made the soup, tweaking it according to the ingredients I had on hand. (See below)

I’m sure you’ll appreciate the comforting effects of her stick-to-your-ribs, heartwarming soup as much as we did!

Just click the 'Read More' link for the recipe.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Muhammara made with red pepper paste – a really easy version!

The Armenian Kitchen's Muhammara  
I’m always amazed when I get an Armenian Kitchen email from someone I knew from my childhood. One such email reached me recently from John, an old family-friend. I really knew his two older sisters better, as they were closer to my age.

John asked me for some advice on making muhammara using commercially prepared red pepper paste which is sold in most Middle Eastern stores.
John’s request:
“I'm currently attempting to make Muhammara from jarred pepper paste.  I definitely want to use your recipe, and was wondering how to equate the 2 eight ounce jars of roasted red peppers in your recipe to prepared pepper paste.  I was going to make an educated guess, but then thought it would be better to check with you.”

My Response:
“I see no reason why you couldn't make it using red pepper paste. I would suggest experimenting a bit.
The paste would have to be thinned-out with some water to a spreadable, rather than a pourable consistency. Since the paste is generally made with only red peppers and salt (unless it's the hot version), combine the thinned paste with the rest of the ingredients that are listed in the recipe. It's best made in advance so the flavors can blend.”


Friday, February 10, 2017

Spiced Red Lentil Dip-or-Spread

Doug and I were invited to a 'Super Bowl' dinner last Sunday, even though we never actually planned to watch or discuss the game. It was just an excuse to get together.


Spicy Red Lentil Dip


I offered to bring any appetizer our hostess wished. She left the choice up to me, stating that I should bring whatever I’d be cooking for The Armenian Kitchen.

I’d thought about making hummus, but I'd made it numerous times, and decided it’s become too ‘ordinary’, despite its variations. 


Instead, I opted to make 'Spiced Red Lentil Dip - or Spread'. When one thinks of red lentils, they usually associate it with soup or, if you’re Armenian, vospov kufteh.

Friday, February 3, 2017

My (Second) Manti Experiment

I enjoy a steaming bowl of well-made Manti in chicken broth topped with plain yogurt.

If you’re not familiar with Manti, they are tiny squares of dough stuffed with a small ball of seasoned ground meat that are shaped into ‘boats’. Traditionally the Manti is baked, then served in broth.

My first attempt at making Manti using wonton wrappers as the dough wasn’t exactly a success – and I admit it. I said I’d make it again – from scratch, but never did.

Market Basket table at St. David Armenian Church
My church has a ‘Market Basket’ table in the fellowship hall most Sundays after services selling lavash, choreg, soujuk, and so much more. It’s almost like having our own Armenian grocery store on the premises.

From time to time, the Market Basket also sells the Ohanyan brand of commercially prepared frozen Manti. I was excited to try it, as the thought of making it from scratch without anyone to help seemed tiring.

My friend, Linda Aginian and I both bought packages. She made hers first, following the package instructions which read: “Bring 4 cups of water to a rolling boil in a large saucepan. Add salt or 2 cubes of bouillon. Add Manti, stirring occasionally. Boil 10-15 minutes. Pour your choice of sauce over cooked Manti. Serve hot.”

Friday, January 27, 2017

Balsamic Eggplant and Pepper Salad with Golden Raisins

Christine Datian continues to wow people with her culinary creativity. Another of her creations can be found on the California Raisin website – and – right here on The Armenian Kitchen!

Try her latest tasty treat … a salad featuring roasted eggplant and California golden raisins.
California Golden Raisins

Balsamic Eggplant and Pepper Salad with Golden Raisins
by Christine Vartanian Datian

 INGREDIENTS:

 6 medium Japanese eggplants
1 each red and green bell pepper, sliced or diced
1 medium red onion, minced
1/4 cup fresh chopped mint
1/4 cup California golden raisins
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley
3 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh basil, loosely packed
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
2 lemons, juiced
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
Cayenne or Aleppo pepper to taste

Garnish: Chopped roasted walnuts

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Puncture eggplants with a fork and place on a baking sheet.  Bake for 1 hour or until soft, turning occasionally. 
Cool eggplant, peel, and scoop into a medium bowl.
In another bowl, toss together the bell peppers, onions, mint, raisins, garlic, balsamic vinegar, sugar, parsley, basil, salt, pepper, lemon juice and the olive oil.  Add the jalapeno pepper and cayenne or Aleppo pepper, and toss.  Pour this mixture over the eggplant, and toss to coat well. 

Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours or overnight before serving.  Add more lemon juice or olive oil, if desired.  Garnish with chopped roasted walnuts before serving.


Saturday, January 21, 2017

Orange Pomegranate Lamb Shanks by Christine Datian

While Doug and I are entertaining out-of-town family, Christine Datian has kindly offered to share several of her recipes which are regularly featured in the ‘Recipe Corner’ of The Armenian Mirror-Spectator. 
The first recipe we posted was her ‘Italian Pork Loin with Pasta and Vegetables’. Today we’re sharing her recipe for ‘Orange Pomegranate Lamb Shanks’, a hearty dish with complex flavors – a real crowd-pleaser!

We hope you’ll enjoy this, while we enjoy our family! See you soon!

Orange Pomegranate Lamb Shanks

Christine Datian’s Orange Pomegranate Lamb Shanks
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

6 -8 large lamb shanks (fat trimmed)
5-6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 medium onions, diced
2 stalks celery and tops, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 leek (white and light-green parts only), diced
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 cups red wine or dry white wine (like cabernet or chardonnay)
1 cup low-sodium beef, lamb or vegetable broth
1 cup crushed stewed tomatoes
1/2 cup pomegranate juice
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons each tomato paste and honey
1 teaspoon each Worcestershire sauce, dry mustard, peppercorns, paprika, and dried thyme
1 small orange, peeled, cut in quarters and 1 tablespoon finely chopped orange zest
2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary
Kosher or sea salt, Aleppo pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, and black pepper (to taste)
2 bay leaves
Pinch of ground cinnamon or allspice
 Olive or canola oil as needed
All-purpose flour

Garnishes: Pomegranate seeds, chopped mint, diced dried apricots and roasted walnuts

 Preparation:
Pre-heat oven to 350°F.

Toss the lamb shanks in flour and lightly season with salt and pepper to coat on all sides.   In a large Dutch oven, heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil and brown lamb shanks on all sides; drain lamb shanks and set aside on a plate or tray.

Add the garlic, onions, celery, carrots, leeks, and bell pepper, and sauté for 5 minutes; return the lamb shanks to the Dutch oven and add the wine, broth,  tomatoes, pomegranate juice, pomegranate molasses, tomato paste, and honey, and bring to a boil, stirring until all ingredients are combined.

Season with choice of salt, Aleppo pepper, red pepper flakes, and black pepper; add Worcestershire sauce, dry mustard, peppercorns, paprika, thyme, orange quarters, orange zest, and rosemary; scatter bay leaves and cinnamon or allspice over lamb shanks, cover, and bake for 2½ hours or until lamb shanks are fork tender.  Check lamb shanks occasionally and baste with the sauce; add extra wine, if necessary.

Remove pan from oven, discard bay leaves, and skim extra fat from the top of the pan.  

Serve lamb shanks and vegetables in deep bowls on a bed of hot egg noodles, mashed potatoes, rice pilaf or bulgur pilaf, and top with extra sauce.

Garnish with pomegranate seeds, mint, diced dried apricots and roasted walnuts to taste.

Note: Pomegranate molasses may be found at most Middle Eastern stores and markets.
*Christine's recipes have been published in the Fresno Bee, Sunset and Cooking Light Magazines, and at http://www.thearmeniankitchen.com/


*For Christine's recipes that have been published in Sunset and Cooking Light Magazines, go to:  http://www.myrecipes.com/search/site/Datian