Everything about Armenian food!

Celebrating a heritage of Armenian recipes

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Spicy Middle Eastern Meat Pies

Way back, in the early days of The Armenian Kitchen’s existence, we’d posted a story about the ARAM sandwich and how it got its name. Many comments later, the facts were revealed. In a recent comment on this story, a reader expressed a love for a dough-encased spicy meat pie that was served at Caravansary, the establishment where the ARAM sandwich was created.

Here’s the request:
“I grew up in the Bay Area and remember Caravansary fondly. We often ate there when we went into the City to shop. They served a wonderful spiced minced meat pie with pine nuts that was round and encased in dough. It was fabulous! I would love to know how to make it!”
I promised the reader I'd post a recipe, but having never been to the Caravansary myself, I am posting one that I hope will qualify and satisfy.

Spicy Meat Turnovers with Madzoon (Yogurt) and Lentil Soup
Spicy Middle Eastern Meat Pies
Yield: about 2 dozen
Dough Ingredients:
1 pkg. fast-acting dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon warm water
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2-3 tablespoons olive oil, to brush on the meat pies before baking
Directions for Dough:
1. Dissolve yeast and sugar in ¼ cup lukewarm water (105-110°F). Allow mixture to proof for about 15 minutes.
2. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour and salt. Make a well in the center and add the oil and proofed yeast mixture.
3. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, slowly add the wet ingredients into the dry, adding the 1 cup and 1 tablespoon of water a little at a time.
4. Replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook, and mix until the dough is soft, smooth. (NOTE: Dough should NOT stick to your fingers.)
5. Transfer dough to a large bowl, lightly coating the dough’s surface with olive oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot until doubled, about 1 hour.
While dough rises, prepare the meat filling.

NOTE: If you’re not comfortable making dough from scratch, feel free to use prepared pizza dough, available in most grocery stores.
Ingredients for Meat Filling:
3/4 lb. ground beef, lamb, or turkey 
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
¼ cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
Juice of one small lemon
salt and black pepper to taste
½ tsp. red Aleppo pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
½ tsp. ground allspice
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts 
Meat Filling Directions:

 Heat a non-stick skillet on medium-high heat; add oil. Add onions and cook until slightly softened. Add ground meat to the skillet and cook until it is crumbly and no longer pink. Drain any excess fat. Stir in parsley, lemon juice, seasonings and pine nuts; cook another 2 minutes. Taste; adjust seasonings, if necessary. Transfer meat mixture to a bowl; cover and refrigerate until ready to assemble.
 Assembling the Meat Pies:
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line two heavy baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Divide the dough into 2 equal parts. Roll half of the dough out on a lightly floured work surface to 1/8-inch thickness. Gently lift the dough from the edges to keep it from sticking to the work surface. Cut the dough using a 4-inch round biscuit cutter. (I used a plastic lid to create circles since I do not have a 4" biscuit cutter!) Continue this process until all of the dough has been cut. Gather and knead together any scraps of dough. Wrap in plastic.
3. Fill each circle of dough by placing a tablespoon of uncooked meat filling on one side of each. Filling should not touch the edges of the circles. NOTE: The meat filling will cook during the baking process.
4. Fold the empty side of the dough over the meat-filled side to create a half circle. Pinch the edge of the dough firmly to keep them closed.
5. Place the meat pies on the parchment-lined baking sheets and generously brush the surface with olive oil. Bake on the center rack of the oven for 18-20 minutes, or until golden brown.
Serve as an appetizer or as a meal with soup and/or salad.
NOTE: The meat pies can be frozen after they are baked and cooled by placing them side-by-side in freezer bags. If you stack them for freezing, be sure to have a layer of plastic wrap in between each layer first. They can be heated from the frozen state.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Cherry - Yogurt Parfait

One style of a cherry pitting tool
Have you ever tried to remove pits from cherries without using a cherry pitting tool? Well, it’s easier than you think. There are a couple of methods that do the trick, but be warned- the process is messy. You might want to wear latex (non-powdered) gloves to protect your manicure, and you’ll want to keep paper towels handy!

To Begin: Wash the cherries and pat away the excess moisture. Remove the stems.

Method 1: This method works best on cherries that are a bit soft, but not mushy. If you happen to have one sturdy chop stick, it’s a snap. Poke the chopstick through the stem-end of the cherry, and push without hurting yourself! The pit will –eventually- pop through the other end.

Method 2: Using a small paring knife, cut the cherry in half. Twist to separate the cherry into 2 pieces. Using the tip of the knife, carefully loosen the pit until it pops out. (Personally, I prefer this method.)

Now that you have the knack, and a bowlful of pitted cherries, here’s a simple, dessert to enjoy before cherry-season is over.

Cherry - Yogurt Parfait

Yield: 4 servings
2 cups cherries (that’s about 3 dozen plump cherries) pitted and coarsely chopped (Cherries from the Pacific Northwest and/or Rainier cherries in season work well.)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (1/2 tsp. rosewater may be substituted)
2 cups plain yogurt, low-fat Greek-style
¼ cup lightly toasted pistachios, finely chopped


1.    Do Ahead: Combine the cherries and sugar in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

2.    Place a strainer over a bowl and drain the cherries. Do NOT discard the cherry syrup! Set the cherries aside.

3.    Place yogurt into a mixing bowl. Blend the cherry syrup into the yogurt. Stir in the honey and vanilla extract (or rosewater, if preferred).

4.    Set out 4 - 8 ounce tall glasses or parfait glasses. Spoon 1/4 cup yogurt into the bottom of each glass. Distribute an equal portion of cherries among the glasses. Sprinkle pistachios over the cherries. Repeat the layers (yogurt-cherries-pistachios) but do not sprinkle the top layer of pistachios until you’re ready to serve. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour. Just before serving, sprinkle the remaining chopped pistachios on the tops.

Note: The parfaits may be assembled and refrigerated one day before serving. BUT, do not sprinkle the top layer of pistachios until just before serving, as mentioned above.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Our Shish Kebab video is a big hit on YouTube, as Armenian food comes into focus around the world

Shish Kebab ala The Armenian Kitchen
I got a jolt the other day when I turned on my computer. Luckily, it was good jolt: YouTube sent us a message that our “How To Make Shish Kebab” video had just passed 100,000 views.
That’s quite a milestone, considering how many other recipe videos are on the Web – and, really, considering that there are a zillion other ways for people to spend precious time.
One of the interesting features of YouTube is that each video displays the number of views. The totals for any music video from BeyoncĂ© or the latest hijinks from Jimmy Kimmel can be mind-boggling. But there are plenty of cooking demonstrations by celebrity chefs that don’t approach our audience size.
How can this be?
Much as it disappoints me, I’ll concede it’s probably not because of my on-camera charm or my dazzling skills as a videographer.
It’s really just further evidence of the English-speaking world’s growing taste for what was considered exotic food not very long ago. Armenians in America have been long been ahead of that curve.
I remember going to picnics in the park as a kid and watching my father fire up the kebab while people all around us grilled hamburgers. I felt sorry for them then, but it feels good at last to know I’ve done something to help.
And it’s not just Americans we’re educating: Our shish kebab video has been seen in 190 countries. The United States, the UK, Canada and Australia top the list but Sweden, believe it or not, completes the top five. The long list includes viewers in India, Malaysia, the Ukraine and Jamaica.
I’m particularly pleased that it’s even been watched 331 times in Armenia, where people already know quite a bit about making khorovatz.
The kebab video is our channel’s most popular, but there’s plenty of interest in our other recipes and techniques. Consider that we’ve had more than 40,000 views for Armenian coffee, 30,000 for pilaf and almost 20,000 for douzma.
In all, we’ve logged an amazing 330,000 views total. (It’s a good thing we’re hosting this virtual dinner party on the Internet because we don’t have nearly enough parking at the house.)
If you’ve watched any of these videos, you’ve noticed—and maybe you’ve been annoyed by—the short commercials at the beginning. That’s what’s called monetizing in Internet-speak. You’ve probably heard stories about people whose videos are so popular that they get rich from these ads.
We’ve heard those stories, too. I wish they were true.
Our reward for the extraordinary success of the shish kebab video so far: $102.09. After subtracting the cost of the lamb and other ingredients, the profit would just about pay for a couple of kebab platters at the church food festival.
That’s OK, really. As it has been from the start, this Kitchen remains a labor of love—our best effort at preserving the recipes and memories we hold dear while spreading the word about the glories of Armenian cuisine.

If you have an idea for another video that would help, just let us know. Meanwhile, thanks again for your enthusiastic support!