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Monday, February 15, 2010

Lent

Lent, as all Christians know, commemorates the 40 days of fasting of Jesus Christ.

According to the book Saints and Sacraments of the Armenian Church by Bishop S. Kaloustian, Lent begins on the Monday following the Sunday of Poon Paregentan (today) and ends the evening of the Friday before Palm Sunday.

Lent is a time of self-discipline. We are instructed to "examine ourselves, strengthen our character, renew our purpose in life, and to make penance to correct our faults, weaknesses and sins." At the same time, we resolve "to be more humble, more gentle, and exercise self control over our appetites."


Humans have many appetites, of course, and many of the faithful try to keep the whole range in check by avoiding dances and other amusements.

Sadly, there's no loophole for us food lovers.

In fact, the Armenian church is stricter than most Western Churches when it comes to food abstinence during Lent. Western Churches generally call for abstaining from meat, but Eastern Christians abstain from "all kinds of flesh meat, including fish, and all other animal foods, i.e. dairy products and eggs."

Of course, this was a bit less of a challenge in the days when meat and eggs weren't necessarily part of the daily routine. These days, at least here in America, we don't know many people who follow Lenten law to the letter.

But many of us do give up one or more of our favorite foods, while others take the opportunity to get in touch with their inner-vegetarian.

Rest assured that we're here to help. We've gone through our files to find traditional Armenian Lenten recipes, and we'll be posting them throughout the season.

If you have a family favorite, please share!

11 comments:

  1. Two recipes for you, Robyn. The first, turluh, is not strictly speaking a Lenten dish because it requires fresh summer vegetables but it is 100% vegetarian. The second, imam bayeldi, is a classic that I am surprised you don't have already on the web site.

    I am splitting over two posts.

    1. TURLUH--

    This can be made vegetarian or non. Its success depends on the freshness of the vegetables, so splurge on farmer-market produce or wait until the summer, but for heaven's sake do not use three day old wilted veggies. The list of vegetables can be adjusted based on what's fresh and available in the market. I am not giving exact quantities because the quantities depend on the size of your baking dish (see below).

    Choose an oven-proof baking dish (pyrex or similar), about 2 inches in height. Pour a generous amount of extra-virgin olive oil in the baking dish, enough to coat the bottom of the dish. Don't skimp on the quality of the oil; much of the flavor of the dish comes from the olive oil.

    You will need to buy a mixture of fresh vegetables, enough to fill up the dish when diced. The following list is a suggested mixture: eggplants (Japanese are preferred), zucchini or Mexican squash, baby okra, fresh green beans, bell peppers of any color or a mix of bell peppers and jalapenos for that extra kick, ripe tomatoes (in the winter, get some hot-house heirloom tomatoes), a few whole cloves of garlic (no more than 5-6; this is not a garlicky dish), garbanzo beans (canned is OK), sliced onions (in thin rings), potatoes (fingerling potatoes or the waxy variety). You can also add some extra-firm tofu (obviously, this is a contemporary addition). Dice the vegetables in 3/4 inch dice and arrange in the dish.

    If the tomatoes are not very ripe or juicy, add about half a can of tomato sauce.

    Add the juice of half a lime or lemon. You can also use verjuice, the juice of unripe grapes (sold in bottles at the Middle-Eastern market) or the green grapes themselves if you can find them.

    Add about a handful of golden prunes, which you can find at a Middle-Eastern or Persian market. If you cannot find golden prunes, then use the same amount of golden (not brown) raisins and increase the amount of lemon or lime juice. Another option is to use sour plums (in May/June, when they are in season).

    If you are doing the meat version, add about a pound of beef (loin or chuck steak or shank, not too fatty), diced in one-inch cubes.

    Salt and pepper. No water is required as long as you use zucchini and/or eggplant, since they will give off water. Otherwise, add 1/2 cup of water (but the zucchinis and eggplants are recommended).

    Pre-heat the oven to 325-350 F. Bake, covered, for about 1 hour. Uncover and bake for another hour. Serve hot with bread.

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  2. 2. IMAM BAYELDI--

    Choose a baking dish with 2-in high walls. You will need:

    6-10 Japanese eggplants, as small as you can find them, enough to fill up the dish if arranged lying down side-by-side.
    2 medium brown onions, sliced in thin crescents.
    3-4 medium ripe tomatoes, or the equivalent in canned whole tomatoes, diced.
    1-2 bell peppers, or a mixture of bell peppers and jalapenos, sliced or coarsely diced.
    3-4 cloves of garlic, sliced very thin or minced.
    1/2 a bunch of cilantro or parsley, chopped coarsely.
    1/2 can tomato sauce.
    (Optional) 1 tbsp sweet pepper paste.
    Extra-virgin olive oil.
    Salt and pepper.

    Cover the bottom of the pan generously with the olive oil and tomato sauce. If you are using the sweet pepper paste, stir it in with the tomato sauce and oil.

    Make a slit lengthwise on the top of each eggplant, leaving about an inch on each side. Prick the eggplants a few times with a fork.

    In a pan, saute the eggplants in olive oil until slightly soft. This will allow you to open up the "pocket" that you made by slitting the eggplants. Remove from the pan. Sprinkle with salt the bottom of the pocket (to taste). Arrange in the baking dish side-by-side with the pocket facing up.

    In the same pan, saute the onion, peppers, tomatoes, garlic, and cilantro (or parsley) until the onions are soft but not brown. You will need to add the vegetables successively in the order listed. Salt and pepper to taste.

    Fill the pocket of each eggplant with the onion mixture.

    Cover and bake at 325-350 F in a pre-heated oven for about 1/2 hour, then uncovered for about 1/2 hour. Remove and let it cool to room temperature.

    Garnish with more chopped parsley or cilantro when serving.

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  3. Forgot to mention: In the imam bayeldi recipe, you can also add a handful of pine nuts or chopped walnuts to the onion mixture. This increases the protein content and adds a crunchy texture.

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  4. Ara, you are a treasure! Thank you for the Turluh and Imam Bayeldi recipes, both appropriate for Lent - or anytime. The reason I haven't posted an Imam Bayeldi recipe, is because, sadly, I do not make eggplant recipes in my home due to my husband's eggplant allergy.
    You have contributed so much, I was wondering if you'd mind sending me your photo and some information about you. I'd love to feature you in a future post. Please send to: robyn@thearmeniankitchen.com. Thanks!

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  5. Thanks, Robyn. I love cooking and have a particular interest in Armenian cooking, so it is entirely my pleasure to share what I know.

    I saw you posted my Neveek recipe. Although I am not vegetarian and don't usually observe Lent, I was thinking about resuscitating some of the vegetarian Lenten recipes that I have. I will send them to you as I remember them (some of them I have to basically redo from memory). The two that I want to try soon are "ich" and "keymah". Ich is sort of like tabbouleh with lots of bulgur. Keymah is bulgur with garlic, sesame paste, and chick peas. Keymah is a recipe from Ourfa, while ich is (I think) pretty common.

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  6. As promised, the recipe for "ich", as well as "gheyma" (next post). The recipe for ich was given to my mother by Sister Laurentsia of the Armenian Sisters of the Immaculate Conception way back in 1978-1979. Sister Laurentsia, I should say, was an amazing cook and a veritable encyclopedia of Armenian cuisine.

    ICH--

    2 onions, minced (not too small)
    1 bunch green onion
    3 medium tomatoes, diced
    1 cup #1 bulgur
    Juice of 2 lemons (1/2 cup)
    A little tomato paste (1 tbsp)
    Black and red pepper, allspice, salt

    Saute the onions and green onions in olive oil in this order. Add the tomatoes and cook well.

    Take off the fire. Add the remaining ingredients. Stir, then cover to allow the bulgur to absorb the lemon juice and soften.

    Arrange on a flat plate and decorate with parsley.

    NOTE: I have not tried the recipe yet. It seems to me that some water may be required or maybe you should rinse the bulgur before adding. I will clarify and post.

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    Replies
    1. Ich! that is what I was looking for and I could not remember the name! thank you Ara for sharing this recipe!

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  7. GHEYMA--

    This is a recipe that comes from my aunt's sister-in-law (Digin Arshalouys). My aunt married into a family of Ourfatsis and this recipe is from that region.

    I am reproducing the recipe as I received it from my mom.

    1 can of chickpeas
    1 1/2 cups (or a little more) #1 (fine) bulgur
    salt, red pepper (Aleppo is preferable)
    Red pepper paste (optional)
    1 can of tomato sauce
    1 small onion, minced
    lemon juice
    2-3 green onions
    Parsley (a lot)
    2-3 tablespoons or a bit more than an Armenian coffee cup of tahine (sesame seed paste).
    A little water.

    Set aside some chickpeas for decorating.

    Crush the chickpeas with a spoon or fork, leaving it fairly coarse. Add the chickpeas with the chickpea juice (from the can) to the bulgur. Set aside to soak.

    After it soaks, add spices, pepper paste, tomato sauce, the onion, and mix them. Add lemon juice, green onion, and parsley. Add lemon juice or water if it is thick, to taste.

    Garnish with the reserved chickpeas, minced parsley, and red pepper.

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  8. More wonderful recipes; Thank you! Please check on the "ich" recipe and let us know if water is missing from the ingredient list - dry bulgur is a bit much to swallow!

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  9. So here is the story on water, in the ich recipe: If you follow the recipe and add the 1/2 cup of lemon juice, water should not be necessary, as the bulgur will absorb the juice from the remaining ingredients. If, after doing all this, you find the bulgur a little dry, then add a little hot water.

    My mother also sent me a variant of the ich recipe. Everything is done the same way; however, decrease the amount of lemon juice and add instead pomegranate molasses, which are sweet-sour and available in Middle-Eastern markets. Also, add a fair amount of cumin in addition to the other spices ("to prevent gas", according to the recipe).

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  10. Ara, Thank you for the liquid update for the "ich" recipe - and, the gas-prevention tip!!

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