Everything about Armenian food!

Celebrating a heritage of Armenian recipes


Saturday, January 30, 2010

Cost of Crackers


Have you noticed how expensive food has become- especially those made from grains? Cereals, bread, cookies - even crackers. My gosh!


The price of a 4 oz. box of plain water crackers was $3.79. I couldn’t bear to buy it, so I kept on looking. I wanted a cracker that was special, but not so special that I’d have to take out a loan!

Then I spotted an attractive cracker box - not much bigger than the $3.79 box that I refused to buy. This box had eye-catching yellow and aqua packaging with splashes of red highlighting the “low fat”, “no cholesterol” claims.

The cracker’s name is “ak-mak®”, a 100% whole wheat, stone ground sesame cracker. Sounded good to me. As if that weren’t tempting enough, I turned the box over to discover the Food Guide Pyramid (the old version; the manufacturer needs to update that!), and an entire story about the crackers and the company that makes them. I was delighted to find out the bakers are of Armenian descent!

The Soojian family from Sanger, California, has been baking products for four generations, starting in 1893. Their box doesn’t only tell about the crackers inside, it tells that story - and then some...

“From the vicinity of Mt. Ararat, the cradle of civilization and the land made famous by Noah’s Ark, ak-mak Bakeries brings you the Original Armenian Cracker Bread - ak-mak® - the Cracker Bread with a 3,000 year history.”

That’s not the end of the box’s information. There’s a history lesson, too, mentioning the staple foods of China, the Orient, South Americans, Armenians, Greeks, Romans, and those of the Holy Land - going back some 4,500 years. Certain Bible verses are quoted on the back of the box, as well, “to show that the ancient peoples considered cereals to be vital to life and living”.

If that wasn’t enough to make up my mind, the size of the box and price clinched it - 4.14 oz. for only $2.79! A veritable bargain - how could I resist?

For more information and recipe ideas, visit the company at www.akmakbakeries.com. If you are so inclined, you can even submit your own recipes using their products.

Thanks, Soojian family. Keep up the good work!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Teach Children to Cook? You Bet!



It’s never too early to spark a child’s interest in food - or food preparation, for that matter.

I have to admit, as a child I never spent much time in the kitchen cooking with my parents or grandmother. In fact, I was usually shooed out of their way. I had a tendency to make a mess of things when it came to ingredients - and using a knife or other ‘grown-up" utensils was absolutely forbidden.

How I ever became a Home Economics teacher with a focus in food preparation, I’ll never know! Actually, I do know. My sister, Dawn, suggested I teach Home Economics instead of the English or Social Studies I was leaning toward long before she became the very popular high school guidance counselor she is today.

The fact is, I’ve always been interested in food - and eating, well, that came naturally.

When I had my first teaching job interview in Red Bank, NJ, the school system’s superintendent sat me down, looked me in the eye, and asked why I thought I’d make a suitable Home Economics teacher. Without hesitation, I said, "because I like to eat!"

As soon as those words poured out of my mouth, I thought, "Did I really say something that stupid in my job interview?" I slumped in the chair, and barely heard what the superintendent said next. I asked him to please repeat his statement. He said, "That’s the most honest, from-the-heart response I’ve ever heard. You’re hired; sign here."

Having taught students the art (and science) of cooking for over 30 years, and seeing their enthusiasm and creativity peak when they prepared something they could actually eat, made every little near-disaster worthwhile.

So, grown-ups, allow your children to attempt a new cooking skill, technique, or use kitchen tools -- with proper supervision, of course-- and watch their confidence and love for good food blossom.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Susan Kulungian, an inspiration to us all




When my story about Herrisah/Keshkeg appeared, one of the comments came from a reader listed as "andovercookiemama."

I was curious to know who this person was, so I Googled the title. It turned out to be one of my followers, Susan Kulungian. Anyone with the nickname "cookie mama" has a special place in my heart!

Susan is a breast cancer survivor - one with a sense of humor, and a heart of gold. Tom Vartabedian wrote a heart-warming article about her that  appeared in The Armenian Reporter last October.

He mentioned that Susan started her own blog last March (kulungian.blogspot.com) to help keep "others informed and creating a bit of levity in her own world, despite the difficult times."

In spite of Susan’s personal fight against cancer, she keeps herself occupied with a truly artistic - and delicious - hobby. She happens to be a wizard at baking and decorating cookies. (Mmmm, cookies!) I asked how she got interested and she replied:


 "I started decorating cookies about 10 years ago after I subscribed to Martha Stewart’s magazine and saw her gorgeous cookies. I said to myself, ‘I can do that!!’ I have been doing it ever since- every holiday, birthday, every event! At one point I did sell them to a coffee shop. That was a lot of fun, but the shop closed. 


"I haven’t been able to find a kitchen from which to bake legally, so I just make them for fun right now. Since I’ve discovered Flickr two years ago, I am in crazy cookie land! I have met some wonderful people from around the world and we share all kinds of ideas about baking and decorating. I’ll tell ya, there are some very talented people out there!"
 

I agree Susan; you're definitely #1 on that list.

To view Susan’s creations, go to www.flickr.com/people/andovercookiemama and then click on "photostream." You’ll be amazed at what you see!

If you'd like to try your hand at making these amazing cookies, this link will lead you to the recipe Susan uses: http://cakecentral.com/recipes/2055/no-fail-sugar-cookies. 

Thanks Susan, and Happy Baking to one and all!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Still Searching for that Certain Armenian Cookie Recipe


In early January, I offered an Armenian cookie recipe to reader Adriana, who had lost all of her recipes about 30 years ago. She said she’d try making it, then let me know if this is what she remembered.

While waiting to hear back from her, another reader, Shushan, e-mailed me a cookie recipe she’d discovered. It’s called "Kahke with Yanesoun" (Anise Seed Circles with Sesame) which she found in a cookbook called Tasty Armenian Dishes, published by the ladies of the First Evangelical Church of Montreal. This recipe uses lukewarm milk in the dough, and is brushed with an egg-milk wash, then sprinkled with sesame seeds.

So, I rolled up my sleeves, and began the task of baking yet another batch of cookies. (No one in my family seemed to mind, especially since they would become my official taste-testers!) I made a few changes along the way. See what I did differently at the end of the recipe, and read the evaluation from the "Tasting Team".

Thanks, Shushan, for this submission.

Adriana, here’s another recipe for you to consider.

Kahke with Yanesoun (Anise Seed Circles with Sesame)
½ cup Crisco (vegetable shortening)
½ cup margarine
4 cups flour
½ cup sugar
dash salt, optional
1 Tbsp. anise seed
1 envelope dry yeast
1 cup lukewarm milk
1 egg, beaten
1 Tbsp. milk
sesame seeds

Directions:
1. Prepare yeast as directed on package, using the 1 cup of lukewarm milk instead of water mentioned on package.
2. Meantime, sift flour, sugar, and salt. Add anise seed.
3. Rub in fats until mixture resembles bread crumbs.
4. Make a hole in the center of flour and pour in dissolved yeast; blend well and mix into a soft dough.
5. Cover and let stand 1 hour until double in size.
6. Punch down dough, cut off small pieces, size of a walnut.
7. Roll into 4 to 5 inch long strips; shape into a circle by bringing two ends together; press down (to keep edges from separating during baking).
8. Arrange on baking sheets ½ inch apart, brush with beaten egg mixture - 1 egg and 1 Tbsp. milk beaten together.
9. Sprinkle with, or dip into sesame seeds.
10. Bake in 350 F oven for 25 minutes or until lightly golden. Makes 5 to 6 dozen.

The Armenian Kitchen variation of this recipe:
1. 1 cup of unsalted butter was used instead of shortening/margarine combination.
2. I used a technique called "cutting-in" to combine butter with flour mixture, using a pastry blender. Fingers work well, as do 2 forks or 2 knives, pulling in opposite directions to break down the fat into little pieces.
3. Whole anise seeds were ground before using.
4. Dough rose for 2 hours instead of one.
5. There’s no need to grease baking sheet.
6. I toasted the sesame seeds in a dry skillet before sprinkling on the cookies.
7. Make any shape you like. I started with the circles, then finished off with "S" shapes.
8. Cookies baked nicely in 20 minutes, but each oven is different, so check.

Tasting Team Evaluation: The final result was a soft, light, sweet product which reminded us more of a sweet chorag rather than a cookie. These tasty morsels paired well with a mild cheese and strong coffee.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Eating in Aleppo: We can only imagine



Is food in Aleppo, Syria really better?

We have no first-hand knowledge, but Doug's cousin Arsene Dirkelessian told us it is -- and we certainly know better than to argue with Arsene.

Arsene lives in France but he was born in Aleppo and goes back each year to visit family and friends in the city's large and historic Armenian community. 


When we visited Arsene at his home outside Paris, he insisted we eat various sweets and preserved delicacies he'd brought from Syria, even after we'd stuffed ourselves on fresh, local foods prepared by his wife, who is one very talented cook.

"This is better, better," he'd insist, as he piled our plates higher. "Alep food is the best."

Sometime after our trip to France, I bumped into Father Carnig Hallajian, a Der Hayr I grew up with. Our conversations almost always turned to food. He confirmed that, indeed, the food in Alep was quite delicious.

I'd filed all this away in my memory bank until just recently. Imagine my reaction when this story from National Public Radio popped up on my Google page the other day: Food Lovers Discover The Joys Of Aleppo. 

The story reported that Aleppo has become a culinary destination rivaling the great food cities of Europe. 

It also noted: "The International Academy of Gastronomy in France awarded Aleppo its culinary prize in 2007. But Aleppo was a food capital long before Paris. Aleppo's diverse communities — Arabs, Kurds, Armenians, Circassians, a sizable Christian population — all contributed food traditions..."

I could hear Arsene’s voice in his Armenian-French-Arabic accent as though he were standing right beside me: Alep food is the best! 

Aleppo still isn't on our top-10 list of most likely vacation spots, but we sure won't argue if Arsene wants to send us a bundle of goodies during his next visit there -- strictly as a matter of professional research, of course. 


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Armenians Can Smell Flu Season

Garlic lovers in Armenia -- for the uninitiated, that means pretty much the entire population -- are suffering through a sharp spike in prices at the same time they're suffering through flu season.

These are not unrelated events.

Armenians consider garlic to be powerful medicine -- powerful enough to ward off even the virulent swine flu. Or, for anyone who didn't get stinky enough in time, to ease the flu's symptoms.

The Web site ArmeniaNow.com reports that a run on garlic sparked by flu fears has pushed prices to more than double last year's level. A kilo of garlic (a little over two pounds) now sells for the equivalent of $5.

So far, the high price hasn't diminished demand: One retailer reported stocking up on 20 kilos and selling out in one day.

Garlic is said to perform its magic in various ways, working best to prevent disease when eaten raw. Local garlic is believed to be most effective, although it's unclear whether that's because it's fresher or just because Armenians don't trust foreign garlic.

Many people also string garlic into necklaces, which if nothing else is likely to keep infected strangers at a distance -- along with family, friends and everyone else.

Concerns about swine flu in Armenia are serious. Schools were ordered closed for two weeks in early December in the wake of 35 reported cases and one fatality.

Relying on garlic for protection may sound a little far-fetched to Americans who put their faith in flu shots and anti-viral drugs.

But consider this: While the folks at Harvard Medical School say there's not enough data yet to conclude that garlic can ward off germs, they note that in laboratory tests "researchers have seen garlic work against bacteria, viruses, and fungi."

Sounds to us like the idea of garlic as medicine is nothing to sniff at. What's that old saying about a kilo of prevention?

It's worth a shot. I'll take a shot of oghi too. You just can't be too careful these days.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Harissa, Herriseh, Keshkeg - It all means Armenian-Style Stew

Herriseh (aka Keshkeg)


No matter what you call this dish, it’s one of the best stick-to-your-ribs winter meals ever!

I can recall Yeranuhe Nanny making herriseh with lamb - or a combination of lamb and chicken. This dish,  a winter or holiday specialty, was always served with a bowl of freshly ground cumin for us to sprinkle on top.

I have to admit, when I was young this recipe did not appeal to my culinary senses; it reminded me of creamy oatmeal with meat; it simply didn't make sense. As I got older, I must have gotten wiser, because I finally realized just how delicious - and nutritious - herriseh truly is. I guess Nanny knew best!

Whole Wheat Kernels (Dzedzadz)
Herriseh, or keshkeg, combines skinless whole wheat kernels  with lamb, chicken, or even turkey, with a good amount of liquid (water, broth, or a combination), salt, butter (optional), cumin, and if desired, paprika. The trick is to cook this for a very long time -- without stirring -- until the consistency becomes something like thick oatmeal, but much tastier! (Note: the wheat kernels, or pearled wheat - "dzedzadz"- can be purchased in most Middle Eastern stores.)

Robert Witt, a reader from Texas, wrote recently, asking if there was a recipe for this dish. He said he'd eaten herriseh in a very nice restaurant in Yerevan.

"It was made with chicken, and served with lavash, making the world seem all right - and a bit of Armenian cognac didn’t hurt the situation any, either!"

What a great reaction, especially considering that this was part of his introduction to Armenian cuisine as well as Armenian culture. He went to Armenian to visit his son, his soon-to-be daughter-in-law, who is from Armenia's capital, and her family.

Congratulations on your son's forth-coming wedding, Robert -- and welcome to the world of Armenian food!

Here’s my version of Armenian Stew with chicken:

Chicken Herriseh (Keshkeg)

Ingredients:
1 whole chicken, approximately 3 lbs.
8 cups water
2 cups whole wheat kernels, rinsed in cold water and drained
2 tsp. salt, or to taste
******************************
cumin
paprika, optional
butter, optional

Directions:
1. Rinse chicken. Place in large pot with 8 cups water and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium. Cook, with lid tilted, for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until chicken is cooked.
2. Remove chicken from liquid; place on platter until cool enough to handle. Discard skin, bones and fat. Shred chicken; cut into smaller pieces, if necessary.
3. Strain broth. Measure broth, and add enough water to make the 8 cups needed. (Note: Some of the original amount of water will have evaporated, so this step is important.)
4. Place broth in large pot. Add wheat, shredded chicken, and salt if necessary. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low. Remove any foam which rises to the surface.
5. Simmer on a very low heat, covered, for about 4 hours -- without stirring! -- until almost all liquid is absorbed.
6. Beat vigorously with a sturdy, long-handled, wooden spoon, mashing the wheat and chicken until they resemble thick oatmeal. Adjust salt, if needed.
7. To serve: place in bowls. Add a pat of butter, if desired. Sprinkle with a dash of cumin or paprika.

Robyn's Notes:
A.) Cooking the chicken a day in advance allows you to chill the broth and discard excess chicken fat.
B.) Time-saving hints:
            1. Leftover cooked chicken, lamb or turkey, and commercially prepared broth can be used to  
                shorten preparation time.
            2. Using an immersion or stick blender, instead of beating with a wooden spoon (see step #6), will
                save you a lot of time and energy!
C.) Leftover Herriseh freezes well. Just defrost, and reheat with a little extra liquid.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

We really do want to hear from you!

Dear readers,

Getting comments from you is really important to us. We want your ideas, your recipes, your anecdotes, your feedback -- and most of all, we want to know what you're interested in.

Frankly, we've been a little frustrated that more of you don't comment more often. Maybe this recent note from a reader holds a clue:

"A novice finds your comment section interesting and difficult to locate. Might be viewed more if others aren't having the same problem."

Ouch!

We're the first to admit we're novices, too. Neither of us had much experience with the Internet before we started this blog last year, except for surfing the Web and sending email.

We thought it was best to start with Google's Blogger platform because it's so widely used and designed for people like us who aren't Web designers. Mostly, it's worked very well -- but the "comment" setup has frustrated us as well as some of you.

I guess you were supposed to know that clicking on the word "comments" at the bottom of each post would give you a form for adding your own as well as reading comments posted by others.

We finally figured out how to change that to "Make a comment here!" But apparently, that's not good enough.

For now, we're stumped. But we'll keep on looking for ways to make commenting easier and clearer. We're open to suggestions and truly appreciate your advice.

Meanwhile, please click on "Make a comment here!" and join the conversation around our kitchen table.

-- Robyn and Doug

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Goulougoos, The Armenian Kitchen Version




After having read the recipes for Goulougoos from Dr. Jantzen’s mother-in-law, Isgouhi Sarkahian, and the one from the Magzanian sister’s cookbook, I decided to create my own version.


On to the grocery store: Malanga; chick peas, lamb - check. All other ingredients are readily on hand.
I combined the parts of two recipes I liked best, then added my own twist. I decided that canned chick peas would save preparation time, too. (Forgive me, purists!) It takes some time to make, but on a cold, wintery day, you’ll be glad you made the effort.

Word of advice: if you have all of your ingredients prepped and ready to go ("mise en place", in culinary terms), it will save you time in the long-run.


Goulougoos ala The Armenian Kitchen 
         Yield: 6 to 8 servings

      1 cup canned chick peas, drained, rinsed
      2 lbs. Malanga**, peeled, and roughly cut into bite-sized pieces
      juice from 1 lemon
      dash of salt
      water to cover

**Robyn's note: Can't find malanga? Use potatoes instead.

1 lb. Lamb shoulder, or stewing lamb, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
salt and pepper to taste
1 bay leaf


2 cups plain yogurt
1 egg, beaten
2 Tbsp. Tomato paste
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
½ cup water
juice from ½ lemon
salt & pepper, to taste


Directions:
1. Drain and rinse chick peas. Set aside until ready to use.
2. In a large bowl, cover the peeled and cut malanga with water. Add lemon juice and a dash of salt. Set aside.
3. Place lamb pieces in a large pot. Add enough water to cover meat and bring to a rolling boil, cooking for several minutes. Drain and rinse meat to remove any scum that has risen to the surface. Wash out the pot to remove any scum residue as well.
4. Return meat to cleaned pot; add enough water to cover meat. Add salt and pepper to taste, and bay leaf. Cook, covered, for about 1 to 1 ½ hours or until meat is tender. Discard bay leaf.
5. Drain malanga. Add it -and- chick peas to meat. Cook about another 20 minutes, or until malanga is tender.


(Robyn’s Note: You can prepare the recipe up to this point ahead of time. Place soup in a bowl with a tight-fitting lid, label and refrigerate. Just before serving, heat the lamb-malanga soup thoroughly, then continue with the yogurt preparation below.)

6. Prepare yogurt while soup is cooking:
A. Using a 3-quart saucepan, combine beaten egg with 2 cups plain yogurt.
B. Blend tomato paste, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper with ½ cup water. Stir into
yogurt-egg mixture.
C. Cook on LOW heat, stirring constantly until yogurt is hot, but NOT boiling.
D. Add to soup once malanga is tender.
E. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.


Serve immediately with crusty bread for dipping.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Goulougoos: A new one on me!



It’s funny how one little e-mail can start an avalanche of questions, phone calls, and some interesting answers.

Not long ago, I heard from professor Dr. Robert Jantzen, who wanted to know why I omitted a very special recipe from a story I’d done about the cuisine of Musa Dagh. It seems his in-law's family traces back to Yoghun-Oluk, one of the 7 villages that make up Musa Dagh. My maternal grandparents were from nearby Haji-Habibli.

The recipe in question was Goulougoos...or  Galagacia Soup or..Malanga Soup. The reason I hadn’t mentioned it in my previous story is because I’d never heard of it until that very moment.

Since my mother is here for the season, I questioned her. After all, it was her parents who hailed from this region. She thought for a few moments, then said she’d heard of goulougoos but her mother never made it.

I thought that would be the end of it. Silly me!

Mom pulled out her little red phone book and started making some calls. First to the Magzanian sisters, who wrote a cookbook called The Recipes of Musa Dagh. Naturally, not only did they know the recipe, it’s in their cookbook! Alberta Magzanian said it’s one of their FAVORITE recipes.

As a matter of fact, on page 164 in their cookbook is a photo of the 3 Magzanian sisters and behind them is the large leaf of the elephant ear plant, the root of which (see photo at the top) is used in this recipe. We’ll get to that in a moment.

The second call went out to Jack Hachigian, another member of the Musa Daghtsi clan, who has also written a cookbook. This one, in memory of his parents, is called Secrets From an Armenian Kitchen. Jack was surprised to hear from Mom, but more surprised to hear her question about goulougoos. He said he LOVED this recipe, and couldn’t believe he hadn’t included it in his cookbook - a terrible oversight!

OK, so now I was REALLY curious! What was the deal with this soup, and what was this mysterious main ingredient?

Dr. Jantzen sent me the link to his mother-in-law’s recipe and information about the plant that makes this recipe happen. He has graciously insisted I share this with you. Click here to access his information and his mother-in-law‘s recipe. 

The Magzanian’s recipe varies a bit, but apparently provides an equally delicious end result. (Sorry, you’ll have to buy the cookbook to see their recipe. You can click on our Amazon.com link below to purchase their book.)

So, now we ALL know about goulougoos, a hearty soup recipe -- and just in time for winter.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

It's really best not to speak while eating


A columnist in the Armenian-American press recently blasted those of us who "pollute" the Armenian language by using Turkish names for Armenian foods.

My reaction was that this is an indictment I can beat: I can't pollute a language I don't speak. For better or worse, I'm a typical English-only American except for a smattering of words and phrases from our ancestral language.

At least, I think that's what they are. How could I be sure?

What little Armenian I know, including the language of the kitchen, came from my mother. Mom, born in Massachusetts, spoke the Dikranagertsi dialect that she learned from her own mother.

This was a constant source of good-natured bickering between my mother and my father, who was born in Dikranagerd but spoke textbook Western Armenian. As a result, they almost always spoke to each other in English, so that's what I heard at home.

Dad would chide Mom for teaching me a Turkish word that she thought was Armenian, and she'd fire back, "It was good enough for my mother!" But my father, not the world's most patient man, was never inclined to sit me down for real Armenian lessons.

I've since learned that I'm not unique. Even many people who think they speak proper and fluent Armenian mix in Turkish, Persian, Russian and even Greek words. The reason is obvious: Armenians have lived with and under so many other peoples over the centuries that linguistic osmosis was unavoidable.

And really, what is there to apologize for?

No English writer, from Shakespeare to Dickens to Kingsley Amis, ever tried to hide the profusion of German or French roots in his prose. How in the world could anyone parse Anglo from Saxon at this late date?

A language is what it is, and dinner is what it is. If I tried to pretend I knew the proper Armenian names for every ingredient in every recipe, I'd just make a fool of myself -- as did a recent anonymous commenter who approached the same topic from a very different perspective.

You probably didn't see this comment because it started with a profanity, which is grounds for automatic deletion from this blog. But the gist of it was that Armenian food is obviously Turkish in origin because we commonly use Turkish names.

By this reasoning, a hamburger must be German -- although, it's made of beef, which comes from the Old French buef. Want ketchup on that burger? You must be Malaysian -- yep, the word ketchup comes from the Malay word for fish sauce.

The reality is that cuisines, like languages, evolve. Armenian cuisine has been enriched by ingredients and ideas from easternmost Asia to westernmost Europe -- and continues to be enriched by contributions from across America.

So I'll continue to call Armenian food by familiar names of whatever origin. If you won't join me, I'll be happy to eat your portion.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Request for a Lost Cookie Recipe


Way back in May, a reader made a comment on one of our blog items, which we only realized a few days ago.

Please understand that we were still learning the “how - to’s” of doing our website at the time. It wasn’t until the other day, when another reader tried to offer help, that we realized the original request even existed.

Please forgive us!

Here’s the request, as quoted from the Anonymous reader’s comment last May:

“I’m looking for a recipe for an Armenian cookie that I know as “Sodale”. My recipes were destroyed during a home invasion. I remember that my mother had to heat the milk before adding it to the dry ingredients. The dough was rolled out into long ropes and then cut into 1 ½ inch pieces. I believe my mother also used a milk wash on the cookie before placing in the oven. It’s been over 30 years since I’ve tasted this cookie and I hope that someone can help me find this taste again.”

If anyone can offer a recipe suggestion, please send it to me via e-mail: robyn@thearmeniankitchen.com so I can post it for “Anonymous”.  Thanks, friends!

I have 2 thoughts: one is the cookie recipe I posted on December 7th which uses warm milk in the mixture, but doesn't require brushing milk on top; the other is a cookie recipe from the “Assyrian Cookbook” I mentioned in an earlier blog. The recipe doesn't call for heated milk - or brushing the top with milk, but the shaping appears to be similar. It’s called Kahkee (cookie), and the recipe follows:

Kahkee (cookie)

8 cups flour
1 ½ cups sugar
2 Tbsp. Baking powder
½ tsp. Salt
1 cup shortening, softened
1 cup milk
5 eggs
1 pkg. Yeast - dissolved in ½ cup lukewarm water
********************************************************
½ tsp. Sugar
1 egg

Directions:

Mix all dry ingredients together.
Add shortening, milk, eggs and yeast mixture.
Cover and let rise.
Take dough the size of a walnut. Roll into sticks or make circles (like doughnuts).
Brush tops with one egg beaten with ½ tsp. sugar.
Bake on greased pan at 350◦F till lightly browned.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Merry Christmas (once again!)


Today, Armenians around the world celebrate the Birth of Christ, along with His manifestation and baptism.

It's a lot to squeeze into one holiday but we're up to the task.

Not to stray too far from recipes and holiday leftovers, but the tradition of Jan. 6 is an important part of the Armenian identity.

Yes, we know there are many Armenian Protestants and Catholics who celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25 -- and, as Americans, so do we. But Armenian Christmas remains special not only as a distinction but as a reminder of how the Armenian faith has endured along with the Armenian people.

So Merry Christmas to all!

Krisdos dzunav yev haydnetsav
(Christ is born and revealed among us)
Orhnial eh haydnootiunun Krisdosee
(Blessed is the revelation of Christ)

Monday, January 4, 2010

Sud Keeba


Keeba is an ancient recipe in which lamb stomach or intestine is stuffed with ground meat, bulgur, dried mint and seasonings, then boiled. It’s kind-of like a sausage, but way better.

Since lamb innards aren't readily available these days, I offer a simpler version of the recipe, Sud Keeba, without sacrificing flavor. “Sud” is our way of saying “mock,” as in Mock Turtle Soup.

Sud Keeba
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 lb. ground lamb, beef or turkey (Aunt Arpie says, " For best results use lamb!")
1/3 c. bulgur
Salt, pepper, and paprika to taste
Handful of dried mint, crushed
A little water to moisten

Directions:
1. In a small bowl, add the bulgur and 1 or 2 tablespoons of water, just so bulgur starts to absorb the water.
2. Combine the meat, bulgur, seasonings and mint, mixing well with your hands. Dip your hands in the additional water to shape meat mixture into patties, slightly rounded on the top and flat on the bottom -or - if you prefer, into meatball shapes. This makes about 12 to 14 walnut-sized pieces.
3. In a large pot, bring about 8 cups of water to a boil; add 2 tsp. salt.
4. Place meat patties in boiling water; reduce heat to medium and cook for 35 to 45 minutes. Remove patties from water.
5. Serve in a bowl with some of the cooking liquid, and sliced raw onions. A chopped salad and fresh, plain yogurt will round out this dish nicely.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Armenians are known for and by their food


This has happened about a million times, no kidding: Somebody recognizes our last name as Armenian and starts telling us about an Armenian friend or neighbor, maybe someone from far away and long ago but who is still fondly remembered.

And almost always, what they remember best and most fondly is Armenian food.

Armenians love to cook -- well, lots of us at least -- and we love to feed our friends. Even those who are a little reluctant to try something "different" usually leave the table patting their bellies and smiling.

Really, what's not to like?

The point is, Armenians make great food ambassadors. A tray of pakhlava or a skewer of khorovatz can make a friend for life while also leaving a positive impression of all Armenians.

I think this is what's so disappointing about the scarcity of Armenian restaurants that Robyn and I have come across in our travels to other states. A good lule kebab joint would raise the profile of any Armenian community and maybe even make someone a nice living.

Or maybe not. We know the restaurant business is tough, and we were reminded just how tough recently while talking to Armenian friends at church who tried it. Two years of working nearly 24/7 were enough for them -- and they ticked off a list of many others who sank before they could sell out.

But soon after that, I came across this story from the Web site HoustonPress.com about an Armenian restaurant called Cafe Rita in Houston, Texas (of all places!) where business is apparently booming.

A related review stated: "Cafe Rita is always packed by noon. That's because eating there is like going over to your Armenian grandparents' house for lunch."

The menu is actually more Lebanese than Armenian, which is understandable: Owners George and Rita Sarikhanian (pictured at left) are from Beirut, but they're both Armenian and they let everyone know it.

"We serve Lebanese food, with an Armenian twist," George Sarikhanian told the reviewer. The twist appears to be a little extra spice, including a lot of extra pepper. Rita does all the cooking, "grinds her own spices, chops her own herbs and prefers knives to food processors. Cafe Rita doesn't buy anything pre-prepared from other Middle Eastern sources except the pita bread."

Sounds great to us. I'm thinking about the three-kebab platter for $10. I may be thinking about it for a while, as Houston hasn't been on our travel itinerary -- but hey, now we know where to eat if we're in town!