Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Maque Choux: Why does it taste Armenian?


I'm just the assistant around here, so I hope I can be excused for being clueless from time to time.

For example: I never heard of maque choux (sounds like mock shoe) until just recently. As you might guess, I heard about it from my wife. Actually, I heard her ordering it at a barbeque joint in South Carolina, of all places.

For those as un-hip to food trends as I am, maque choux is a spicy corn dish that hails from the Cajun corner of Louisiana. The basic mix is corn, onion, green bell pepper and Cajun seasonings. Some recipes add cream or pork fat, meat and other ingredients. Really, the variations are endless.

My first taste had me hooked. Too bad it's so obscure, I thought -- but, sure enough, it has since shown up on just about every menu I've opened since then. Apparently, I was the last to know!

On a whim, I decided to try my own variation the other day. I started by sautéing diced onion and red bell pepper, adding a heaping portion of Allepo pepper flakes. I skipped the cream in favor of a modest pat of butter. The result was rich tasting without being heavy, and the sweetness of the corn played nicely against the heat of the pepper flakes.

Robyn's verdict: "This is so good it tastes Armenian."

Why shouldn't it? Corn isn't a big part of the Armenian diet -- it isn't really a mountain crop -- but the other ingredients definitely are. We're going to do some further experiments, maybe with a dash of coriander.

Meanwhile, I'll take Robyn's opinion as a high compliment. I can't wait to hear what she orders next.

Maque Choux
1 11-ounce can of corn, drained
1/2 red bell pepper diced
1/2 yellow onion diced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
butter
salt

Cook the onion and diced pepper in butter or olive oil until soft.
Add the corn and stir.
Add the red pepper flakes.
Add salt to taste.
Stir in a tablespoon of butter just before serving.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Memories of long-ago summers


Robyn's recent post about the fund-raiser for Camp Haiastan brought back a flood of wonderful memories from my childhood.


I was 9 in the summer of 1961 when my parents joined a caravan of other Armenian families from New Jersey to deliver a gang of us to far-off Franklin, Massachusetts for the start of what became a summer ritual until my late teens.


Hanging out with other Armenians wasn't exactly a novelty, but being away from home certainly was. We'd all have become instantly homesick except that we were greeted that first day by a warm and familiar smell: shish kebab!


Sunday was always picnic day at camp, hosted by a variety of groups that rented the grounds. Driving through the camp gate that first day, we could hear the kef music and smell the meat roasting over the flames. We knew camp was going to be great!


Imagine my surprise when we finally settled in, waved good-bye to our parents and sat down to a dinner of hamburgers and potato chips!


Who'd have guessed that the day-to-day menu at an Armenian summer camp was exactly like the menu at every other summer camp? Spaghetti, mac and cheese, hot dogs. We might as well have been eating in a school cafeteria.


Not that it was so bad, mind you, and none of us ever went hungry. But it sure was disappointing...until Sunday afternoon. The moment we were dismissed from our morning routine, every camper joined an uphill stampede to the picnic grounds.


As adults, we all have our own recipes, seasonings and grilling techniques, but believe me: No shish kebab ever tasted so good.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Zitounou Trakhig -or- Small Kufteh, Zeitounieh-style

If you’ll recall, my maternal grandparents came from Musa Dagh (Musa Ler, in Armenian). You can imagine my excitement when I received the following email and Mousa Lerian recipe from Mary Samanlian.

It's a meatless kufteh, so it's great for Lent, and vegetarians will appreciate this dish, too.

“Hi Robyn,
I would like to send you this food recipe , the food is called "Zitounou Trakhig", it's a Mousa Lerian dish.  Trakhig means small keofteh.

Here is the recipe:
Keofteh Ingredients: 2 cups tsavar (small size bulgur #1 - cracked wheat), 1 cup flour, 1 Tblsp tomato paste, 1 Tblsp pepper paste, 1 teaspoon cumin, salt. If pepper paste is not available use paprika or dry hot pepper.

Sauce Ingredients: 7-8 medium size onions, 3-4 garlic cloves, 1 kilogram well matured tomatoes, 1 Tblsp pepper paste, 1/2 cup corn oil or olive oil (which is much healthier), cumin, salt.

Preparation of the dough:
First wash the tsavar (it's important to wash it before using, it makes easier to work),get rid of the extra water then add the flour, tomato paste, pepper paste, cumin, salt, mix them using your hands to make a dough. Then take small pieces of this dough (as large as a small apricot) and give it the shape of a ball then press on it with two fingers to flatten, leaving a thin line which remains higher in the middle. After finishing, cook them in boiling water two to three minutes like spaghetti, take them out of the water and put them aside.

Preparation of the sauce:
Chop the onions "julien", smash the garlic, divide each tomato into two and rind them then throw away the peel, you may put the tomatoes in the blender and blend them, but I prefer to use the rinder for better results. Put the oil in a cooking pot, add the onions, when they turn into yellow add the garlic then the tomato juice, salt and cumin, let it boil for five minutes then add the trakhigs (keoftehs) mix, let it boil for 5-10 minutes then put out the fire. It's ready to eat. Happy appetite.
Serves 8.”

Robyn’s Notes:
1. 1 kilogram tomatoes equals 2.2 lbs.
2. “Julienne” means to cut into thin strips.
3. If the dough mixture will not come-together, add a little bit of water.
4. I added a sprinkle of Aleppo red pepper to the sauce to give it an extra “kick”.
5. I wanted to be sure I understood the sauce directions in reference to the tomatoes, so I asked Mary for clarification which follows:

Peel the tomatoes** to remove the skins. Cut each tomato in half, squeeze them to remove the seeds, then put the tomatoes in the blender to puree them - or grate them by hand. Mary prefers the hand-grating method.

**Special Tip: How to Peel Whole Tomatoes:

1. In a 6 quart pot, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil. Have a large bowl of ice water set aside.
2. Using a small paring knife, cut an “X” through the skin at the blossom end (NOT stem end) of the tomato.3. Working in small batches, drop a few tomatoes at a time into the boiling water for 10 to 15 seconds - no more!
4. Remove the tomatoes with a slotted spoon and place them into the bowl of ice water to cool.
5. Once cooled, remove tomatoes and allow to drain.
6. Gently pull away the skin, starting where you cut the “X”, using a paring knife or your fingers.

NOTE: If peeling tomatoes sounds too time-consuming, whole or diced canned tomatoes can be used instead. Just puree the tomatoes in a blender or food processor to create the base of the sauce.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Virtual Ararat: On to greater heights!

We're thrilled to be part of the new online incarnation of the AGBU's respected magazine Ararat

Ararat (http://www.araratmagazine.org/) has a long, proud tradition of outstanding literary, cultural and opinion offerings -- so it's very cool and a bit humbling to find ourselves contributing a monthly food column.

Personal aside from Doug: I started in journalism way, way back in the day of manual typewriters and lead type. For old newspaper guys like me, the digital revolution has been jarring; it's a big part of why my old newsroom job no longer exists.

But it's by far the most exciting development in communication since the telephone -- maybe since the alphabet. For me, the astounding reach of this blog to thousands of readers in all corners of the globe is just a hint of the Web's potential to deliver ideas and information to more people in more places than anyone could have dreamed possible just a few years ago.

It's exciting to see Armenian culture lifted and carried around the world in this way as more and more of our traditional publications begin to explore and exploit the Internet's extraordinary capabilities.

We wish all the best to Ararat editor Aris Sevag and the entire Ararat staff!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Matnakash, an Armenian Symbolic Bread

Whenever a reader asks for help in finding a recipe, I do my level-best to hunt one down. When Devyn asked for a bread recipe called Bokon, I thought I'd found it, but unfortunately, no. So Devyn’s next request was for Matnakash, another bread recipe that might be closer to what she’s looking for.
I exhausted my personal resources when it occurred to me to check “The Art of Armenian and Middle Eastern Cooking” on Facebook. I made a request for the recipe, and within minutes, one appeared.

Devyn, after you try the recipe below, please report your findings to us. We’re anxious to know if this is your lost bread.

" ARMENIAN BREAD - MATNAKASH ", recipe from "The Art of Armenian and Middle Eastern Cooking" on Facebook
( A Symbolic ARMENIAN Bread )

Their Facebook page said, "The secret behind this recipe is simply good kneading and proofing of the dough."
                                (Robyn's photos below: Before and After baking)



INGREDIENTS:

500 g bread flour (see Robyn's notes)
350 g warm water (see Robyn's notes)
1 teaspoon instant yeast 
1 tablespoon salt
**********************************
3 tablespoons extra virgin Olive Oil

 PREPARATION:


In a bowl, pour warm water, add all dry ingredients and knead the dough about 20 minutes.
Cover the dough with a clean towel and let it rise in a warm place for about 1 hour.
Moisten your hands with water, punch the dough lightly and stretch and fold four times. Then cover it again and leave it in a warm place for another 30 minutes.

Divide the dough into 2 equal parts.

On a large open pan, pour the olive oil and stretch open the dough (one at a time) into an oval shape - making sure both sides are covered with oil.
Let it sit for another 15 - 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, pre-heat oven to 425 degrees F.

Fold all along the rim of the oval breads and wrap them gently/tuck them in.
With a fork or a knife (or finger if you wish to try) , gently give the appropriate design of a plowed field - 5 to 6 lines length-wise and 3 to 4 lines crosswise.

Place the Matnakash on a clean baking sheet and bake them in the pre-heated oven until golden brown (about 20 minutes).

Makes 2 Matnakash Loaves

Robyn's Notes: 
 1. I attempted to convert the measurements for the bread flour and water into standard American units, and got the following approximate amounts: 500g bread flour = about 5 cups
               350g water = about 1 1/2 cups
2. Ingredient measures I actually used for the dough recipe:
5 cups bread flour
2 cups warm water (about 105 degrees F.)
1 package active dry yeast (instead of 1 tsp.)
1 tablespoon salt
3. I used the Kitchen Aid mixer with dough hook attachment to knead the dough - about 3 minutes until dough was smooth and elastic.
4. I lightly oiled the bowl used for proofing the dough.

OUR RESULTS: Never having made or eaten matnakash before, I had no measure of comparison. We did, however, really enjoy the final product - especially with Armenian string cheese, olives and a cup of strong coffee!
 

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father’s Day!

TheArmenianKitchen.com wishes all fathers a joyous and relaxing day!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Searching for Armenian bread recipes- Bokon and Matnakash

Devyn Egigian asked TheArmenianKitchen.com for help in locating a recipe for Bokon, a delicious bread her grandfather used to purchase in Los Angeles. While we came close with a recipe submitted by Dorothy Arakelian, Devyn says it isn’t the one.

Devyn wrote:
“Okay, Robyn, I gave it (Dorothy’s bread recipe - Arabkirsee Gagulth Hatz) a try, and while the bread was wonderful, it wasn't bokon. :( The top was quite close to bokon, but the inside wasn't. I think it needs to be a little closer to the crumb of foccacia, without its olive oiliness.


Matnakash was mentioned... does anyone have a wonderful recipe for that I might try to see if that's closer?”


OK, Devyn, let’s see what we can do.

To help stir up visual assistance, here’s some background information on Matnakash, a bread that rivals lavash, and a photo.


According to Irina Petrossian's book, "Armenian Food: Fact Fiction and Folklore", matnakash is an oval-shaped bread that is characterized by an imprint on the surface created by the baker’s fingers which represents a plowed field. This creates a thick loaf with a fluffy interior.



Readers, if any of you can locate a recipe for Matnakash -or Bokon- that you are willing to share, please send it to robyn@thearmeniankitchen.com.
As always, thank you!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Is Summer Camp Ready for Your Children?

Long before camps open for the summer, preparations begin to acquire the necessities that make camp programs possible. Armenian camps are no different. Fundraising is a major source of income to achieve these goals, and they come in all forms - dinners, auctions, bake sales.

It was brought to my attention by Susan Kulungian that on Saturday, March 27, 2010, a fundraiser for Camp Haiastan was hosted by Carol and Greg Minasian of Andover, MA. The 30 to 40 people who attended watched a video about the camp, and learned how the funds would be used, for example: the endowment fund, to send children needing financial aid to camp, and maintaining the camp facilities.

Susan said,  "It was great to see old friends, some I hadn't seen in years! and also to meet new people. Food was excellent! Fundraisers were held this spring in different parts of the northeast (this one was Merrimack Valley, MA, another one was in Needham (Boston area), etc. I don't know how much was raised (sorry) but checks were flowing! "


For party favors, Susan, also known as AndoverCookieMama, created the most incredible cookies (seen left) decorated with the Camp Haiastan logo. She baked and decorated 60 cookies, which she figures took her about 10 hours to complete. I'm telling you, Susan must have the patience of a saint!

Susan also shared the following recipe for plaki that hostess Carol made this for the event. She said the recipe, which was submitted by Armine Dedekian, comes  from the Armenian Kitchen cookbook of St. Stephen's Church Watertown, MA.


Plaki


1 pkg. dried navy beans
1 bunch chopped parsley
3 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 potato, cleaned and diced
3 large onions, chopped
1 tsp salt
3 carrots, cleaned and sliced thin
1 tsp pepper
1 can stewed tomatoes with juice
1/2 cup olive oil
2 stalks celery, sliced thin
1/2 cup or more water


Cover beans with water and soak overnight or for at least 2 hours. Parboil beans approx. 5 to 10 minutes, drain and rinse. Combine beans and remaining ingredients along with 1/4 cup or more water. Cook for approx. 1 hour on low, checking to make sure there is enough liquid. Adjust seasonings, refrigerate, and serve cold.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Harvest Song Preserves - the sweet taste of Armenia

I'm honored when people see a food product and think of me. Such was the case when I received this email from my buddy, Ara Kassabian from Los Angeles.
He wrote:
“Robyn, Have you tried the artisanal preserves from Harvest Song ventures? I ran across one in a local store the other day and it is amazingly yummy. They apparently won a bunch of awards as well. I think they are funded by the Tufenkian Foundation. I immediately thought of you when I tasted it."

Thanks, Ara, that’s so sweet (literally)!


Naturally, Doug and I set out on a journey through western Palm Beach county to find a local store that carried it. Before leaving the house, I called several stores to see who sold it; after all, no sense in wasting gasoline!


Our local Williams-Sonoma said they didn’t have it, but suggested I try Whole Foods. Happily, Whole Foods said they had Harvest Song Preserves in stock.


Off we went. Once in the store, I made a bee-line for the preserves section; alas, no Harvest Song! I went to the customer service counter for assistance. After several calls to various departments, the clerk led me to the display, which was cleverly located in front of a selection of French dark chocolates.


I was surprised to see clearance signs for all of the Harvest Song products. As the consumer, it was a great for me, but I was wondering why Whole Foods would drastically reduce this highly-regarded Armenian product.


“Not a big seller?”, I asked. The employee said, “It’s not that. A discount store is going to sell Harvest Song, and once that happens Whole Foods won’t carry it anymore.”


A discount store? Which one?, I asked. He seemed to think it was TJ Maxx. It sounded odd to me, but figured it was worth checking out.


Once we purchased our jar of Armenia's Harvest Song strawberry preserves and a chunk of French chocolate, our next stop was TJ Maxx which is combined with a Home Goods store.

Doug and I combed the shelves, but found no such product. Perhaps the Whole Foods employee was right and the discount stores just aren’t carrying it yet, or maybe he just didn’t know what he was talking about. The folks at TJ Maxx and Home Goods certainly weren’t any help. We’ll keep on checking, however.


In the meantime, if you can’t find Harvest Song preserves in a store near you, you can ALWAYS order it from their website; it’s definitely worth it!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Armenians of India remember their past, but not their food

The Telegraph newspaper of Calcutta, India reports that the city's historic Armenian comunity has dwindled to about 40 families, few of whom speak Armenian.

The loss of language is no surprise. Why would India be different from America in that regard?


Here's the shocker, at least to us: The Armenians of Calcutta have apparently forgotten their cuisine.



The paper notes that at a recent wedding (Telegraph photo, left) between an Armenian groom and a Punjab bride, the feast consisted of Indian, Italian and Continental dishes -- but nothing Armenian, because no caterer in the city makes Armenian food.

Neither, apparently, do most of the Armenian families.

The groom, Shayne Hyrapiet, is a popular singer whose father, Peter, is president of the local Armenian Club. But Shayne, whose mother is Indian, says he never ate Armenian food while growing up and isn't sure what it is.

Shayne appears to be typical of his generation, who identify most strongly with Indian culture, but the paper noted that Armenian cuisine "is not all lost in Calcutta." Peter Hyrapiet explained lavash and "salted white Armenian cheese," while another member of the Armenian community, Susan Reuben, said she can make "a few Armenian dishes" such as dolma, thanks to her mother.

It just makes us so sad to think of everything they're missing!

Here's hoping Shayne and the new Mrs. Hyrapiet discover TheArmenianKitchen.com sometime soon so they can get their marriage off to a proper start.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Cilantro: Love it or hate it

Doug caught me watching the “Barefoot Contessa” on the Food Network the other day. In one segment, Ina Gartner, the star of the show, was answering questions from her fans. A woman wrote that she absolutely hates cilantro, and wants to know what to use in place of it. Ina’s remark was that she, too, dislikes cilantro, and simply omits it when a recipe calls for it, or uses chopped parsley in it’s place.

Doug and I looked at each other in amazement... there is NO substitute for cilantro, and using parsley, just doesn’t cut it! Sorry Ina.

I feel sorry for people who don’t like - or can’t eat- cilantro, aka Chinese parsley. To me it’s absolutely addictive. The first time I ever ate it was at a Mexican restaurant. I couldn’t stop eating the salsa, but wasn’t sure why. There was an ingredient in the dish I couldn’t identify, yet kept me going back for more. Once I questioned the served about the salsa’s ingredient list, I realized the taste I was craving was the cilantro.

I wrote about cilantro and coriander about a year ago, and provided a recipe for cilantro-tahini dip. If you haven’t tried it, you should; it’s pretty darn tasty, if I do say so myself. If you’re wondering why I’m writing about this topic again, it’s because I just came across an interesting article, "Cilantro:The Controversial Herb", by Lynda Balslev about this very issue. The article contains several delicious-sounding recipes. Read it and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Bokon recipe found?

In my search for Devyn Egigian’s request for Bokon, an Armenian bread said to be thicker than lavash,  I consulted with Dorothy Arakelian who said the description sounded like her recipe for “Arabkirsee Gagulth Hatz”, a soft, spongy bread that’s served with cheese. This recipe comes from her cookbook “Come Into My Kitchen” which can be purchased through http://www.amazon.com/ (scroll down to see our link to amazon.com below). A picture of the large, flat loaves of bread can be seen on the right-hand side of the book’s cover. To try this, and the rest of Dorothy’s delicious recipes, I urge you to treat yourself to a copy of her cookbook without delay. I thoroughly enjoy mine!


Dorothy’s recipe for Arabkirsee Gagulth Hatz follows. For the record, Dorothy explains “gagulth” is pronounced ”gug gough”.

This recipe will yield 6 loaves, which will freeze well.

Dough:


5 lbs. All purpose flour
3/4 cup Crisco (a solid vegetable shortening), melted and cooled
2 envelopes active dry yeast
1/4 tsp sugar
1 level tsp. Salt
3 to 4 cups lukewarm water, as needed to make a soft dough


For Egg wash:
2 eggs, well beaten




Directions:
Place yeast in a small cup with sugar; add ½ cup of very warm water and stir to dissolve. Set aside to proof.


Meanwhile, heat Crisco to lukewarm (105 to 110 F.)


Using a large mixing bowl, combine all of the dough ingredients with a large spoon, and gradually start to knead with your hands until the dough is smooth, soft, and elastic.


Cover dough with plastic wrap, and a heavy towel. Place in a draft-free area to rise for about one hour or until doubled.

Sprinkle flour very lightly on the counter top; divide dough into 6 large balls about the size of a large grapefruit. Cover dough with plastic wrap for about 1/2 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 F.


Using a regular rolling pin, roll each ball into an oval shape, about 4 to 5 inches in length.


Gradually lengthen the oval by flipping the dough over the side of your hand until the oval stretches to about 12 inches long and about ½ inch thick.


Place ovals on ungreased baking sheets, brush tops with egg wash, and bake on the middle rack of the oven for about 12 to 15 minutes, or until puffy and light tan.
**********************************
OK Devyn, it's your job to test this recipe to see how it compares to the bread your grandfather used to buy.
We eagerly await your opinion!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Recipe Search: "Bokon", a thicker version of Lavash

Hi Y'all,

Reader Devyn is looking for a bread recipe called bokon (boccone). The spelling might not be exact, so searching through cookbooks and the internet has been a bit challenging. I am turning this search to you, dear friends, hoping one of you can help satisfy Devyn’s request - and my curiosity. Thanks!

Devyn wrote:


“Hi Robyn!

I just found your blog and love it! I thought, knowing so much about Armenian food, perhaps you could help me with a search I’ve been on for a while.



Growing up, my grandfather would go to the Armenian delis around Los Angeles frequently and would always come back with bread my family called boccone. (I could very well be spelling that incorrectly!) I’ve been trying to find a recipe for it, but with no luck. It was definitely not choreg, I know that much (because we had that as well), but came shaped in a large rectangle, was about 1 ½ inches thick perhaps, and was “pillowy/quilted” in shape on the top, something akin to that sweet King’s Hawaiian bread. Do you know what I’m talking about? It wasn’t a sweet bread by any means, nor does it resemble the Italian boccone I found doing an internet search; it was something we often paired with chechil when we were a bit fatigued with having lavash.

I’m hoping you can help or send me in another helpful direction.

Best,

Devyn Egigian”


Robyn’s Comment:


To date I have not found a recipe, but I did find out the following about the bread from the book “Armenian Food” by Irina Petrosian and David Underwood:



"Bokon" is a small, round bread, thicker than lavash; also called pombi or prooz. Bokon requires a strong wood fire so is preferred in regions where there are forests, and it's preparation is more demanding than lavash.



PS: “Chechil” is a mozzarella-like string cheese.

To assist in my search, I wrote to Ara Kassabian, who lives in LA, and Dorothy Arakelian, author of the Armenian cookbook, "Come Into My Kitchen" to ask if they knew of this bread.



Here is what Ara said:

“Sorry to say I've never heard of this bread. There are six types of bread commonly sold in the Armenian bakeries and markets here: pita bread, lavash (or one of its derivatives), matnakash, puri, barbari, and khachapuri. The last four are basically variants of each other. The matnakash is a large oval foccaccia-type bread with a furrow pattern in the top (you are probably familiar with this one). The barbari is basically a thinner, longer version of the matnakash but sprinkled with sesame seeds. The puri is basically a matnakash without the furrows, just a line down the center (probably made with a knife). The khachapuri (or at least I think that is what it is called) is a round, thin matnakash with a checkerboard pattern, about the size of a large pizza.

Besides these five types of breads, you have the crackers and so forth, but I've never heard of boccone or pombi.

As far as ingredients, all of these breads are made with flour, water, yeast, and salt (except for the lavash, of course, which does not use yeast). Extremely simple. I am assuming, therefore that the boccone is made the same way.”

Dorothy wrote:

"I'll try to help you w/this recipe, best I can: First of all we both know that depending on which village or quel the parents or grandparents came from we refer to recipes by various names. With that said, I never heard the word "chechil" but from the description of her bread it sounds very much like what the Arabkirsees called "gagulth hatz" which is on page 63 of my book. Her description of pillowly/quilted on top and 1-1/2" thick fits our gagulth hatz to a tea.

Whenever our families and friends were going to a picnic at the church or somewhere my Mother would bake this very early in the a.m. so we could take it to the picnic fresh and warm. And like she described, after baking it is thick and the pillowly effect comes from before baking, smearing a beaten egg on top with the five fingers poking indentations, thus the pillowly effect. It's usually eaten w/cheese, etc., is long and rectangular in shape, very thick, soft and delicious. As a matter of fact, if you look at the cover of my book I have two of them standing up on the right hand side (right behind the choeregs). This was one of my Mother's signature breads, as many people did not make it, in fact many people did not make lots of things my Mother made."

There you have it. If any of you can help find a recipe for bokon, please email it to robyn@thearmeniankitchen.com. In the meantime, our search continues!

Friday, June 4, 2010

We're on Facebook!

Thanks to our daughter Mandy, and her brilliant technical team, www.thearmeniankitchen.com can now be viewed on Facebook. Join us for stories, recipes, videos, and more! Since our website is interactive, your comments, anecdotes, family photos, cooking videos, and recipes related to Armenian food are always welcome.

Robyn and Doug

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Anginar (artichokes), anyone?

According to George Mardikian's cookbook, "Dinner at Omar Khayyam's", artichokes are found in the Mediterranean region as well as all around Asia Minor. He noted that Levantines (people of Greek, Armenian and Persian descent from the eastern Mediterranean region) were the most artistic at creating artichoke dishes, and that chefs in Constantinople had become such masters with the artichoke that they knew the true temperament of the artichoke.

When an anonymous reader asked for our help in acquiring a specific recipe using artichoke hearts, I was sure it would be a cinch to find. Not so.

Here’s what we did find, but if anyone has any other thoughts, we’d be most happy to share them.

The reader wrote:
“Douglas
I am trying to find a recipe for Anginar (artichokes) using the hearts, olive oil, diced peas, carrots and potatoes. Can you help?”

The recipe I found might not be exactly what they’re looking for, but with a little tweaking, it could work. It’s called “Artichokes with Olive Oil”, and came from the cookbook “Paree Josh - Good Eating: Armenian-American Recipes”, St. Mary Armenian Apostolic Church, Livingston, NJ. This recipe was submitted by Knar Terzian.

Artichokes with Olive Oil
Yield: 10 servings

1 - 16 oz. can artichoke hearts (not marinated), drained
3 leeks, washed and cut into ½ inch pieces
1 - 10 oz. pkg. frozen lima beans
1/3 cup olive oil
 bunch fresh dill, chopped or 2 Tbsp. dried dill, or to taste
6 carrots, cut into cubes and steamed 5 minutes
juice of 3 lemons
tsp. flour
3 cups water
dash each of salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in a 6-quart saucepan. Bring to a slow boil, stirring constantly, and then simmer over low heat for about 1 hour. Stir occasionally. Chill and serve cold.

Knar suggests serving this with Potato Kufta. Her recipe follows.

Robyn’s suggestion: Perhaps by substituting peas for the lima beans, and adding a few peeled, diced potatoes, to the carrots while steaming, this recipe might satisfy our reader.

Knar’s Potato Kufta
Serves 8-10

1 cup fine bulgur
2/3 cup water
4 medium potatoes, boiled and mashed
3 Tbsp. tomato paste
½ tsp. cumin
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
dash salt and pepper
1 medium onion, finely chopped
½ fresh red pepper, finely chopped
½ cup parsley, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. olive oil or ½ stick margarine

Soak bulgur, 2/3 cup water, and tomato paste for 10 minutes.

In a skillet, saute onions and red pepper in oil or margarine until soft and golden.

To the bulgur mixture, add salt, pepper, cumin, and cayenne pepper. Knead as you would with dough, adding more water, a little at a time, if needed, to keep mixture together. Add potatoes and continue kneading until potatoes and bulgur stick together. Add sauteed onions and peppers and ½ of the chopped parsley.

Knead to form a smooth mixture.

Shape into small patties. Garnish with remaining chopped parsley and serve.

This can be served with Artichokes and Olive Oil for a nice Lenten meal. This can also be used as an appetizer.