Wednesday, November 16, 2011

St. David Women's Guild members get a taste of Musa Dagh

When I was asked to do a presentation for the Women’s Guild of St. David Armenian Church in Boca Raton, FL, I was honored. The ladies were interested in having me present some appetizer recipes from my website.
From the many recipes we’ve posted in the past
2 ½ years, I didn’t hesitate to select two dishes that were distinctive reminders of my maternal grandmother, Yeranuhe Vartanesian. Her Banerov Hatz, or as she called it, Banderoom Hootz, and Sarma Gurgood- the Musa Daghtsi version of Tabbouleh were always a huge hit. The secret ingredient that makes these recipes so unique is red pepper paste. You can generally purchase this in Middle Eastern stores, but it’s often mixed with tomato paste.
So what’s a cook to do? The answer: make red pepper paste yourself! Nanny and her lady friends from Haji Habibli all made it from scratch, chopping, grinding and mixing everything by hand – home-style food processors didn’t exist in her day. It was an exhaustive process, but that was their only option.
Fortunately, we have time-saving devices to speed things along in the kitchen these days.
St. David Women's Guild
Robyn, the guest speaker
Banerov Hatz and Sarma Gurgood

In preparation for my presentation, I made red pepper paste in advance using, forgive me Nanny, a jar of roasted red peppers. Instead of cooking and sun-drying the red peppers, I cooked the peppers on the stovetop until they turned into a paste. I have to say, it came out pretty good, with very little fuss!
Homemade Red Pepper Paste
Here are the recipes I prepared and shared with St. David Women’s Guild members:

Homemade Red Pepper Paste
Yield: about ½ cup

Ingredients:
1 (24 oz.) jar roasted red peppers, drained
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (add more if you like more heat, but be careful!)
Dash of paprika
Olive oil, for later use

Directions:
1. After draining the peppers, cut them into smaller pieces.
2. Grind in a food processor, using the metal S-blade. Place ground peppers in a colander and squeeze out any excess liquid.
3.Place the ground peppers in a bowl.  Stir in the salt, cayenne pepper, and paprika.
4. Spread the mixture in a large, non-stick skillet; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cook, stirring periodically for about 45 minutes, or until the pepper mixture begins to resemble a thick paste. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
5. Spoon the red pepper paste into a container that has a lid. Pour a little olive oil over the top of the paste. Cover tightly, and refrigerate. This should keep for about one week.

NOTE: At this point you can freeze the red pepper paste. The trick is to use a plastic ice cube tray. Place about a tablespoonful of paste in each ice cube compartment. Freeze. When solid, place individual pepper paste cubes in a plastic freezer bag. When ready to use, remove the number of red pepper paste cubes you need and defrost in the refrigerator. Keep the other cubes frozen until needed.

Sarma Gurgood  (Tabbouleh)
Yield: 8 servings
Sarma Gurgood
Ingredients:
2 cups (#2 or #3) Bulgur
Hot water (see directions for amount)                                  
Cumin, to taste                                                        
Paprika, to taste
Allspice, to taste
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper, optional
Dash salt
3 scallions, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
¼ cup fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped (2 tsp. dried mint can be used)
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, stems removed, thoroughly washed and roughly chopped
4 oz. red pepper paste, diluted in 2 to 3 tablespoons of water (tomato paste or a combination of the two can be substituted)
Juice of one lemon
Approx. ½ cup olive oil

Directions:
1. Place bulgur in a large mixing bowl.
2. Bring 2 cups of water to a gentle boil and pour enough of the water to just cover the bulgur. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Allow the bulgur to soak up the water, about 15 to 20 minutes, until it is soft but not mushy. Strain any excess water, if any.
3. Stir in all of the spices, onions, scallions, mint, parsley, diluted red pepper paste, lemon juice to the bulgur. Add the oil a little at a time.
4. Adjust the seasonings according to your taste.
5. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. (NOTE: This recipe is best when made ahead of time so the flavors can blend.)

Banerov Hatz
3. Banerov Hatz
 (Yield: 2 loaves)

Dough:
1 pkg. active dry yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
½ tsp. sugar
2 ½ cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
                                        2 Tbsp. olive oil                                                       
Cheese-Onion Topping Ingredients:
3/4 lb. to 1lb. cottage cheese
3 cups finely chopped onions
2 oz. blue cheese, crumbled
¼ cup parmesan cheese
½ tsp. cumin
½ tsp. allspice
½ tsp. paprika
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
1 Tbsp. red pepper paste (Red pepper paste can be purchased in Middle Eastern stores. You can  make your own or substitute tomato paste with the a dash of cayenne pepper.)
1/4 cup olive oil

Dough preparation: NOTE: To save time, pizza dough (available in most grocery stores) can be used.
1. Sprinkle yeast in ¼ cup lukewarm water; add sugar. Stir to dissolve; set aside to proof.
2. In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Stir in the dissolved yeast, 2 Tbsp. olive oil, and remaining water.
3. Turn dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead until dough becomes smooth and elastic.
4. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover completely, placing bowl in a draft-free area. Allow dough to rise for about 2 hours or until doubled in size.

Topping preparation:
1. In a skillet, warm the oil over medium heat. Sautė the onions until soft, but not brown. Remove from heat to cool.
2. Mix cooled onions with remaining topping ingredients and set aside.

Assembling and baking:
1. After dough has risen, punch it down and divide the dough into 2 equal balls. Roll each on a lightly floured surface in a rectangular shape to about ¼-inch thickness.
2. Lightly grease 2 baking sheets. Place rolled dough onto pan, stretching it a bit.
3. Lightly oil the surface of the rolled dough. Spoon and spread half of the topping on each section of dough.
4. Bake each tray separately in a preheated 375° oven for about 20-25 minutes or until topping is bubbly and the edges and  bottom of the dough are lightly golden.
5. Remove from oven and cool. To serve, cut into squares.
NOTE: Banerov hatz freezes well. Defrost in the refrigerator, heat in the oven at 350 degrees F. for a few minutes to warm it up.

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