Sunday, May 29, 2011

Did you see this? Anthony Bourdain on Armenian food


 Butter-basted Baby Sparrow
  Somehow, this got past me. I thought I saw the episode of Anthony Bourdain's Travel Channel show that featured Lebanon, but I must have wandered out of the room at the wrong time.

This video clip came our way from the ArmenianArchives YouTube channel. It shows the famous chef/writer/traveler  eating at Onno, an Armenian restaurant in Beirut.
Much of this food is instantly familiar to me, although the names are a little hard to  recognize as relayed by Bourdain's companion in what seems to be a British accent.


It's always fun to see Armenian food get international attention, especially on a popular TV show. It all looks delicious.

One dish that wasn't on Mom's menu when I was growing up: butter-basted baby sparrows.
Of course, I immediately thought of Lucine Kasbarian's book, The Greedy Sparrow, based on an Armenian folk tale. Obviously, this is a bird with special meaning in the Armenian culture -- and, if you read the story, one that definitely deserves to be eaten.


I'll pass, though. The rest of the meal looks good enough to satisfy me for a week.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

'Chicken in a Pot' recipe suggestion

In response to Jennifer G.’s search for a recipe for Armenian chicken in a pot with potatoes, Ara Kassabian offered the following suggestion. Now we await Jennifer’s thoughts.



“Jennifer's chicken in a pot sounds like an Armenian version of an etouffee. The two key missing pieces of information are: 1) what were the herbs she mentions? and 2) was there any sauce (like tomato sauce)? Despite this, however, it sounds pretty simple. Here is one suggestion:


1 whole chicken (2-3 pounds), cut up
2 medium size potatoes, sliced into 1/2 inch slices
Salt, pepper
Fresh herbs (see below)
Vegetable oil, such as safflower, canola, etc., or clarified butter
Chopped garlic?


Armenians from different parts of Armenia would most likely use different herbs. Not knowing anything about Jennifer's grandmas, I am suggesting using 1 bunch of either tarragon or dill or savory. Personally, I would go for the tarragon. Just wash the herbs, take the leafs off the stem but leave them whole.


Depending on the herb you use, you might want to consider adding some chopped garlic. If so, use sparingly so as not to overpower the flavor of the herbs.

Preparation:


Coat the bottom of a dutch oven or tight-fitting pot with the oil (about 2-3 tbsp). Layer the potatoes at the bottom (one layer), then layer the chicken pieces on top, starting with the dark meat. Salt and pepper as you go. Add a 1/4 cup water. If you are using garlic, add the garlic.


Note: The pot should be big enough that the food should not come up to more than halfway. If not using a dutch oven, you could tie a kitchen towel around the lid to improve the seal. In the old days, they would use dough, formed into a ring.

Cover tightly, bring to a boil, then reduce to a bare simmer for about 1/2 hour. Open the pot, quickly pile the herbs on top and close. If the water has completely evaporated, then add a little water (a few tablespoons at most). Close again and place on the fire for another 1/2 hour. Even though Jennifer says it would cook all day, I don't think it should take more than an hour, depending on the size of the chicken (maybe two hours). It occurs to me that you could equally well make this in the oven, if you have an oven-proof dish. Maybe a couple of hours at 350F.


When it's done, let it rest for a few minutes, then serve. I would suggest serving with a sauce on the side. Depending on the herbs you use, I could do a quick lemon-garlic sauce, or even a sweet chutney (maybe some apricot jam diluted in a little water, butter, with some ground walnut).


An Armenian friend of my mom (from the Republic of Armenia) had a similar, very simple chicken recipe: Take a whole, cut up, chicken, 1 cup rice, put them in a pressure cooker with very little water (about a cup?) and of course salt/pepper. Cook it for about 1/2 hour. I think you could also layer potatoes at the bottom of the pressure cooker. They would get crispy on the bottom. There is no need for fat because the chicken renders its own fat.


Hope this helps.”

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Request for ‘Armenian Chicken in a Pot with Potatoes’ Recipe:

Jennifer G., currently living in Charlotte, NC, is looking for a specific Armenian chicken and potato recipe. Please read the description below, and if this sounds like a recipe you know, please email it to robyn@thearmeniankitchen.com. Thanks!

Jen's request:
“Growing up (in L.A.), I was surrounded by Armenians and many days was lucky enough to come home from high school to various Armenian Grandmas at various friends' homes cooking a traditional dish that was chicken in a pot w/potatoes and herbs. It was a big pot. The potatoes were wonderfully flavorful and soft. The chicken simply fell apart and is the best I've ever tasted.
How, how, do I make this dish? Time has passed, old friends have lost touch and, sadly, Charlotte NC is not the cultural melting pot of L.A. It was something everyone seemed to keep on the stove as a daily snack.”


I sent Jennifer a recipe for 'Armenian Stewed Chicken', from the cookbook, “The Armenian Table”, by Victoria Jenanyan Wise. (See recipe below.) It’s not exactly what she’s looking for, so any help from our readers would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, all!


Here's Jen’s reply regarding the Stewed Chicken recipe I sent:

“As best I can recall, the dish consists of big chunks of potatoes placed in a pot, they get crispy on the bottom and soft on top during cooking. Then chicken and herbs are added and it cooks most of the day and was ready for us to eat when we got home from school. With lavash...and some awesome seeds for snacking. It was really simple and sooo good. All the grandmas made it.”


Armenian Stewed Chicken
Serves 6 to 8


Ingredients:
1 (5 to 6 lb.) roasting chicken, cut up, or the same amount of chicken pieces
1 small celery root, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
18 boiling onions, peeled
3 sprigs mint
6 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
4 Tbsp. butter
5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
5 cups water
1 ½ tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
16 baby carrots, peeled or 4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch rounds
16 fingerling or creamer-size Yukon gold potatoes
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint leaves
¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
****
3 cups yogurt


Directions:
1. Place chicken, celery root, onion, mint sprigs, parsley sprigs, butter, broth, water, salt and pepper in a large soup pot. Bring to a boil, skimming from time to time. Decrease the heat to maintain a simmer, partially cover the pot, and cook 45 minutes, until the vegetables are almost, but not quite, fork-tender.
2. Add the carrots, potatoes, and continue simmering uncovered for 20 minutes, until the chicken and all the vegetables are fork-tender and the liquid is golden and brothy.
3. With a wire strainer, transfer the chicken and vegetables to a platter *reserving the broth. Sprinkle the chopped herbs over the platter and serve with yogurt on the side.


*Strain the reserved broth. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Next day, skim off the layer of fat. Use as a base for soup, for pilaf, etc.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Recipe Found: Noonoog, Noonook, Nunug!

When Nancy DerSimonian was looking for a recipe for Noonoog, a soup made with meat, chickpeas, mint, lemon and such, I scoured my resources. I came across a recipe called 'Lamb and Chickpea Soup' in the cookbook, ”Recipes and Recollections” by St. Leon Armenian Church Women’s Guild. This recipe was submitted by Debra Bedevian Inak. Even though it wasn’t called Noonoog, it seemed to have the required ingredients, so I passed it along to Nancy.



Here is Debra’s recipe:
Ingredients:
1 ¼ c. dried chick peas
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 lbs. lamb neck bones
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3/4 tsp. ground coriander
3/4 tsp. ground cumin
5 cups beef broth
2 large plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 large lemon, cut into quarters


Garnishes:
2 green onions, including tender green parts, thinly sliced
4 Tbsp. coarsely chopped parsley
2 large lemons, cut into quarters


Directions:
1. Sort through chickpeas, discarding impurities or discolored ones. Place in a bowl; add cold water to cover. Soak for 12 hours.
2. In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Season lamb with salt and pepper and sauté until brown, 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Remove lamb and set aside. Pour off all but about 2 Tbsp. of the fat.
3. Add onion, carrot and garlic; sauté over medium heat until onion is translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add coriander and cumin; sauté for 1 minute more. Pour in beef stock to deglaze pot.
4. Return lamb to pot.
5. Drain chick peas; rinse. Add to pot with the tomatoes. Add 4 lemon quarters. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low, cover and simmer gently until chick peas are tender, 2 to 2 ½ hours, skimming regularly.
6. Remove lamb and lemons from pot. Cut out and discard bones and excess fat. Cut meat into small, coarse chunks and set aside.
7. Ladle about ½ the chickpeas into a food mill, processor or blender, and puree. Stir the puree and lamb chunks back into the pot.
8. Ladle into warmed bowls.
9. Garnish with green onions and parsley; pass around lemon wedges.


Since I wasn’t sure if Debra’s recipe was 'Noonoog', I posted a general request. With their usual gusto, readers eagerly helped answer my plea. (Thanks everyone!)


One recipe I received came from Karin Matevosian, who makes hers without meat; not exactly what Nancy was looking for, but tasty just the same. Since Karin was going to make it that day, she kindly took photos to go along with her recipe.


Here is Karin’s version of Noonoog, along with some of her personal tips:


“Noonoog is my favorite soup, my mother taught me how to make this, our Lebanese - Armenian neighbors taught her. I make this soup every time we want comfort food and when it’s cold. The recipe can be adjusted to taste. I will give you the original version, and in the parentheses the way I make it. Since we like it a lot and eat it for couple days I always double the recipe and the spices are usually eyeballed.”


Ingredients:
1 can of chickpeas (I use 2)
1/2 bag of shell shaped pasta
Juice of one lemon
1 tablespoon of dried mint
1 tablespoon olive oil or 2 pats of butter
1 carton of beef broth (I use 2 from Trader Joe's, if I have 1 carton then I add water)
NOTE: vegetable broth or chicken broth can be used in place of beef broth
2-3 cloves of garlic minced (add more according to your taste)


“I also use cumin, sumac and Aleppo pepper or cayenne pepper (all spices are measured in tablespoons, according to taste - except for the cayenne or Aleppo pepper which is measured in teaspoons.)”


Directions:
First you brown the garlic in a large pan, then add the washed chickpeas and little bit salt not too much because the broth has sodium. Stir the garlic with chickpeas for a couple of minutes, later add the broth. At this time I add the cumin, sumac, hot pepper (my mom doesn’t add this part). When the broth is at the boiling point, add the pasta and let it cook. When the pasta is ready, turn the stove off and add the lemon juice and dried mint and let it sit for 10 minutes and serve. It tastes even better the next day.


Another recipe for Noonoog was sent by Maral Partamian. Her recipe contains meat, as Nancy requested.


Maral's Noonoogov Chorbah
Ingredients:
1 lb. stew meat
Salt, pepper, red pepper
2 cups of water
1/2 small can tomato paste
1/2 small can tomato sauce
2 c small shell pastas
Juice of 3 lemons
4 garlic cloves, mashed with a little salt
2 TB dried mint
1 1/2 cups cooked chick peas


Directions:
Cook stew meat (pressure cooker is the best way to cook, but can be done in regular pot of course).
After meat is cooked add enough water to pressure cooker so it is about halfway full. Add the rest of the ingredients and put lid of pressure cooker after it comes up to pressure cook 5 minutes.
Adjust seasonings and anoushnehr! :)


Maral’s special notes:


“I have to have a recipe for everything I cook, but this is one of the recipes I make by taste, I like it really lemony, and really garlicky and really minty. I don't use a pressure cooker so I just boil the meat till tender and then add everything except the noodles and the chickpeas, make sure the broth part is yummy. I cook the pasta separately ‘cause I really hate it when the pasta gets all bloated for leftovers! :) So I make a lot of the broth and keep the pasta and chick peas separately and just add as we eat it. It does taste a lot better when the pasta has had a chance to cook in the broth, but like I said the bloated pastas aren't appealing to me” :)


The ingredients I used for Noonoog
My final product
For the record, I made the recipe Karin sent using chicken broth and elbow-shaped pasta since that’s what I had on-hand. It was really delicious!


Well, Nancy, hope this helps. We’d love to hear from you after you decide which recipe you like best, and have had a chance to make it.

And thanks, Karin and Maral for all of your help and participation!



Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Liana Aghajanian shares enthusiasm for Armenian food and for journalism

Liana Aghajanian
For thirty-some years, I was a journalist of the old school.


I worked in crowded, smoke-filled newsrooms, shouting into the telephone over the clatter of a thousand typewriter keys and the incessant braying of editors on deadline.


I loved it, more or less, until it stopped being fun. Soon after that, it stopped altogether.


I recently dredged up some mostly fond memories of my newsroom days when I was invited to speak to a class of college journalism students. I talked about how technology had changed throughout my career, and how it was now changing journalism itself.


The students were polite, but it's never much fun to listen to someone talk about how things were done "in my day," a sure sign that a cranky old man is jabbering.


The one point I tried to make most strongly was to be wary of other old cranks who tell them that journalism is a dying career path.


Journalism today is certainly challenging, but it's also exciting. Blogs, Twitter and other platforms allow an individual to communicate directly with the world without submitting to any publisher's whims and prejudices. This freedom, of course, has a price: You'll have to work much harder than I ever did just to make ends meet.


My pal the journalism professor expressed skepticism rooted in our shared fondness for the paid vacations and free coffee that came with our old newspaper jobs. He wondered: How many young people have the ambition and inventiveness to succeed as journalists without a newsroom support network and the security of a weekly paycheck?


I wondered, too, until Robyn and I got a call from Liana Aghajanian.


Liana identified herself as a writer doing a piece for LA Weekly about Armenian food. She was constructing a Venn diagram illustrating the similarities and differences between Armenians and non-Armenians in how they identify various dishes. Robyn and I were flattered that Liana wanted our opinions, and we did our best to answer her questions.


For me, talking to Liana was even more fun than talking about Armenian food.


Liana's the founder of the online magazine ianyan, an exciting and independent new voice in Armenian-American journalism. Originally from Iran, Liana also writes for a dizzying variety of American and Armenian publications. Her enthusiasm for finding and telling important stories comes through with crystal clarity in her online profile.


Here's a snippet:
"I have reported on intercultural relations and violence between Armenian and Hispanic communities in Los Angeles, unclaimed bodies piling up within L.A County, the effects of the foreclosure crisis on pets as well as numerous culture and society features that span the gamut from covert gay skating in conservative communities to seniors who are reprising the dance movement."


It's also clear that she works to master all the skills necessary in today's technologically advanced world.


"I’m an avid blogger and social media enthusiast and am versed in SEO, social media platforms, WordPress and other blogging software, taxonomy, Content Management Systems as well as Adobe Photoshop, Indesign and basic web design and HTML. I carry the AP Stylebook with me at all times, and am fluent in Armenian. I received a B.A. in journalism from California State University, Northridge and have been toying with the grandiose idea of applying to several graduate programs for a few years due to an unrelenting nostalgia for higher education."


I get tired just reading that. But I'm excited, too. Liana is certainly proving that journalism can still be rewarding as well as vital to both the community and the world -- even when the topic is Armenian food!

Monday, May 16, 2011

www.GuideToOnlineSchools.com Contest for Foodies

As you might know, I am a retired high school Culinary Arts teacher. My heart and passion lie with anything food – related.



When I received an email from Keith Cushner, Outreach Manager at SR Education Group, announcing a recipe contest he thought might interest my readers, I decided to pass this information along to you.


Keith wrote:


Our website is just starting out on Facebook, and we're trying to spread the word about how we can help students with our extensive scholarship and financial aid information. One of the ways we're doing this is by running contests on our Facebook page.


This week, we're running a contest for foodies and culinary students alike. All they have to do is post their favorite recipe and have their friends like it. The post with the most likes by next Wednesday (5/18) wins a $50 gift card to the store of their choice! All of the information about the contest can be found here.
 I thought this was a really cool opportunity and wanted to share it with you, in hopes that you could spread the word to all your readers. We would love to have as many entrants as we can get and really get involved with foodies and culinary arts students!”


OK, Keith, the announcement has been passed along. Here’s wishing all entrants Good Luck!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Searching for 'Noonoog' and 'Hyetaliyah'

Two recipe requests were submitted by reader Nancy DerSimonian last January; one for Noonoog, a soup; the other, Hyetaliyah, a dessert.

Nancy wrote:
“Do you happen to have a recipe for a soup called Noonoog with garlic, lemon, chick peas, noodles and beef or lamb? Or a recipe called Hyetaliyah, that's a dessert with cream and knox gelatin, and topped with a rose water sauce and pistachio pieces? My mother- in- law made these dishes, but she passed away and those recipes went with her.”


Shortly after I received this, I began my usual hunt. I haven’t found Noonoog as of this post, but I did find a dessert recipe which sounds similar to Hyetaliyah; it’s called Mouhalabiye (Mouhalabieh), a Lebanese recipe. I passed it along to Nancy with some of the ingredient differences: mouhalabiye uses milk instead of cream, cornstarch instead of gelatin, and rose petal jam instead of rose water sauce.


I'd hoped the recipe I sent from Alice Bezjian's Complete Armenian Cookbook would satisfy Nancy’s request:


Google Image, Mouhalabieh
Mouhalabiye (Mouhalabieh)
Ingredients:
3 cups milk
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 cup water
1 tsp. rose water


Toppings: nuts, rose petal jam


Directions:
1. Boil milk, sugar and 1 cup water. Dissolve cornstarch in one cup water, mix with milk-sugar mixture, reduce heat and simmer about 15 minutes, or until it bubbles; add rose water for flavoring.
2. Pour into individual serving cups. Chill. Serve with sprinkled pistachio nuts, (or walnuts, pine nuts, hazelnuts).
3. Decorate top with red rose petal jam.


By the way: If anyone has a recipe for Noonoog, please send it to robyn@thearmeniankitchen.com. Thanks!


Nancy's Update: Just before Mother's Day, she said her family was making a menu plan for Mother's Day, and that she was thinking of making this recipe in memory of her mother-in-law.

Right after Mother’s Day, Nancy wrote again, explaining in detail, her preparation and family’s reaction:
“I did make it, and it tasted very similar, if not exactly, like my mother-in law’s. However, I did change a couple of things, because I know for sure that she didnt' use water, and hers had syrup, so I made a paklava syrup with a dash of rose water.
Here are my changes:
I used 5 cups of milk, and a cup of cream. I mixed the corn starch in 1 cup of the milk, and cooked the other 4 cups with the cream and sugar (around 5 T) to a boil. Then I added the other cup with the corn starch and mixed it up. It got thick very quickly, so you want to stir it quickly once you add it in. Because I increased the liquid a bit from your recipe, I used 6 heaping tablespoons of the corn starch. I stirred it until it was thick which wasn't long. That worked well, because it had the right consistency once it cooled in the refrigerator. I put in 1 tablespoon of rose water at the end (again, a bit more because of the increased milk that I used). I poured everything in a 9X13 glass pan, and let it chill in the refrig.
Then I made a paklava syrup with 2 c sugar, one c water, then a tsp. of lemon juice, and I added another tablespoon of rose water. I topped the dessert (hyetalieh) with the syrup and the pistachios.


The Family's Evaluation: We loved it. (My husband) thought it tasted just like his mom's. My family thought it was light, and they liked it more than they thought they would because they aren't rose water fans. I always liked the dessert, and this was no exception.”
Nancy was so appreciative; she said finding this recipe will allow her to continue making this dessert for the family, and remember her mother-in-law.
TheArmenianKitchen.com is only too happy to help!





Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Armenian Meat Loaf


Armenian Meat Loaf
 As I was organizing my recipe folder, a small piece of old newspaper flew off the shelf. I was about to throw it away when I realized it was a recipe for Armenian Meatloaf that I found in a newspaper years ago. I had tucked it in my recipe folder then promptly forgot about it. Its reappearance came at a perfect time.


We’re always looking for ways to stretch our food budget, yet maintain a healthy balance of nutrients. One way we do this is to incorporate bulgur in as many recipes as possible. We stock up on bulgur whenever we go to the Middle Eastern store because they generally sell all sizes of bulgur in bulk, allowing us to save a pretty penny. What we don’t use is stored in the freezer; it keeps for a very long time.
A word of warning: if you purchase bulgur at Whole Foods or other upscale grocers, you won’t, I repeat, won’t, be saving money!

After modifying the recipe to suit our taste, Armenian meatloaf become our dinner that very night. Served with cooked carrots and a tossed salad, it was a very satisfying meal.


Armenian Meat Loaf
Yield: 6 servings


Ingredients:
1/2 cup uncooked fine (#1) bulgur
Warm water
1 ½ lbs. ground beef, lamb or a combination of the two
1 small zucchini, shredded
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley
1 garlic clove, minced
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. freshly ground coriander
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper
*****************
3 Tbsp. pomegranate jelly, melted (apricot jelly or preserves can be substituted – or - omitted completely)


Directions:
1. Place the bulgur in a medium-sized bowl. Pour enough warm water to cover the bulgur. Cover with bowl with plastic wrap and let rest until water is absorbed. Once bulgur is soften, strain excess water, if any.
2. Combine ground meat, shredded zucchini, softened bulgur, onions, parsley, garlic, egg and seasonings. Mix well. Shape into a loaf.
3. Place loaf in a shallow baking pan. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 55 minutes.
4. Brush top of meat loaf with jelly/jam, if using. Return to oven and bake another 3 to 5 minutes. Allow meatloaf to rest 10 minutes before slicing.
5. Serve with your favorite side dishes.





Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Mother’s Love

Be honest. How many of you have ever taken your mother for granted?

Robyn and mother, Mary Dabbakian
 As my siblings and I were growing, Mom has always been there for us; her love, unconditional. She fed, clothed, and nursed us; provided us with music, dance, swimming and language lessons; chauffeured us, taught us manners, etiquette, the value of a dollar, and so much more.


We never gave any of this a second thought because we figured that’s what all mothers did. We didn’t truly realize how fortunate we were; we were simply happy and content.


In our adulthood, Mom is still doing more for us than we need; it’s just her way. Her love for us is still unconditional, even though we’re occupied with our own families, and live far apart (at least for part of the year).


Throughout Mom’s life she’s been active and healthy. Now approaching 89, she walks slowly and deliberately using a walker, but her mind is still ever-so-sharp.


Mom ended up in the hospital the other day due to a freak fall. She’s suffering from stress fractures of her vertebrae, causing much pain. It grieves us to know our mother is hurt and we can’t fix her. A bandage and a kiss on the boo-boo aren’t going to mend her. Hopefully, time and rehabilitation will.


Love your mothers – not just on Mother’s Day, but every day because you never know what tomorrow will bring.


Get well soon Mom; we love you!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Antonio Tahhan

Antonio Tahhan, Facebook image
I’m not much of a Facebook person, but I do follow ‘The Art of Armenian and Middle Eastern Cooking’ where a core group of followers post their recipes, and others comment on the finished products.

One day, the post was about a young man, Antonio (Tony)Tahhan, a Cornell University graduate who, among other talents, has a passion for cooking. I took an immediate interest in him - professionally speaking, of course.

Born in Venezuela, Tony moved to Miami Beach, Florida with his family when he was very young. He comes from a Middle Eastern background, but as far as he knows, doesn't have Armenian blood in him. (Tony and his family do, however, have Armenian friends.)

My curiosity aroused, I emailed him to introduce myself and to find out what his favorite recipe is. He responded: “My favorite recipe is always changing, but among my favorites are these Middle Eastern Dumplings called Kbebat. They're originally from the North Eastern part of Syria; a region called Jazeereh. You could find the recipe for them on my blog."

Tony went on to say:
"I've always been passionate about cooking since I was little--in my family, whoever helped cook didn't have to do the dishes.  I do intend on pursuing an entrepreneurial career that involves food, but for now I am taking it one step at a time.  I enjoy posting on my blog and connecting with people who have similar passions.  I am interested in the relationship between food and culture; and love to travel.  These are all things I hope to incorporate into my future one day."

Read Tony's brief biography and you’ll see that this young man is going places.


Tony, the next time you’re in south Florida visiting your Armenian friends, you are cordially invited to my home. My kitchen is your kitchen!



Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Another food mystery solved...

Canadian, Juliana Garcia recently wrote to TheArmenianKitchen.com for some help.

Her request:
“I've been trying to find information about an Armenian jam that is mostly made for Christmas celebrations. I think it is called "fishne anoush" and is a deep purple-brown jam with tiny round fruits inside. Do you know what kind of fruit it is or its equivalent in western food? Thanks!”


After doing some research, I learned that "fishne" or "visne" refers to sour cherries. I found recipes for sour cherry preserves and a sour cherry cordial (liqueur) in one of my older Armenian cookbooks, “Treasured Armenian Recipes”.
I sent Juliana the recipes, plus information about the growing season for sour cherries which is from mid June to early July. She thought these recipes would be a wonderful birthday surprise for her husband, a talented cook.
Sour Cherry Preserves from Harvest Song

  Sour Cherry Preserves, from “Treasured Armenian Recipes”
Yield: 2- 8 ounce jars

Ingredients:
2 cups sour cherries, pitted and stems removed
1 ½ cups sugar (or a little more if cherries are very sour) 
Directions:
Cook cherries in sugar until syrup is thick. Pour into sterilized jars and seal with paraffin.


(According to another source, the color of this should be more of a deep burgundy rather than bright red.)


Sour Cherry Cordial


To prepare sour cherry syrup:
Use 1 cup sour cherries, pitted and stems removed, for every 1 cup of sugar


Directions:
Cover cherries with sugar and let stand overnight. Next day, place cherry-sugar mixture in a non-reactive pot and bring to a boil. Drain off most of the juice for the cordial. Use 1 cup whisky to 2 cups cherry syrup. To a one gallon jug add 1 tablespoon whole cloves, 2 sticks cinnamon, 2 whole nutmegs. A whole cup of cherries may be added to serve with the cordial later. Ready in one month.
  Juliana’s Update:


“I did give (my husband) the recipes for his birthday, and he was so pleased and surprised! We really couldn't figure out what fruit it was... We have also found an organic producer of sour cherries nearby and we are planning a little weekend road trip to pick them up when they are in season (part of the gift too.)


Here in Montreal there is a store specializing in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern products, and I decided go up there and ask if they carried any sour cherry jam, and they had a bunch of them! The one I chose tastes similar, slightly sweeter, a little more runny, but not as good as the (one we received as a Christmas gift from Egypt). And again, thank you so much, this turned out to be a great gift!”

We're always pleased when we are able to satisfy a reader-request...please keep them coming!