Sunday, December 30, 2012

DAREHATS (pronounced ‘dar-ee hots’) - New Year Bread

With the new year approaching, my friend SoniaTashjian reminded me of her recipe for Dare Hats. Because it’s the time of year for this specialty bread, she kindly provided some background information  in addition to her recipe. Read on, and give the recipe a try!
Dare Hats from Sonia Tashjian

From Sonia:
            Darehats is an Armenian traditional bread prepared for the New Year. When the family gathers around the holiday table, the grandmother cuts the bread and serves it to the members of the family. The family member who receives the portion of bread with the coin, is granted good luck and fertility during the coming year.

            The tradition of Darehats (other names are Dari, Grgene, Kloj, etc...) began centuries ago. In the springtime, the first man prepared the bread using the last of the dried fruits and decorated the bread with seeds. The bread was dedicated to his gods in the  hope of a fertile crop for the coming year.
Dare Hats

Ingredients:
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon (if desired)
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup hot water
1 cup chopped dried fruits and raisins
1 cup chopped nuts
½ cup linseed or sesame seeds

a coin

Directions:

           Mix flour, baking powder, sugar, and cinnamon (if using). Add the oil and hot water;   mix well.
           Add the raisin, chopped nuts & dried fruits. Mix, then place in a non-stick round pan.

           Wrap the coin with foil, then insert it into the dough. Rub water on the surface of the dough and sprinkle seeds on top.
           Preheat the oven at medium temperature (approx. 350° F) and bake 40-45 minutes.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

A blond guy's attempt at Armenian chickpea salad


That was the topic line of an email I got the other day from Michael Huber, who was definitely a blond guy last I saw him.

On the other hand, I still had hair.

Mike and I worked together more than a few years ago at The Miami Herald, where he was a stand-out editor and writer.

He went on to teach journalism at Florida International University and co-authored a college textbook on writing before moving on again to become a lawyer.

Now he's back to plying his primary skills with a venture called millionth monkey, offering a range of editorial services to authors, businesses and anyone else who needs help with words.

I know plenty of people do because I'm in the same line of work. Mike is a smart guy and a genuine talent, so I have no doubt he'll be busy as a one-armed typesetter when words spreads that he's available for hire.

The good news for now is that he had enough time on his hands to discover our Web site and dive right in.

"I'm soaking garbanzos now (no canned beans!) so I can make your chickpea salad recipe tonight," he wrote. His follow-up email included the picture above, and this note: "The garbanzo salad turned out great, if I say so myself."

This is a huge part of what makes this blog so much fun. We hear from people around the world who are passionate about food. Most are Armenians or have Armenian family members.

But it's a real kick to hear that we've spread the word far enough to reach a blond guy -- and to make our food sound interesting enough to entice him to give it a try.

It's even better, of course, to hear from an old friend.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas, One and All!

After a year filled with celebrations and loss, we are spending this holiday season reflecting on our numerous blessings and cherished memories.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year … from our home to yours!

(Christmas Graphic from Google Images)

 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Samsag - an Armenian Turnover


My grandmother, Yeranuhe Vartanesian, was famous (at least to us) for her Banerov Hatz (cheese-onion) bread recipe. If she had dough leftover, she would make a special treat called Samsag, kind-of-like a turnover. Hers was filled with cheeses, cooked potatoes, and a bunch of seasonings that was simply delicious.
Baked Samsag
If you’re ambitious, and would like to make dough from scratch, the recipe is included below. If, on the other hand, you’re not interested in spending that much time in the kitchen, prepared pizza dough (sold in most grocery stores in 1 lb. packages), will be your best alternative.
 
For the Samsag filling, you’ll need:
1 cup cottage cheese (small curd)
3 medium potatoes, cooked, peeled and finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. crumbled blue cheese (or Gorgonzola)
2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
Seasonings: cumin, oregano, allspice, paprika to taste (or any seasonings of your choice)
***********************************
olive oil
***********************************
NOTE: The amount of filling above is more than enough for 1 lb. of pizza dough.
 
Directions:
1. In a bowl, mix together all of the filling ingredients until well-combined. Set aside.
2. Roll out dough into a thin (about 1/8 inch thick) rectangle, then cut the sheet into quarters.
3. Brush a little oil on each dough section.
Step #4 of samsag preparation
4. Spread about 1/4 of the filling on ½ of the rolled section of dough, leaving a ½-inch border. Fold unfilled side of dough over filling, pinching the edges closed to seal. Brush top with some of the remaining olive oil.
5. Place each turnover on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Bake in preheated 350°F oven for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.
6. Serve warm or at room temperature.
 
Robyn's Note: My grandmother used raw onions in her samsag filling. I took the liberty of sauteeing the onions, allowing any liquid to evaporate, and adding them to the cheeses once cooled.
 
Dough for Banerov Hatz and Samsag
 
Dough Ingredients:
1 pkg. dry yeast
5 lb. bag pre-sifted flour
½ c. oil
1 ½ tsp. salt
Water (about 5 cups)

Directions for dough preparation:
1. Dissolve yeast in ¼ cup lukewarm water.
2. In large bowl combine flour, oil, salt, dissolved yeast, and enough water to make a smooth dough. (The amount of water you use isn’t exact. There may be some trial-and error involved here.)
3. Knead dough for 5 minutes. Place in a large bowl.
4. Lightly oil the top of the dough. Cover, and let rise for 30 minutes to an hour.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Popoques

Raise your hand if you know what Popoques are…
Just as I thought. I’m not the only one unfamiliar with this. 

Popoques are walnut-shaped cookies with a creamy filling. They take their shape from the walnut design from a special press; there are no walnuts in the recipe.

Now that you have an idea of what popoques are, here is a request I received from reader, Lisa Lewis:
“My cooking club recently held a cookie swap, and one of our attendees (who is Armenian) brought Popoques. 
She bought her walnut shaped maker/press on her last visit home to Armenia.  I've looked online and cannot seem to find a website that sells them (and you think you can find everything on the Internet!). Do you happen to know of a place to buy this online?”

Photo from osharak.wordpress.com

Lisa's description of popoque:
"The walnut-shaped "shell" is sort of like a tender waffle cone and is not overly sweet. Then you have the wonderful, soft filling. Mmmmm. My friend used a filling for hers that had dulce de leche (1 cup), cream cheese (4 oz.), and butter (2 oz.) - and they were heavenly!" 

FYI: Dulce de leche is a confection prepared by slowly heating sweetened milk to create a product that derives its taste from caramelized sugar. This is available in canned form in grocery stores which carry Latin American products.

Oreshki (Popoque) Press
My reply to Lisa went like this: “The name popoque is new to me, so I 'googled' it and found a website with the recipe and photo of the press. It seems as though the author of the post also brought the press from Armenia!” 
I was intrigued, yet not optimistic about finding the press. Being unwilling to accept defeat, I immediately contacted the blogger who had written about Popoques. She suggested I try looking for this press under either of its Russian names ‘Oreshki’ or ‘Oreshnica’. Her suggestion paid off because, naturally, the Popoque (Oreshki) press is available through Amazon.com!

To make things really convenient, you can order the oreshki  press (or anything else) by scrolling down to The Armenian Kitchen website’s link to Amazon.com.
Interesting aside: The Armenian guest at Lisa’s cookie club who brought the Popoques, was none-other than the author of the website I found while searching for the press - and - the same person I’d been emailing; what were the odds?!?


 

 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Tahini-Chocolate Truffles



My long-time buddy, Diana Saker, and her neighbors host an annual Christmas ornament- cookie exchange extravaganza. Unfortunately Diana has an intolerance to wheat products, so I try to make flourless sweets that she could eat and enjoy. I know Diana is a huge fan of hummus, so I narrowed my search for tahini-based delights. (Last year I made tahini cookies, but this time around I was looking for something a bit more sinful.)
Tahini-Chocolate Truffles
I came across a sweet treat – more of a candy than a cookie, actually - called chocolate tahini truffles. I first saw this recipe on The Art of Armenian and Middle Eastern Cooking’s Facebook page; they found the recipe by way of Anja’s Food for Thought website, and best of all… no baking required!

The original recipe called for raisins, dates and agave syrup which I did not have on hand, so I substituted those with things stocked in my pantry - currants, dried plums and tamarind syrup. I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

The ingredients I used

Below you’ll find Diana’s unbiased evaluation.


Here’s my version of Tahini-Chocolate Truffles           
Yield: approximately 24 pieces, depending on size

Ingredients:
2 cups tahini, (sesame seed paste) well-stirred
3/4 cup currants, plumped in warm water and drained
1/2 cup dried plums, finely diced
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
Tamarind syrup (optional)

Approximately ¾ cup finely ground almonds for coating

Directions:
1.  Combine tahini, currants, dried plums and cocoa powder in a food processor and blend until smooth. If the mixture is too dry, add water one tablespoon at a time. You should end up with a workable, not too sticky, ball. Taste mixture for sweetness. If desired, add tamarind syrup to taste. (NOTE: The currants and plums aren’t as sweet as raisins and dates, so I added about 1 Tbsp. of the tamarind syrup.)

Uncoated truffles (Step #2)
 2. Roll mixture into balls, about ¾ - inch to 1 - inch each.
(My suggestion: these are quite rich, so smaller is better!)

3. Place ground almonds in a separate bowl. Coat each ball completely with the chopped nuts. (Anja also suggests coating these with coconut, sesame seeds or ground pistachio nuts.)
4. Place coated truffles in a single layer on a parchment-lined tray and refrigerate until firm- about 1 hour – before serving.

5. Serve with coffee or tea. Take small bites and savor the rich, decadent goodness!
6. Storage: These keep well in the refrigerator in a tightly covered container.

Diana’s unbiased evaluation: The tahini-chocolate truffle is very rich (have a beverage nearby!). It’s not as sweet as one would expect a truffle to be. It’s got an earthy flavor from the tahini - not quite savory; not quite sweet. It has a delicious flavor that stands alone. A real keeper!!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Don't hurry dinner on my account, especially if you're serving liver

 
Properly cooked liver
You know this really bugs me because I keep repeating myself: I have no use for chefs who can't be bothered to finish cooking meat.
I have no problem with raw food that's supposed to be served that way, whether it's sashimi or chi kufte, assuming it's been properly prepared with reliable ingredients. But I have a big problem with the pink-is-perfect movement that has turned so many restaurant menus into menageries of bleeding birds and beasts. 
There are times when I feel dinner should be lashed to the plate to keep it from running away.
 
No question, there's a degree of preference involved, and my preference generally runs hot. I also understand that the trend to lower internal cooking temperatures is linked to the trend in lower fat content: Cuts of meat that aren't well-marbled can get tough pretty quickly.
This is a big part of why cooking isn't simple. Good chefs use different techniques to achieve the desired result. Finding the right balance in all things is a constant challenge, whether the goal is flavor or texture, or simply making your guests happy while keeping them safe.

Apparently, this is just too much to ask of some chefs, including big-name celebrities. Consider this report from England's Independent newspaper.

A restaurant run by the celebrity chef Raymond Blanc risked killing diners by selling dangerously undercooked meat, a court heard yesterday.

“Staff at Brasserie Blanc in Covent Garden, central London, were warned their method for searing lamb's liver was in breach of food-hygiene rules.

“One woman had already suffered a serious case of food poisoning after eating the meal. But the upscale restaurant, part of a chain owned by the Michelin-starred French chef, ignored the warning and continued serving up the dish.”

When a second diner became ill, the health authorities returned and ordered the dish off the menu unless the restaurant agreed to follow the rules. 
 
The head chef and director is something of a one-person fine-dining industry in Great Britain, with 18 Brasseries across the country. He is also a well-known TV figure. 

The Guardian newspaper reports that Blanc believes liver should be cooked quickly for as little as 30 seconds on each side. The health authorities advised cooking it for two minutes to an internal temperature of 70 degrees C., equivalent to the American standard of 160 degrees F.

A spokesman for Blanc told the Guardian that the ruling meant liver would be off the menu permanently because “it would need to be overcooked to such an extent that our customers just won't eat it."
 
Chef Blanc's Web site RaymondBlanc.com notes that he is “totally self-taught.” I guess in that case, he deserves a little forgiveness. Unlike Chef Blanc, I had a mother who taught me how to cook lamb's liver properly, meaning Armenian-style.

So, Chef Blanc, in the interest of international good will – and your customers' health – click here for  your first cooking lesson, free of charge.




Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Liebster Award

Bethel Charkoudian, of The Marash Girl blog, has honored The Armenian Kitchen blog with the Liebster Award.  As Bethel notes,’ liebster’ is the German word for “beloved”. (I should have remembered that since I studied German for 4 years in high school!) I’m not exactly sure of the purpose of the award, but, hey, any recognition is much-appreciated.

In order to accept the honor, Liebster Award recipients are supposed to pass this award along to 5 other bloggers who have fewer than 300 followers. Well, as hard as I searched, only one of my blogger-buddies fell into this category. Recipients are then asked to share 11 facts about themselves.
 

Despite knowing only one blogger who qualifies, I was given the “OK” to accept the Liebster Award, so thank you very much, Marash Girl!
The Armenian Kitchen has notified the recipient of the Liebster Blog Award and has received her enthusiastic acceptance.

The Liebster Award, as selected by The Armenian Kitchen, goes to (drum roll, please… ) Beth Adams of WorldlyRise.blogspot.com – a blog about breads, meals and customs from around the world.
Congratulations, Beth!

As promised, here are 11 Facts about Robyn @The Armenian Kitchen:

1. The Armenian Kitchen blog was born out of necessity – a post-retirement venture.
2. Robyn taught Culinary Arts to high school students for 34 years – and - survived!
3. Her husband is the designated sous chef in The Armenian Kitchen.
4. Her Armenian background is a blend of Musa Daghtsi and Dikranagerdtsi with very different interpretations of the same recipes.
 Robyn enjoys:
5. Spending time with family.
6. Spending time with friends.
7. Finding new cooking tools, cookbooks, and exotic herbs and spices.
8. Walking in the aqua-track pool; it’s great for aging knees.
9. Going to the beach.
10. Strolling through museums.
11. Retirement with hubby!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Chickpea Soup with Red Pepper Puree


Our pantry is stock-piled with so many canned products, you’d think we were hoarders! It’s a habit we’ve developed from living in an area where seasons are labeled ‘dry’ and ‘hurricane’, lasting from June 1st through November 30th. We have to keep non-perishables (and a hand-can opener) available just in case the electricity goes out for a long period of time.
We try to keep an accurate inventory list, and use products in the order in which they were purchased. The culinary motto for this is: “First in; First out”.  

The dry season is finally here, so it’s time to use up what we’ve purchased over the past 6 months.
Realizing there was an overload of canned chickpeas, I browsed through some of my cookbooks for a recipe requiring a lot of chickpeas. Happily, I found a soup recipe in an old cookbook, which I adapted to suit our palates.

The soup is colorful, full of flavor and healthy. Serve with crusty bread and crisp salad for a hearty meal that will bring a smile to your face!
Chickpea Soup with Red Pepper Puree
Chickpea Soup with Red Pepper Puree
Yield: 4 to 5 servings

Ingredients:
1 (7 oz.) jar roasted red peppers, drained
2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
2 tsp. lemon juice
¼ to ½ tsp. Aleppo red pepper
******
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, chopped
½ tsp. ground ginger, or to taste
¼ tsp. cumin, or to taste
Dash of salt
2 (15-oz.) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 (14 ½ oz.) cans chicken or vegetable broth
2 Tbsp. tomato paste

Directions:
 For the Puree:

Red Pepper Puree
1. Using a blender or food processor, combine the roasted peppers, 2 to 3 Tbsp. water, 1 Tbsp. olive oil, lemon juice, and Aleppo red pepper. Puree until smooth; pour into a serving bowl and set aside.
For the Soup:

2. In a large saucepan, heat the remaining 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium heat. Sautė the onion and carrots with the ginger, cumin, and dash of salt until onion and carrots begin to soften, about 4 to 5 minutes.
3. Stir in the chickpeas, the broth, and tomato paste. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and cook until onions and carrots are tender, about 10 to 12 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove about 1 cup of chickpeas, onions and carrots and set aside.

4. Place the remaining soup into the blender, food processor, or use an immersion blender, and puree. Return soup to saucepan with the reserved chickpeas, onions and carrots; adjust seasoning, if necessary. Heat through.
5. To serve: Place soup into individual bowls, drizzle with Red Pepper Puree.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Macaroni with Fried Meat


A simple, yet direct, request was sent to me by reader, Pam: “Please send recipe for Armenian macaroni with meat, done in oven.”
Before I could send Pam a recipe, I emailed her asking for a better description of the dish. I thought she might have been referring to manti - the tiny boat-shaped dough with ground meat filling - that's baked in the oven. 

Alas, no.
I gave this some more thought and suggested the Greek recipe Pastitsio - pasta, meat, tomato, topped with bechamel sauce, then oven-baked.

Again, no.
Pam said the recipe she was seeking was made with spaghetti, meat, tomato. All together in oven.

I told her I’d see if there was anything else I could find, although I really didn't know of a specifically Armenian recipe for spaghetti, meat and tomato baked in the oven.
 After researching, I sent Pam this message: “I found a recipe in my copy of Rose Baboian's Armenian-American Cookbook that might be what you're looking for. Please take a look and see if I'm getting close.”

After reading the recipe (see below), Pam wrote: “Yes, I think that's it! Thank you so much! Can't wait to try it!”
I was going to post the recipe after Pam made it so I could include her evaluation, but she’s in Armenia right now.

So while I await her return, I figured I’d make it for dinner. We hope to hear from Pam later on.

My version was a bit different from the original. The changes I made are listed below Rose Baboian’s recipe.
The Armenian Kitchen's version of  Macaroni with Fried Meat 

(Baked) Macaroni with Fried Meat, from Rose Baboian’s Armenian-American Cookbook’
(Dabgadz Misov Macaron)
Yields: 4 servings

Sauté: ½ lb. ground meat (lamb or beef) in ¼ cup butter or margarine for 5 minutes. Stir constantly.
Add: ¼ cup (1small) finely chopped onion. Continue browning 5 to 8 minutes more.

Mix in:  
¼ cup finely chopped green pepper
2/3 cup finely chopped canned tomatoes
6 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 Tbsp. water
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. allspice
1 clove finely chopped garlic, optional
1/8 tsp. Aintab red pepper (or paprika mixed with a little cayenne pepper)
¾ tsp. salt

Bring to a Boil, then Simmer about 5 minutes.
Boil: 3 quarts water with 1 ½ Tbsp. salt.

Add: ½ lb. macaroni of your choice.
Cook: according to package directions; Drain.

Mix together: with meat mixture.
Spread: into a 9”x9” baking pan.

Bake: at 350°F for 30 to 35 minutes. Stir once or twice during baking. Serve hot.

Most of  my ingredients
Here are the changes I made:      
I omitted the butter in the meat-cooking step. Any excess fat was drained from the skillet.

I used: ½ cup diced red peppers, 1 cup diced tomatoes with liquid, 3 Tbsp. tomato paste, about ½ cup water (or more to make it more sauce-like), farfalle (bow-tie) pasta, and  increased the seasonings (except the salt) according to our taste.
Shhh: I secretly added a splash of Marsala wine to the sauce! J

Plain yogurt was served on the side.
Our evaluation: It reminded us of Manti in casserole form. Pretty good, really, and very easy to prepare!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Armenian Kitchen pays tribute to Anne Marootian, one of the best Armenian cooks there ever was.

Anne Marootian in the kitchen at St. Leon Armenian Church, smiling and cooking - as always!
The Marootian family and my family (the Dabbakians) go way back – I’m talking decades. We were neighbors in Clifton, NJ for approximately 40 years, and attended every church event together for years beyond that. Whenever the Marootians invited us for an impromptu get-together, Anne was sure to serve a tableful of delicious nibbles that she quickly whipped-up. Not only was Anne a terrific cook, she told some pretty funny jokes, too!

With my mother’s recent passing, I’ve been dwelling on family memories more than ever. When I heard the news that our dear friend, Anne, passed away just 2 weeks after my mother, I was heartbroken. (You might recall two of Anne’s recipes that have been featured on our website, chorag and tourshi. I’m hoping her family will send a few more of her treasured recipes our way.)
I would like to share a slightly edited portion of Anne’s obituary with you:

“Anne, born in New York City on July 9, 1915 to Armenian immigrant parents, passed away on November 20, 2012 at the age of 97. She married Zaven Marootian in 1938 and together raised 3 wonderful sons.  Anne and Zaven owned and operated  Zaven's Luncheonette in Paterson, NJ, where she was the chief cook and bookkeeper, and later was bookkeeper in Marootian Trading Corporation. The family moved to Clifton in 1959. Anne and Zaven were both very active parishioners in St. Leon Armenian Church in Fair Lawn, where Anne was a noted cook of Armenian cuisine. She headed up the Food Committee for many Food Festivals and social functions. Anne was well known for her wonderful hospitality, joyful spirit and sense of humor.”
Anne was a very special woman who will truly be missed. We extend our heartfelt sympathy to the entire Marootian family.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Introducing the '60-Second Pomegranate Deseeder'


I confess, I’m an occasional impulse-buyer. I try not to be, but on rare occasions, I’ve been lured into buying a specialty kitchen tool or two at Bed Bath and Beyond, Williams-Sonoma or Sur La Table. (By the way, I’m STILL trying to find the mantimatic, so if any of you can offer me a purchasing source in the USA, I would be forever grateful!)

As Doug and I entered The Fresh Market recently, we were greeted by a beautiful display of bright, plump pomegranates. Perched next to the fruit was a stack of green plastic things called the ‘60-Second PomegranateDe-seeder’. The cost - $3.99.  In the cart it went, along with one of those fabulous-looking  pomegranates.
(FYI: I noticed Amazon.com is offering the same de-seeder for $14.99, so $3.99 is a real bargain!)

The makers of the de-seeder provide ordering information as well as a how-to video on their website. It’s no surprise that there are already a number of independent online videos showing the de-seeding technique. Check it out- It’s a bit messy (wear an apron or an old shirt), but, it’s easy and so much fun!
Follow these simple steps:
Wash the pomegranate
Trim away the small crown
Cut the pomegranate in half
Make 4 to 5 slits around the pomegranate
Place the deseeder on a large plate
Place the pomegranate, cut-side down, onto the deseeder
Using the back of a large spoon, give the fruit several good smacks to dislodge the seeds onto the plate
Trim the crown
Separate and discard any pieces of membrane from the seeds

Cut in half
 

Score with knife
Tap firmly all around


Remove deseeder and discard membrane bits


Beautiful pomegranate arils

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving and Thank You!


After spending Thanksgiving Day with family, The Armenian Kitchen will resume in full vigor on Friday, November 23rd.
Thank you, one and all, for your sincere condolences on my mother’s recent passing.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

With Deep Sorrow


Mary and Robyn (2009)
It is with deep sorrow that The Armenian Kitchen announces the passing of Robyn’s mother, Mary. Our kitchen will be closed during our period of mourning, however, we will return.
With Thanksgiving right around the corner, we urge you to share your joy, count your blessings, and most of all, cherish your loved ones.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone - near and far.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Mushroom Nuts - or - Almond Mushroom Pâté


This past summer, Stacey P., a former resident of Ohio, wrote asking if I’d ever heard of a recipe called “Mushroom-Nuts”, an appetizer she’d sampled at a Mediterranean restaurant. She described it as a mixture of crushed mushrooms, nuts, garlic, herbs and mayonnaise. Stacey was hoping for the recipe because, as she put it, “This stuff is addicting and I am moving out of the Cincinnati area, so I will not be able to get it.”
Since this sounded like a desperately urgent request and I was away from home, I suggested she ask the folks at the restaurant, Mirage Mediterranean, to share their recipe with her. If that didn't work, I promised I'd look for a recipe on her behalf when I returned to The Armenian Kitchen. (By the way, the Mirage Mediterranean restaurant is owned by 2 Armenian- American brothers in Cincinnati, Ohio!)

Stacey did inquire, however, she asked the waitresses who didn’t speak much English, so no luck there. She planned to ask again at her Going Away Party.
In the meantime, Stacey combed the internet and found a recipe for Mushroom Almond Pâté which she planned to try once she moved and had her kitchen organized.

Time passed…
I came across Stacey’s original request recently, realizing it had fallen by the wayside.

Wanting to make good on my original promise, I altered the recipe Stacey found using some of the ingredients she mentioned then adding a few of my own, and omitting others.
(When Stacey can, she’ll make the recipe she found and report back.)  

Almond and Mushroom Pâté
Yields about 1 1/2 cups
Ingredients:

1 cup sliced almonds (or your favorite type of nut)
1/2 lb. sliced mushrooms (use your favorite kind of mushroom or a combination)

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon *Herbes de Provence – a blend of thyme, basil, savory, fennel, and lavender (dried thyme, oregano, basil may be used)
freshly ground pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons oil
1 Tbsp. lemon juice

Directions:
Step #1
1. Pan-toast the almonds in an ungreased non-stick skillet over medium heat until lightly browned and fragrant. Remove from skillet and set aside.

Steps 2 and 3
2. Heat olive oil in the same skillet on medium heat. Add onions, garlic, mushrooms, herbs, salt  and pepper.
3. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft and most of the liquid has evaporated.

4. Place toasted almonds and 2 Tbsp. olive oil in the bowl of a food processor. Process them forming a paste.

Steps 4 and 5
5.  Add mushroom mixture and process until smooth. Adjust seasonings, if necessary. Add lemon juice and process another moment.
6. Place in a bowl, cover and refrigerate. Remove from refrigerator about 20 minutes before serving. (Allow flavors to blend at least an hour before serving.) Best served warm or at room temperature with your favorite crackers or crudité (cut raw vegetables, such as carrot and celery sticks and pepper strips).

*Note: to give this spread a more Middle Eastern flair, use za’atar instead of Herbes de Provence, and Aleppo red pepper.

Our Evaluation: We enjoyed the earthiness of the mushrooms, the subtle crunch from the nuts, and the hint of brightness from the lemon juice. It tastes better the next day.