We've fallen out of
lamb-chop love in recent years for a couple of reasons.
One is the
fatty, chewy and generally sub-par chops available at most of our
local stores. The other is that I've always been an open-fire lamb
cooker. I like my chops charred over a real flame, just the way Dad
But we don't fire
up the grill much when we're cooking for just the two of us, as is
almost always the case these days. We try to keep things simple,
which translates into stove-top prep. That generally entails few
sacrifices, but lamb chops, sadly, have become one of them.
Until the other
day, that is, when I spotted three particularly nice shoulder chops
that looked perfectly marbled and nicely trimmed. My first thought
was to head for the charcoal aisle but I'm happy to report that the
thought passed quickly.
Instead, I decided to pan sear the lamb along
with the fixings.
I started by
making an Armenian-style side salad and getting my bulgur pilaf on
the stove. I set the salad aside to
dress right before serving and let the pilaf fluff up in its own
juices, with the pan's top firmly in place.
Ready to serve!
Then I put a
12-inch Teflon skillet on the stove and turned the heat up high. While the pan warmed up, I cut up a large onion and two fat, red bell peppers just
as I would if I were barbecuing. I tossed them in a bowl with two
crushed cloves of garlic, my usual kebab seasonings (use the ones you
like) and just enough olive oil to coat it all.
The peppers and
onion went into the hot pan to sizzle while I rubbed the chops with
the same seasoning mix and then added just enough oil for a similar
coating. As the veggies were starting to brown, I added the meat to
The only exception to the stove-top portion of the menu resulted from my running out of room on the stove: Robyn broiled a few tomatoes in the toaster oven while I monitored the lamb chops.
Before I tell you how it all turned out, here's today's quiz: How long does it take to cook lamb chops? The answer varies. If
you're not Armenian, it takes about four to six minutes per side.
know because I heard this from a professional chef on the television.
I made a mental note of the time, and a second note never to eat in
this guy's restaurant.
If, however, youare Armenian,
cook the chops until they're actually done and then cook them some
more. For me, that's about
15 minutes total but be my guest to keep going.
I got a nice, even char on both sides that won the ultimate compliment from our kitchen's executive chef, who happens to be my wife: She said the meat looked and tasted grilled.
What turned out looking like an elaborate meal was actually quick and easy to prepare --- and so satisfying that the outdoor grill may stay cold a while longer. PS: This menu is perfect for an Easter dinner for 2 or 3.
Palm Sunday is synonymous with ACYOA Day. (Armenian Church Youth Organization of America)
According to the official ACYOA website, its purpose is “to focus
attention on the vitality of the organization, its members, its
accomplishments, and its role in the local parish community. It is also an
opportunity for the ACYOA to promote its programs and honor individuals who
have made an impact on youth in the Church. ACYOA Day is primarily celebrated
in the local parish.”
As teenagers, my sister and I – and later my brother - belonged
to St. Leon Armenian Church (NJ) ACYOA. As members, we were taught leadership skills; sponsored dinners, dances, you name it - we spent all of our free time together, creating life-long friendships. When our children were old enough, they
became members of their respective church’s ACYOA- following in our footsteps.
For the five years my daughter belonged to St. David (FL) ACYOA Jrs.,
I co-sponsored the group alongside a childhood friend of mine. As small as the St. David
youth group was, they were an active, integral part of our then relatively new parish. Members participated in various aspects of the church –assisting with Sunday
School, serving on the altar, and singing in the choir. In addition, they
sponsored successful church-related fundraisers, and even provided babysitting
services while parents attended parish events.
Traditionally, at the conclusion of Palm Sunday church services, ACYOA
members host a luncheon and program for family and friends to
My special (food-related) recollection:
Photo from causesoftheheart.com
Our annual Palm Sunday luncheon was highlighted with a very special fundraiser - a cake-lighting ceremony - at the conclusion of the program. We had a huge sheet cake – which ultimately
became dessert – set on a beautifully decorated table. Guests were invited to
come forward to light a candle, in honor of – or in memory of - a loved one.
Each name was announced. The guests made a donation, selected a candle, lit
it, then placed it in the cake. It was heart-warming to see the cake completely aglow.
Today, ACYOA chapters flourishes thanks to the Armenian youth who are dedicated to
their church community, and their supportive clergy, parents, and parishioners.
It’s never too early to start planning for Easter – arranging
baskets of treats for the children (and certain grown-ups I know!),
baking plenty of chorag, making special desserts (paklava, for instance) – but most
important, coloring hard-cooked eggs for Easter Sunday.
Note: You must start gathering onion skins now – gather as
many as you can because the more you have, the more intense the color will be.
This time around, I’m also including several natural egg-coloring
recipes compliments of ‘Better Homes and Gardens’. You’ll find the recipes
Image from kanelstrand.com
what to do to color Easter eggs Armenian style – it’s very easy:
Hard cook eggs as you normally do, but add the onion
skins to the water before you start the cooking process.
You’ve never hard-cooked eggs before? Here’s what you do:
1. Gently place eggs in a deep pot.
2. Add enough water to come one inch above the eggs. (Add onion skins now if you’re coloring
eggs for Easter.)
3. Cook over high heat until water comes to a boil.
4. Immediately cover the pot and remove it from the heat.
5. Let the eggs stand in the hot water for 15 minutes.
6. Discard the onion skins, if used.
7. Remove the eggs from the hot water and cool them
immediately in a bowl of cold water. (This stops any further cooking, makes
eggs easier to peel, and helps prevent a greenish ring from forming around the
8. Pat the eggs dry, and refrigerate them until serving
Image from Better Homes and Gardens
Now for the All-Natural Easter egg dye recipes from
Better Homes and Gardens:
Use these all-natural dye recipes made from household
ingredients to create Easter eggs in beautifully subdued shades. Leave eggs
soaking in the dye in the refrigerator overnight for the richest colors.
Mix 1 cup frozen blueberries with 1 cup water, bring to
room temperature, and remove blueberries.
Cut 1/4 head of red cabbage into chunks and add to 4 cups
boiling water. Stir in 2 Tbsp. vinegar. Let cool to room temperature and remove
cabbage with a slotted spoon.
Peel the skin from 6 red onions and simmer in 2 cups
water for 15 minutes; strain. Add 3 tsp. white vinegar.
Peel the skin from 6 yellow apples. Simmer in 1-1/2 cups
water for 20 minutes; strain. Add 2 tsp. white vinegar. Simmer 4 oz. chopped
fennel tops in 1-1/2 cups of water for 20 minutes; strain. Add 2 tsp. white
Take the skin of 6 yellow onions and simmer in 2 cups
water for 15 minutes; strain. Add 3 tsp. white vinegar.
Stir 2 Tbsp. paprika into 1 cup boiling water; add 2 tsp.
yellow: Simmer 4 oz. chopped carrot tops in 1-1/2 cups water
for 15 minutes; strain. Add 2 tsp. white vinegar.
Stir 2 Tbsp. turmeric into 1 cup boiling water; add 2 tsp. white vinegar.
Various shades: Steep 4 bags of chamomile or green tea in
1 cup boiling water for 5 minutes.
yellow: Chop 4 oz. goldenrod and simmer in 2 cups water for 20
minutes; strain. Add 2 tsp. white vinegar.
yellow: Simmer the peels of 6 oranges in 1-1/2 cups water for
20 minutes; strain. Add 2 tsp. vinegar.
Simmer 2 Tbsp. dill seed in 1 cup water for 15 minutes;
strain. Add 2 tsp. white vinegar.
Add 1 tablespoon vinegar to 1 cup strong coffee.
Chop 4 oz. amaranth flowers and simmer in 2 cups water; strain. Add 2 tsp.
white vinegar. Simmer the skins from 6 avocados in 1-1/2 cup water for 20
minutes; strain. Add 2 tsp. white vinegar. Mix 1 cup pickled beet juice and 1
Cut 1 medium beet into chunks and add to 4 cups boiling water. Stir in 2 Tbsp.
vinegar and let cool to room temperature; remove beets.
I have been remiss in posting Lenten desserts, so here’s
a truly simple, tasty, and relatively healthy choice to satisfy your sweet
tooth. This no-bake recipe is somewhat reminiscent of the Tahini-Chocolate Truffles I made for my friend's Christmas cookie exchange party last December.
Lenten Peanut Butter Balls
Peanut Butter Balls
Yields approximately 2 dozen
1 cup peanut butter, natural, chunky or creamy – the choice
2 tablespoons honey
1 cup rolled oats, ground in a food processor or blender
¼ cup unsalted nuts, ground (walnuts, peanuts, pecans are
1. Place peanut
butter and honey in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat on high power for about 15-20
seconds. Stir until blended.
2.In a separate bowl, mix oats, ground nuts,
currants or raisins, if using. Stir until well-combined. If mixture seems a bit
dry, just keep on mixing!
3.Take a heaping tablespoonful of the combined
mixture and shape into a ball; place on a plate.Repeat until all mixture is used.
4.Roll each ball in your coating of choice. Place
each in a mini muffin paper cup. Chill the peanut butter balls in the
refrigerator for at least an hour, or overnight. Robyn's suggestion: To avoid messy handswhen shaping, wear non-powdered gloves. You'll be glad you did!