Sunday, September 27, 2015

Rock Candy - Can it Heal One's Soul?

After posting a special request asking about a type of candy that was handed out at funerals, I received suggestions from two readers:

#1: JH suggested it could possibly be locum, which, after dusting it with powdered sugar is white.
#2. My cousin Craig Simonian wrote, “You're talking about Nabat Shakar, which simply means Sweet Candy.”  In other words, rock candy. 
Rock Candy

According to the link Craig included, rock candy is described thusly: ‘Persian Rock Candy is used for various purposes and is believed to have a variety of healing properties. It is available in a long crystal form or in smaller pieces.’

I mentioned the rock candy suggestion to JH who replied, “I thought of rock candy too but the milky description threw me. My Grandmother did make that but I thought it was more clear than white - unless they added something so that the color clouded a bit.”

Because I can clearly recall being given rock candy as a child in my grandparents’ home, I'm leaning toward that suggestion. Mind you, I don’t recall it being served in times of sadness, it just gave us sweet pleasure.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Candy to Commemorate the Soul of the Departed – Do you know what it is?

A request was presented recently by Sato Moughalian, not just to me, but to any Armenian would might be able to help.

Sato’s request:
“Dear fellow Armenians, I hope you won't mind if I pose a candy-related question. I'm reading my mother's anecdote about her father, during his youth in Eskishehir (now Turkey). She describes a "sweet milk-white candy" that was prepared for madagh and handed out at funerals. Is this familiar to anyone? Would you happen to know what it is called?”

Since I was unable to answer this, I asked my parish priest, Father Paren Galstyan, who provided some guidance.

Father Galstyan’s input:
Father Paren suggested it could be a type of cookie or even halvah which is sometimes offered after a funeral in some regions as a way to soothe grief or indicate new life.
He said that since traditions can vary greatly from one region to another, he couldn't offer the name of any sweet in particular.

After I relayed Father Paren’s thoughts to Sato, she provided some more information which might shed some light on this matter. 
Sato hopes a reader of The Armenian Kitchen might be able to provide an answer.

David Ohannessian

Additional information from Sato:
“I'm currently writing the biography of my grandfather, the Kutahya ceramist David Ohannessian, who, after being deported in 1916, established the art of Armenian ceramics in Jerusalem in 1919.
He spent his youth in Eskisehir, in western Anatolia, about 200 miles southeast of Constantinople (Istanbul).

Specifically, when my grandfather was a boy, he was sometimes asked to sing at funerals (our family is Armenian Orthodox). Afterwards, the family (or perhaps the priest on behalf of the family) would give him this milk-white candy as a reward. Eskisehir did have a big sugar factory, although I'm not sure when that was established. If it was already there in the 1890s, candy made with white sugar might have been a very special treat. My mother's entire descriptive phrase was: ‘hard milk-white candy broken into large pieces that the bereaved family prepared as madagh for the soul of their dear departed.’"


When I read the updated description, I immediately thought of Bonomo’s Taffy, but that candy hadn't been created until 1912, by Herman Herer  in NY. So, this candy wasn’t around long enough to be part of any Armenian tradition, nor was it available in the region in question at that time. 

There you have it, the story as it was presented to The Armenian Kitchen.

Readers, ‘the ball is in your court’. If any one of you can help, please email your thought(s) regarding this request to me: robyn@thearmeniankitchen.com.

Thanks ever-so much!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Left-over Lentil-Bulgur Kuftas, the Armenian ‘Breakfast of Champions’?!?

I am pleased to report that the lentil-bulgur kuftas were well-received at our Womens’ Guild Welcome-Back luncheon this past weekend. (Thank you, ladies!) I made some extra so that my husband, Doug, could have some for his lunch at home that day, too.

Since we had some kuftas left over, Doug suggested I dip them in egg and pan-fry them for breakfast. (We use this technique with left-over regular kuftas, too, and it is quite delicious.)
Lentil-Bulgur Kufta Patties
If you are not Armenian, I must warn you … the combination of lentils and bulgur as a breakfast choice could make you feel uncomfortable as it produces the ‘bulgur-effect’. What does that mean? Well, let’s just say, that’s why Gas-X was created!

If this doesn’t appeal to you as a breakfast option, it works well for lunch with a tossed salad, or some sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, and pieces of lavash – or - as an appetizer with your beverage of choice.

The Procedure:

1.    Flatten each lentil-bulgur kufta ball
Original kufta ball (left); flattened into a patty (right)

2.    Dip each in flour, to lightly coat both sides
Patty coated in flour

3.    Dip the floured patties in 2 beaten eggs
Patties dipped in 2 beaten eggs

       4.    Pan-fry them in a skillet with 2 Tbsp. oil over medium heat, about 2 minutes per side, until golden brown.
Pan-frying Lentil-bulgur patties 

That’s all there is to it!



Saturday, September 12, 2015

Rose and Virginia’s ‘Lentil Kufta’

Today the Women’s Guild of St. David Armenian Church (Boca Raton, FL) resumes its schedule of activities after a relatively quiet summer. To kick-off the season, a covered-dish luncheon is being held after the general meeting. It’s always a joy to immerse ourselves with the comradery of those we haven’t seen in a while – and – what better way to do this than to chat and dine over some mighty tasty homemade dishes.

What to prepare? I found a recipe, in my bulging collection, for Lentil Kufta – a combination of red lentils and bulgur – that was handed down from my father’s cousins Rose Garjian and Virginia Victoria.
It’s simple and delicious, and is best served at room temperature.

Lentil Kufta Balls

Rose and Virginia’s ‘Lentil Kufta’
Yield: about 3 dozen (1-1/2 inch) balls

Ingredients:
1 cup red lentils
4 cups water
1 cup fine (#1) bulgur
1 large onion chopped
2/3 cup olive oil (NOTE: I used 1/3 cup of oil.)
1/3 cup parsley, washed and finely chopped (reserve some as garnish)
 3 scallions, washed and finely chopped (reserve some as garnish)
Salt, cayenne pepper (or paprika), freshly ground coriander seed, and cumin to taste


Directions:

Sort through the lentils discarding any foreign particles.
Unwanted particles removed from lentils

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil; add 1 cup red lentils. Reduce heat to medium and cook, with tilted cover, until lentils are tender, about 15 minutes. Caution: Keep an eye on the pot to prevent it from boiling over. Remove from heat, then add 1 cup fine bulgur. Mix well. (Bulgur will soften from the existing heat and moisture.) Add seasonings. NOTE: At this point this can be made in advance.

Heat oil in a skillet on a medium setting. Sauté the chopped onions in olive oil until they are transparent, about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally. Remove onions with a slotted spoon; drain on paper towel to remove excess oil. Add onions to the lentil-bulgur mixture. Blend until well combined. Mix in most of the chopped parsley and scallions to the mixture. Allow mixture to cool before shaping.
Sauteing onions






Lentil-bulgur mixture


Shape into small sausage shapes or walnut-sized balls; place on serving platter. Sprinkle remaining chopped parsley and scallions on top as garnish. Serve at room temperature.

NOTE: I used a small-sized scoop to create ball-shapes.



     

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Dried Eggplant Skins

Dried eggplant skins
If you don’t happen to live in an area dotted with Middle Eastern stores, dried eggplant skins can be hard to find. It’s possible they might be available online, as long as there are eggplant skins to be had.

I called my go-to wholesalers at Macar and Sons, to check on their dried eggplant stock, and they’re out right now. They don’t expect to have any for a month or two. Since they supply our few-and-far-between Middle Eastern stores, I’ll call each location to see if they have any on their shelves before I start driving around aimlessly.

Once found and purchased, I will post a recipe for Dried Eggplant Dolma handed down from my paternal grandmother, Haiganoosh Dabbakian, courtesy of my aunt, Zabelle (Zippi) Dabbakian-Keil. So stand by.

Aunt Zippi agrees that dried eggplants don’t seem to be as plentiful as they used to be, so getting them is a challenge. 

In the meantime, I have a question for you …

I’ve never tried to dry the skins myself because it’s a tedious task, but I do have an idea of what’s involved.

Before I post my ideas on how I think it should be done, can anyone who is reading this provide an accurate account of the true technique for drying eggplant skins?

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated, and can be emailed to me: robyn@thearmeniankitchen.com.

Thanks!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Baked Eggplant and Spinach Moussaka, a Vegetarian Creation by Christine Datian

As you might recall, Christine Datian often has her recipes published on The Armenian Kitchen website, and in other online publications such as the Armenian Mirror Spectator, Sunset and Cooking Light magazines, and the Fresno Bee Flavors Magazine.

She sent me her latest creation which features eggplant, and since that’s been a ‘hot ingredient’ around here lately, I’m happy to pass this recipe along to you.

Vegetable Moussaka (Image from www.epicureous.com)
As of this posting, this dish has not been tested in our kitchen. Since a photo did not accompany her recipe, I found a suitable image from www.epicureous.com. 

Without further ado, I present Christine Datian’s …

Baked Eggplant and Spinach Moussaka
Yields 9 generous, or 12 smaller portions

Ingredients:
2 cups shredded or grated Parmesan, Jack, Mozzarella or mizithra cheese (or a combination)
2-3 eggs, beaten
Chopped flat-leaf parsley and mint, about 1/4 cup each
1 teaspoon sea salt or Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black or white pepper
1 teaspoon dried crushed oregano
1/2 teaspoon each crushed red pepper flakes and paprika
1/4 teaspoon allspice (or cinnamon)
2 medium onions or shallots, finely chopped
1 green or red bell pepper or 2 Anaheim peppers, seeded and diced
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped or minced
2 cups low sodium tomato sauce, marinara sauce, or tomato puree
2 medium eggplants, washed, sliced about ¼” thick
3-4 cups fresh baby spinach (or kale), cleaned and chopped
2 medium tomatoes, sliced thinly
Olive oil and unsalted butter
2 tablespoons each chopped walnuts and pine nuts
Garnishes: Greek yogurt, lebne, or ricotta cheese                 
                   Lemon zest and juice of one large lemon

Preparation:

Pre-heat oven to 350°F.
 1.      In a medium bowl, combine the 2 cups of cheese with the beaten eggs, parsley, mint, salt, pepper, oregano, red pepper flakes, paprika and allspice (or cinnamon, if using); mix and set aside.
2.      Sauté the onions, garlic, and bell pepper in a few tablespoons of olive oil until the onions are translucent, about 6-8 minutes.  
3.      Spread about a half cup of the tomato sauce on the bottom of a buttered or oiled 9 X 13 baking dish.
4. Arrange the eggplant slices on top of the sauce, cutting slices if necessary to fit spacing; repeat and alternate in layers with the chopped spinach, sliced tomatoes, sautéed onion mixture, the eggplant, and the remaining tomato sauce for all the eggplant slices. 
 5.      Pour the cheese and beaten egg mixture evenly over the top of the moussaka, and spread with a knife; drizzle with a little olive oil and top with some chopped walnuts and pine nuts.  Add a few dabs of butter on the top of the moussaka, if desired.
6.      Bake, uncovered, until the eggplant is tender, for about one hour.  Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes before cutting into squares.  Serve the moussaka warm or cold, topped with a dollop of Greek yogurt, lebne, or ricotta cheese; sprinkle with fresh lemon juice and lemon zest as garnish.

CHRISTINE’S NOTES:
*For the non-vegetarian, traditional version of this moussaka, brown 1/2 pound of ground lamb (or ground beef) in a tablespoon or two of unsalted butter, drain completely, and alternate the lamb in with the layers of eggplant and vegetables, etc.
 *You can make assorted sandwiches for lunch, dinner or picnics with leftover moussaka on Italian, sourdough, pita bread, lavash, or flat bread, and serve with roasted peppers, sliced cheeses, pickles, tomatoes, onions, and lettuce, etc.