Friday, October 28, 2016

‘A Taste of the Wild Side: Out of Yerevan and into Armenia’s Local Dishes’: a most-interesting article and video!

Last March, Doug and I were contacted by Rebecca Wall, PhD, Program Officer of Research and Communications with the Smithsonian Institution. Rebecca was, as she put it, “part of a new Smithsonian project to support the sustainability of Armenian cultural heritage through community-based tourism in the regions outside of Yerevan.  The ‘My Armenia’ program, in partnership with United States Agency for International Development (USAID), seeks to share stories of Armenian cultural heritage with international audiences so as to increase awareness of the great complexity and diversity of Armenian culture.”
Freshly baked lavash (Photo by Sossi Madzounian, Smithsonian)
During her research on lavash, Rebecca discovered The Armenian Kitchen – and – us. She had read our post about lavash, the national bread of Armenia, and wished to question us about it noting that she was working on a very strict deadline.
We were thrilled to participate, however, her request couldn’t have come at a worse time, at least for me. I was about to have knee-replacement surgery so all of her research inquiries fell on Doug’s shoulders, and, he handled it brilliantly!

The Smithsonian's comprehensive article, 'Tastes of Memory: How to Bake an Authentic Armenian Lavash', including Doug’s contribution, appeared on their website last April.
Please click here to read it.

A few days ago, I received an email from Lucine Kasbarian, who brought to my attention an article (and video) from the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, called ‘A Taste of the Wild side: Out of Yerevan and into Armenia’s Local Dishes’. The focus being on aveluk (wild sorrel) which grows naturally in the Armenian countryside.  

Aveluk soup from Our Village restaurant, Yerevan
This article quickly brought to mind our incredible journey to Armenia in 2015 when we tasted so many tantalizing and unique dishes, including aveluk soup. I ordered it at ‘Our Village’ restaurant in Yerevan; the article featured Dolmama restaurant’s aveluk soup. We were surprised to learn that few restaurants feature this signature Armenian dish.

Since aveluk, which has a somewhat acidic – sour taste is unavailable in the US, and wild sorrel is hard to come by, suitable substitutes may include kale, collard greens, Swiss chard, or spinach.  

Please click here to read the ‘Taste of the Wild Side’ article and to view the video. 
It’s in Armenian, but there are English subtitles!

As a bonus, I am re-posting Sonia Tashjian’s recipe for Aveluk Soup.
Sonia Tashjian's Aveluk Soup
Aveluk Soup, courtesy of Sonia Tashjian
Serves 4 to 5

INGREDIENTS:

6 ounces (about 4 cups) dried aveluk (See preparation of aveluk below)
6 to 8 cups of water (See step #3)
2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup coarse bulgur
1 onion, chopped
1 potato, peeled and chopped
 dried plums, pitted and chopped (amount depends on how sour the aveluk is)
 Aleppo red pepper & black pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp. flour, or some cut pieces of lavash, optional
a little bunch of fresh coriander, chopped
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced

DIRECTIONS:

Prepare the aveluk:
Place the dried aveluk in a large bowl of hot water. Let it sit for several minutes. Drain the water. Do this procedure two more times.

Prepare Aveluk Soup:
1. Add 6 cups of water to a large pot; bring to a boil and add 2 tsp salt. To the pot of boiling water, add the bulgur, onion & potato. Reduce heat and continue to cook, stirring occasionally. (NOTE: Lentils may be substituted for the bulgur.)
2. Next, add the pre-soaked & drained aveluk, the dried plum pieces, and the red and black pepper.
3. Cook until the potatoes and bulgur are soft. (NOTE: The starch from the potato helps make the soup creamy. If you wish, you may add 2 Tbsp. flour or lavash pieces to the soup at this point, if desired.) Add the additional 2 cups of water if soup is becoming too thick. Just before the soup is done cooking, add the garlic and the coriander. Remove from heat. Serve with sour cream, if desired.
Aveluk Soup Variations:


Sonia notes that in different regions of Armenia there are many variations of aveluk soup. For example, some places add tomato paste; some do not add potato. Some use lentils instead of bulgur. Some add chopped walnuts to the soup, while others only use walnuts in Aveluk Salad. Another variation: some fry the onion separately and mix it into the soup, but the busy cook would add all of the ingredients to the soup and cook it slowly.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Pumpkin Kadayif by Chris Coyle

How ironic is it that my oven is out of commission? 
A food blogger, with a 3-year-old oven that doesn’t work properly. Why? ‘Because’, said the nice repairman, ‘the oven door hinges are no good. Nothing is made to last anymore.’ He ordered two new hinges, but only one came in – so I wait. I’ve been using GE appliances for decades without a problem. I fear our relationship may be coming to an end.

I’m bothered by this inconvenience because I wanted to bake a nice Armenian-style pumpkin recipe for you. Instead, my food-blogging friend, Chris Coyle, of Hye-Thyme Café fame, came to my rescue when I asked if I could share her post for Pumpkin Kadayif with you.
She was happy to oblige, offering, with a chuckle, her condolences on the state of my oven.

It is kind-of funny, but, at the same time, extremely frustrating!

With Chris’s permission, I offer you her delectable ‘Pumpkin Kadayif’ recipe. Enjoy!
Pumpkin Kadayif, a recipe and photos by Chris Coyle from Hye-Thyme Cafe.

Pumpkin Kadayif by Chris Coyle

First set of Ingredients:
1 pkg. Kadayif (Katayifi) dough (available at Middle Eastern markets or bakeries - some restaurants- depneding on where you live)
1 1/2 sticks butter, melted

Filling Ingredients:
1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 can (15 oz.) Libby's 100% Pure Pumpkin
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground clove
1/4 tsp. salt
2 large eggs

Syrup:
2 c. sugar
1 c. water
1 Tbsp. lemon juice

Directions:


Shredded Dough:
Cut dough into 3 or 4 sections. Shred all of the dough into a large bowl. 
Pour the melted butter over the dough and work it through with your hands to distribute. Press half of the buttered dough into a casserole dish, sheet pan, large cake pan, etc.  It's really just a matter of how "high" you want it - if you're trying to "stretch" it to serve more people, etc.

Filling:
Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese with the sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the pumpkin and spices and continue beating to incorporate.  Add the eggs, one at a time.




Spread all of filling over the dough in your pan. 
Evenly distribute the remaining dough over the pumpkin filling.

Baking and Preparing the Syrup:
Bake at 375°F for about 45 minutes until golden.  When it just starts to brown, or just comes out of the oven, bring your sugar and water to a boil, then squeeze in the lemon juice and continue to boil for about a minute, stirring.  You want to boil it long enough to cook into a syrup, but not so long that it turns into candy!  Better too thin than too thick.
Poke some holes in the top of the Kadayif with a small paring knife or lobster pick – or a fork - then pour the hot syrup over the top while the Kadayif is still hot.  The holes are to make sure the syrup soaks all the way through.




Chris’ comment:  For some reason, the use of Phyllo or Kadayif dough with syrup has been the subject of much discussion over the years.  I was always taught to pour hot syrup over cold Paklava to prevent sogginess but to pour hot syrup over hot Kadayif.  Others will tell you to pour cold syrup over hot Paklava or hot syrup over cold Kadayif, etc.

To Serve: Garnish as desired and serve warm or cold. 


Note: In the picture at the top of this post, Chris topped the Pumpkin Kadayif with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream and a few pumpkin seeds that she candied in a pan with a little brown sugar, cinnamon and butter.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Easy Creamy White Bean Soup

I enjoy a good, heart-warming bowl of soup as the temperature cools. I also like a good-tasting soup which requires only a few key ingredients and  few preparation steps.
Looking through our abundant supply of canned goods (we’re always prepared during hurricane season), I counted 8 cans of white beans. White bean soup became the logical solution to use of some these nutritious legumes. After searching for just the right recipe, and using on-hand ingredients, Easy, Creamy White Bean Soup was born.

Easy, Creamy White Bean Soup (Photo from Williams-Sonoma.com)

Easy Creamy White Bean Soup
Adapted from a recipe from Williams-Sonoma .com
Servings: 4

Ingredients:

4 cups cooked white beans, such as cannelloni or navy beans, drained and rinsed
1 tsp. minced fresh thyme or ¼ tsp. dried thyme
4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup plain yogurt or heavy cream
¼ cup tahini
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Olive oil or Sesame oil for drizzling, if desired

Directions:

Place the beans, broth, yogurt (or cream, if using), tahini, and thyme in a food processor or blender; process until smooth.

Pour into a saucepan and warm gently over medium heat until it begins to simmer. Do not boil! Season with salt and pepper.

Serve immediately with a drizzle of olive oil or sesame oil, if desired.

Variation (based on the time of year): Click here for a recipe for Chilled Chickpea and Tahini Soup


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

'Winter Red Lentil Soup with Browned Onions' by Christine Datian

If you subscribe to The Armenian Mirror-Spectator, you know that Christine Datian submits recipes regularly to the ‘Recipe Corner’ section. She notified me of her recipe which appeared in the September 17th issue (page 14), and asked if I would post it here. I happily agreed!

With autumn officially upon us, the time is right to think about soup. Perhaps Christine’s ‘winter’ soup recipe is a bit premature, but I’m sure you’ll find it delicious anytime.


If you’re looking for more lentil soup recipes, check the list below and click on the recipe's name.

Christine Datian's Winter Red Lentil Soup with Browned Onions as made in The Armenian Kitchen.

Winter Red Lentil Soup with Browned Onions  by Christine Datian
Serves  8 to 10 - or more!

Robyn's Note: Since I was cooking for two, I made half the amount of Christine's original recipe and it yielded 5 to 6 hefty servings.

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups red lentils, rinsed, drained, (and sorted to remove any unwanted particles)
1/4 cup coarse or medium bulgur
4 cups low sodium chicken or beef broth, or 2 quarts lamb broth, if available
4-5 cups water
2-3 stalks celery (plus green tops), chopped or diced
2-3 medium carrots, chopped or diced
1-2 teaspoons dried mint, crushed
Dash of (dried) sweet basil
Sea or kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Paprika, cayenne or Aleppo pepper to taste

1 large yellow or white onion, chopped
a few Tbsp. butter

Garnish options: Chopped fresh parsley and mint
      Lemon wedges
 Preparation:

Bring the broth and water to a full boil in a large pot.  Add the lentils and bulgur to the boiling liquid with the remaining ingredients- except the chopped onion and butter. Stir. Reduce heat to medium-low.  Stir again and cover pot. Cook for 35-45 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
Onions cooking in butter

Before serving, sauté a large chopped yellow or white onion in a few tablespoons of butter until the onions are browned.


Browned onions

Add the browned onions to the soup 5 minutes before serving, and top with chopped fresh parsley and mint, if desired.  

Serve soup with lemon wedges on the side and extra paprika, cayenne or Aleppo pepper.





The following list represents some of our favorite Lentil Soup recipes which have been posted over the years: