Friday, April 20, 2018

An Armenian restaurant near Charlotte, NC? Yes, indeed! Welcome to the Ararat 17 Restaurant, Indian Trail, NC

It’s hard to find an Armenian restaurant – unless you’re in Armenia.



We never expected we’d find one across the state line from our new house, but we did – the Ararat 17. I know where they got the name Ararat, but haven’t a clue what the ‘17’ refers to. Maybe we’ll find out some day.


Our area exploration brought us to the Ararat 17 on a Saturday afternoon for lunch. They serve dinner Tuesday through Sunday, but only serve lunch on the weekends. (Closed Mondays)

The restaurant is tastefully decorated; the music of Mozart gently plays in the background. A well-stocked bar fills one section of the room, and the menu is surprisingly sophisticated. 

Although the menu is not ALL Armenian (there are hints of Russian cuisine, too), they do serve a number of traditional Armenian dishes.

Artak, our server, is the son of owners Vardan and Gayenne Vardanyan. Artak is well-trained, personable, and frankly, adorable! His mom and dad work diligently to prepare delicious food for their guests.
L-R; Gayenne Vardanyan, me, and Vardan Vardanyan (Sorry, I didn't get a picture of Artak.)

Before placing our order, Doug wandered over to the bar to see if they stocked any Armenian spirits. To their credit, they do! Doug spotted Ararat beer from Gyumri, and Armenian Pomegranate wine. Artak offered Doug a sample of the wine, but I took it instead. Doug was very happy with the beer.
Ararat Beer

We wanted to try just about everything on the menu, but chose specific ones which we felt represented the Armenian-side of their offerings.
Pomegranate Wine

A complimentary basket of toasted pita bread and a bowl of dried herbs were brought to the table before we ordered. Artak explained that we were to drizzle olive oil - that was already on the table – onto the herbs, then dip the bread.
Ararat Salad
Basturma
Tender Stuffed Grape Leaves
Our meal began with the Ararat salad, slices of basturma, and tender, tasty stuffed grape leaves which we shared. We each chose a sandwich and side: lamb lule kebab with hummus, and lamb shish kebab with hummus.

What we didn’t know was that the Greek-style pita for each sandwich was spread with hummus (the same as the side we chose), and topped with a generous amount of Ararat salad! It wasn’t a problem; we took the rest of the appetizer salad home.

When I noticed gatah on the menu, I decided to save room for it for dessert. Doug and I ordered Armenian coffee and a gatah to share, but, alas, no gatah! We ordered the paklava instead, and are happy to report that it was light, crisp, and delicious.

Would we return? In a heartbeat!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Armenian Kitchen has a new home!

In case you’re wondering why my posts have been infrequent lately, it’s because Doug and I have recently relocated.

After 40 years in South Florida, we decided it was time to ‘spice’ things up in our lives. Don’t get me wrong, we had a wonderful life in FL. We left mainly due to the three ‘H’s’ – heat, humidity, and … hurricanes – plus we wanted to be a bit closer to our family in the northeast, without actually being in the northeast.

We struck a happy medium moving to South Carolina, just across the border from Charlotte, North Carolina where there is an Armenian community and St. Sarkis Armenian Church.

Our time has been spent setting up our home, and exploring the area. We are pleased to report that there are several Middle Eastern stores in the area, so shopping for our necessary ingredients is easy.

I’ve been having fun cooking on our gas stove, something I haven’t done since 1986. For Easter I made Doug’s mother’s recipe for Lavash, and last week I made a dozen Lahmajoun from scratch. The gas oven is a joy to use!
Sylvia Kalajian taught me how to make her lavash recipe over 40 years ago. I still make it today.
Homemade lahmajoun topped with parsley, onion and fresh lemon

To my surprise –and- delight, I found that our local grocer carries American lamb, so when we invited our new friends, Karen and Charlie Guzelian to dinner, I served Fassoulia with Lamb, rice pilaf, salad – and mini paklava for dessert! Charlie paid me the sweetest compliment when he said my cooking was as good as his mother's. 


Our new friends and neighbors, Karen and Charlie Guzelian

Fassoulia with Lamb and Rice Pilaf
Mini Paklava

It’s great to be home!


Friday, April 6, 2018

Meet Joel Denker - Teacher, Author, Food Enthusiast, and creator of Food Passages - Excursions in the World of Food & Culture

I was recently introduced to the written work of Joel Denker by his wife, Peggy. She asked me for permission to use my photo of kadaif in an article Joel was writing about Armenian Pizza – aka lahmajoun. I was delighted to share. Once completed, she sent me his article – a fascinating read! 

Joel Denker
Joel, a man with a passion for knowledge in the history and culture of ethnic food, has invited me to share his story with readers of The Armenian Kitchen. I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did.
Sit back, relax, and enjoy the 'jottings of Joel'. 



'Whose Pizza Is It? An Armenian Adventure'  
Lahmadjoune (Armenian pizza) from Chez Apo
 Photo by Denzil D’Sa. Instagram @reekooh

A Lebanese friend had a bone to pick with me about eggplant. The vegetable, he said, did not originate in India, as I had written, but in his homeland. The urge to identify particular foods with one’s own ethnicity or nationality is an irresistible one. I was reminded of this exchange by an experience I had had on a recent visit to Montreal. During my stay, I had gone to visit Chez Apo, an Armenian bakery whose specialty was lahmadjoune, a product the shop called “Armenian pizza.” I was eager to find out what made their pie “Armenian.” (In this piece, I will be using “lahmadjoune,” instead of the Arabic “lahm b’ajin,” simply because of my Armenian themes.)

Over the years, I have been drawn, almost serendipitously, to Armenian food. When I lived as a young teacher on Lexington Avenue in the mid-twenties, on New York’s East Side, I discovered a restaurant, Palace d’Orient, nearby. It became a haunt of mine. At the time, I took its unusual cuisine for granted. I even gave little thought to its name, which, I later realized, evoked the alluring Middle East.
Menu of the old Palace d’Orient Armenian restaurant in New York

The small dining room had all the trappings of a luxurious establishment. At least, it seemed elegant to me, a roving bohemian attracted to snack bars and luncheonettes. Overpowered at first by the Palace, the culinary hideaway gradually grew on me.

Formally dressed waiters presided over the restaurant. They hoisted trays of dinner specials, which they delivered to well-appointed tables with white tablecloths. Platters of mussels stuffed with rice and currants and skewers of lamb shish kebab were presented to diners. I remember savoring a curious dish, baked eggplant topped with a rich tomato sauce and luxuriant with olive oil. Thinking back, it might have been imam bayildi (“the priest fainted”). Its extravagance was suggestive of the grandeur of the Ottoman Empire. Yet it was on the menu of an Armenian restaurant, whose proprietors’ forebears were members of a large Christian minority ruled by Turks. In retrospect, this was a paradox, but not one I pondered at the time.

The Palace was one of several restaurants that sprang up in Manhattan’s Little Armenia neighborhood. An Armenian Orthodox church, St. Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral, anchored the district. Several rug stores were located nearby. The restaurants have vanished, but one landmark of the old community’s retailing past remains. Kalustyan’s on Lexington Avenue between 28th and 29th Streets was opened by an Armenian businessman in 1944 to market familiar foods to his fellow ethnics. Kerope Kalustyan had planned to export steel to Turkey but decided to try his luck in the food trade.

By the 1950s, the shop’s wide selection of grains, spices, and lentils had caught the attention of new arrivals from India. Kalustyan’s was a lifeline for South Asian immigrants who had few places that carried their foods. “They were the only game in town,” Indian food writer Madhur Jaffrey told journalist Vikram Doctor. Writer Jimmy Breslin, she adds, observed how proud the owner was of carrying supari, “a kind of nut from India and Kerope may be the only one in America who stocks it.”


Basterma. Photo by Joumana Accad.

The owner shrewdly expanded its offerings to capture these new patrons. Kalustyan’s even launched its own brands of chutney and mango pickles. As Little Armenia gradually disappeared, Indian shops and restaurants took its place. The section was now dubbed “Curry Hill” (the larger area is called Murray Hill). The store has changed hands several times and is currently run by a Bangladeshi. Middle Eastern products are still for sale, but the shop is more widely known for its vast website, an online catalog of traditional as well as new-wave ethnic items. Visiting the store in 1996, food writer Regina Schrambling marveled at the emporium’s novel wares: “dried herbs on the vine from Greece and Sicily, sour cherry products to cater to Iranian customers, shelf-stable, ready-to-eat Indian meals, Irish butter alongside labneh. It has a wall of salts, from Antarctica and the Kalahari Desert and Italy and Germany and Cyprus…. It also carries a global array of even things as basic as sugar: Belgian, Balian, Japanese, jaggery, coconut, palm.”

Some years later, I ventured into an Armenian grocery store in Marseilles, a port city that is home to a large community of these ethnics. In this entrepôt for trade with the Levant, Armenian merchants had built a small colony by the early seventeenth century. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a large influx of Armenian immigrants fleeing oppression in Turkey streamed into the city.

I was on a ramble in a multi-ethnic quarter of the city, where earlier newcomers had set up shop and which was now becoming increasingly North African. I nibbled sweets at a Tunisian bakery, peered at a plethora of spices in a Somali-owned shop, and dined at a festive Ivoirian restaurant, whose owner hugged me and introduced herself as “Mama Africa.” Soon, a pitcher of bissap, a crimson, tart, West African juice made from hibiscus, arrived at the table.


A tray of Armenian pastries, known as Kadaif. Photo by Robyn Kalajian, thearmeniankitchen.com

Alimentation Murat, the Armenian store, represented an older immigrant era. The store, which advertised specialties of the “Orient,” was a remnant of a once-thriving commercial diaspora. The neighborhood once boasted “beaucoup” Armenians, a local told me. The grocery displayed an array of goods—chopped pistachios and other nuts, dried fruits, cherry syrup, orange blossom water, cans of okra, Mediterranean white cheese (like feta), and sweets like halva and kadaif (a pastry resembling shredded wheat). It had the flavor and atmosphere of a Middle Eastern food hall. At least one item, a dried, spiced beef called basturma, dear to Armenians, would have been a telltale sign to his clientele of the owner’s heritage.

On another food quest, digging through books for nuggets on the history of ethnic food, I chanced on a reference to Colombo yogurt. Apparently, this once exotic product, which I had first sampled at Skenderis, a former Greek grocery in Washington, had been conceived by an Armenian family. My curiosity whetted, I wanted to know more. I got in touch with Bob Colombosian, whose parents founded the business.


Colombo yogurt and
Rose Colombosian, who started Colombo Yogurt with her husband, Sarkis, in Massachusetts.

Rose and Sarkis Colombosian arrived in Lawrence, a city in northeastern Massachusetts on the Merrimack River, in the 1920s. They joined a growing Armenian community, the latest in a long line of settlers—French Canadians, Irish, Italians, Syrians—attracted by the city’s woolen mills. The Colombosians left Lawrence on the eve of the Depression, to start a dairy farm in nearby North Andover. On an impulse, they decided to peddle their homemade “madzoon” (yogurt) to Greeks, Lebanese, and Syrians in Haverhill, Lowell, and other towns with ethnic communities. In horse-drawn wagons, the vendors of the Wild Rose Dairy carried their product in quart glass bottles. They soon branched out to “mom and pop” groceries, Lebanese and Armenian shops in Lawrence. “The only place you could sell it was the ethnic stores in the beginning,” Bob recalled. They soon hit on a name for their yogurt. They called it “Colombo,” Bob said, because “nobody could pronounce their name.”


An early Colombo yogurt bottle, from the collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

A new client, the Mugar family, who owned two groceries in Watertown, a Massachusetts town with a large Armenian population, opened the door to a larger market for the Colombosians. The Armenian merchants who began carrying Colombo later launched Star Markets, a statewide chain. The entrée the owners gave the Colombosians to their supermarkets provided greater visibility and income.

Gradually, the Colombosians reached a wider market. By the mid-sixties, Bob and his brother decided to sweeten their brand. Although they continued to carry plain yogurt, they somewhat reluctantly adapted to American tastes. “American people like a lot of sugar,” Bob observed. The new product, a fruity custard, meant, he said, that “New customers wouldn’t spit it out when they took a bite.”


Rice pilaf with sujuk sausages. Photo by Joumana Accad.

I continued to stumble on Armenian foods. At Bacchus, an early Lebanese restaurant in Washington, DC, Usama El-Jallad, the flamboyant owner, explained the myriad items on his mezze (appetizers) menu to the uninitiated. As he ran down his roster of delicacies, flavored with mint, pomegranate molasses, sesame tahini, and other seasonings, he stopped to decipher the names of unusual dishes. One of them, sujuk, was unfamiliar to me. The tasty, spicy sausage, which he identified as Armenian, I later learned was a specialty of their kitchen.

Sign over the front door of Chez Apo in Montreal, Quebec. Photo by Risa Dickens

In the fall of 2017, I was at the doorway to Chez Apo, a tiny Armenian bakery in Montreal. I was on an expedition to uncover the mysteries of the shop’s celebrated product. Ever since I had seen “lahmadjoune” on signs in Armenian shops in the Boston area, I had been tantalized. The shop’s owners, Maro and Apo (a nickname for Abraham) Esrabian, had left Lebanon in 1976 in the aftermath of the country’s calamitous civil war. They settled in Montreal, burning with a desire to innovate, to build a different kind of business. They wanted to “start something homemade, old fashioned, something new,” Maro told me. Their enthusiasm more than made up for their inexperience: “We don’t know nothing,” Maro recounted. Drawing on their heritage, they decided to bake lahmadjoune, which they billed as “Armenian pizza.” (The word means “meat in dough.”) They fashioned the thin-crusted pie from flatbread and topped it with chopped meat and tomatoes. They seasoned their creation simply with garlic, onions, parsley, salt, and pepper. The shop’s drawing card, her late husband told writer Philip Sporzer, was a wood-fired oven. Building it would generate excitement: “In order for this to take off, I needed something so people would go ‘Wow!’ I wanted to please them and get customers. So we built the brick oven.”


Brick oven at Chez Apo, Montreal. Photo by Fadi Sakr

They complemented their pizza with other items, many also turned out from the oven. Customers drove to the shop to pick up maneesh za’atar, a flatbread sprinkled with a blend of thyme and sumac that is a popular Lebanese breakfast repast. They also baked spinach pizza accented with feta cheese and fatayer, a kind of Middle Eastern turnover filled with meat or spinach. The Esrabians also offered the region’s classic appetizers, hummus and baba ghanoush.

I quickly turned my conversation with Maro to the question that preoccupied me: Who created lahmadjoune? While acknowledging that the word was Arabic-Turkish, her pizza, Maro said, was distinctive: “The name is the same but the taste is different in Arab countries.” The Armenian pie was “lighter” and not as “spicy.” It was the stronger, more pungent flavor of the Arabic flatbread product that distressed her. Similarly, she felt that the taste of Lebanese za’atar was too intense.

Compared to the passionate convictions of some ethnics about lahmadjoune, Maro’s views on the pastry were measured. Opposing sides have laid exclusive claim to it. When two Armenian restaurants recently opened in Russia, Turkish loyalists were enraged by their campaign to promote the pizza as uniquely “Armenian.” Assailing the alleged imposters, Turkish television commentators declared that the lahmadjoune belonged to their country. Interestingly enough, even in Turkey, different regions have squabbled over the pie, each claiming to be its rightful parent.


'Middle Eastern Cookery' by Arto der Haroutunian

Otherwise disinterested Middle Eastern food writers of Armenian background can become defiant when it comes to pizza. Arto der Haroutunian weighed in on the debate in his book, 'Middle Eastern Cookery': “I have never much cared for things chauvinistic, but even I, who have been brought up amongst people who, next to death, regard patriotism as a taboo subject, are obliged to scream, ‘Stop! Enough is enough!’” Lahmadjoune, he insisted, isn’t Arabic—and “that is final.” The author further argues that “to call this dish Arab because it has an Arabic name is ridiculous. The reason for its name was commercial. By that I mean when a minority lives among a majority, the former invariably uses the latter’s language for commercial purposes.”

'A Book of Middle Eastern Food' by Claudia Roden

For some perspective on this culinary conflict, I decided to check in with two authorities on Middle Eastern food, two neutrals, neither of whom has a dog in the fight. In an email, Claudia Roden, the author of the groundbreaking 'A Book of Middle Eastern Food', reflects on the difficulty in assigning ancestry: “It is Turkish but also Syrian and Lebanese and you find it in other Middle Eastern countries. Some of my relatives made it at home. Jewish bakers in Egypt made it. Armenians make it too but I don’t think it originates from them.”


Cover of 'A Taste of Thyme: Culinary Culture of the Middle East', by Richard Tapper and Sami Zubaida.

Sami Zubaida, a Middle Eastern food scholar and expert on the politics and culture of the region, points out that the area’s diverse groups eat similar foods. The pie “is common in a wide region of Anatolia and the Arab Levant, until recent history inhabited by many ethnicities, Turk, Arab, Kurd, Greek, Assyrian, and Armenian,” he wrote me. “They shared a roughly common food culture.”

Their responses made me reexamine my own preconceptions. I knew from my own writing and research that food is often a product of a jumble of cultures rather than of one land or nationality. Even though I understood this argument intellectually, I frequently (as in my conversations with Maro Esrabian), looked for convenient pigeonholes for foods. I began thinking of another way of illuminating “Armenian pizza”—it belonged to the Armenians only in the sense that they put their own imprint on a shared pastry.

Armenians may not be its parents but because they were prominent bakers as well as purveyors of lahmadjoune and other Middle Eastern specialties, it was natural for many to think so. The association was an easy one to make. The Armenians, for example, controlled the “bread and pastry” trade in Aleppo, Syria for three hundred years, Sonia Uvezian, a culinary historian of the Middle East, notes.

To attempt, then, to pin down the exact genealogy of the pizza is to ask the wrong question. Zubaida puts it well: “Armenians were, and are, renowned in the region as fine cooks and caterers. As such they have excelled in many culinary fields. But that is different from attributing ‘ownership,’ which is impossible to determine. I have argued that it is geography rather than ethnicity.”

The Armenians came from a long trading tradition. Outsiders in the Middle East, they capitalized on their ancient nation’s position as a “Christian island in a Muslim sea,” to use historian Philip Curtin’s image. These “cross cultural brokers,” Curtin argues, carried goods to distant destinations. In the eighteenth century, Armenian merchants processed caviar from sturgeon eggs and shipped it to Russia. Goods from the East, like Persian silk, were transported west, to Amsterdam and other towns. They were also pioneers in the popularization of coffee. In the 1670s, an Armenian from Marseilles opened the first coffee houses in Paris and other towns, Curtin points out. They also operated most of France’s early cafés. Because of their prowess, Armenian Christians became the consummate traders and artisans in the Ottoman Empire.


Arax Market, an Armenian grocery in Watertown, Mass.

The Armenians have been especially adept in merchandising foods, whatever their origin, to receptive customers. New York City’s Kalustyan’s, as noted earlier, morphed into a grocery that targeted both Middle Easterners and Indians. In their early settlements, Armenian grocers attracted shoppers with a varied assortment of goods, without neglecting their own favorites. Historian Robert Mirak uncovered a fascinating description of one early store in Chelsea, Massachusetts: “There was merchandise strewn everywhere. Long, rigid baloneys and sausages hung from hooks in the ceiling; barrels of nuts, flour, cracked wheat, and squash seeds lined the walls. Tubs of olives and swimming Greek cheese had been shoved under tables on which rested tins of Armenian pastry, herbs and all sorts of canned stuff.”

Armenians continue to play an influential role in the food business. Most of the Lebanese restaurants and groceries that Middle Eastern food scholar Charles Perry profiled in a 1992 Los Angeles food guide were owned, he said, by Armenians. Today, the cluster of Armenian grocery stores in Watertown, Massachusetts, a town near Cambridge, attracts buyers from many backgrounds, with its cornucopia of Arabic and Mediterranean products. Her experience running Chez Apo has taught Maro Esrabian an important lesson. If she catered only to her own people, she told me, “long time ago I closed.”

Unconstrained by any and all ethnic boundaries, some Armenians have burst into the American fast food arena. In 1992, two brothers, Aro and Allen Agakhanyan, opened Big Mama’s and Papa’s Pizzeria in Los Angeles. From this early shop, they built a chain of more than twenty businesses. The brothers concocted a Giant Sicilian Pizza, a 200-slice pie, which they claim is the largest ever to be delivered. Their outlets sell pizzas along with such standbys as Philly cheesesteaks, Greek salads, chicken wings, and potato skins. Big Mama’s gained national fame at the 2014 Oscars when Ellen DeGeneres ordered their pizza to share with the luminaries.


Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Are You Ready for Easter?

It’s never too early to start planning for Easter – arranging baskets of treats for the children, baking plenty of chorag,  your favorite lavash, making paklava, and most important, coloring hard-cooked eggs with onion skins, the Armenian way!
(Did you know Armenians have a traditional way of cracking Easter eggs? Click here to find out more.)
Egg shells colored by onion skins! Photo by Marash Girl

Special 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.

Here’s what to do to color Easter eggs Armenian style – it’s very easy:

Start with white-shelled eggs.

Hard cook eggs as you normally do, but add the onion skins to the water before you start the cooking process.

Need help with hard-cooking eggs? Just follow these steps:

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 yolk.)

8. Pat the eggs dry, and refrigerate them until serving time.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Sulkhamud, or Sour Spinach and Rice, a Lenten Recipe


Pat and John Nashmy have been sharing their Assyrian family recipes with The Armenian Kitchen for a long time.

During our recent move, John emailed me to let me know his wife, Pat, was at it again. By that he meant she was cooking a Lenten recipe, Sulkhamud, or Sour Spinach and Rice, from The Assyrian Cookbook.
The Nashmy's 'Sour Spinach and Rice' recipe 

First, I’ll give you the recipe as described in the cookbook.

Pat adapted the original recipe for use in the Ninja Cooking System, a slow cooker, so her preparation was done in reverse. Her method appears after the cookbook’s version.

Sulkhamud, or Sour Spinach and Rice
Serves 4 to 5

Ingredients:
1 lb. fresh spinach
¼ cup rice
1 medium-sized can tomatoes (15 to 16 oz.)
2 cups water
Juice of 1 lemon
2 or 3 large onions, minced
Salt, to taste
3 Tbsp. oil

Directions:
Wash spinach carefully, and cut into pieces.
In a saucepan, combine spinach, rice, tomatoes, and water. Mix well.
Cover and simmer approximately 20 minutes or until spinach and rice are tender. Add lemon juice.
In a skillet, sauté onions in oil until lightly browned. Add to spinach mixture.

Pat’s slow-cooker steps:

1) Added Oil
2) Browned the Diced Onions
3) Added the Rice
4) Added the Tomatoes
5) Added the Lemon Juice
6) Cover and let simmer 20 minutes
7) Added the spinach last and let cook for an additional 10 minutes
8) Adjusted by adding more lemon as we like it more on the sour side
9) Also, no salt as the Tomatoes contained enough already

Final note: The recipe was doubled.


Thursday, March 1, 2018

Bulgur and Potato Kufteh - Musa Daghtsi Style

My grandmother's recipe for Bulgur and Potato Kufteh

Please forgive my delay in posting. 

Doug and I are living out of suitcases as we begin a new chapter of our lives in a new location. 
After spending almost 40 years in south Florida, we finally decided to move to South Carolina, just outside of Charlotte, NC where there is an Armenian Church (St. Sarkis) and Middle Eastern stores with our favorite ingredients which will allow us to continue our mission of cooking and preserving Armenian recipes.

We will miss St. David Church and the friends we've known for so long, but they will forever be with us in our hearts.

We haven't actually moved into our new home yet, but once we have unpacked and set up our new kitchen, we'll be back in full swing.

In the meantime, please enjoy a Lenten recipe my grandmother, Yeranouhe, used to make.

Bulgur and Potato Kufteh
Yield: 8 pieces, depending on size


Ingredients:

½ cup #1 (fine) bulgur
Water
3 Tbsp. olive oil
½ cup finely chopped red peppers (NOTE: a combination of red and green peppers can be used)
1 cup finely chopped onion
½ lb. boiled, peeled potatoes
¼ cup finely chopped parsley
1 Tbsp. red pepper paste softened with 1 Tbsp. water (tomato paste with a dash of cayenne pepper can be substituted)
½ tsp. cumin
Dash of black pepper
1 tsp. salt

NOTEThis recipe can easily be doubled.

Directions:

1. Place bulgur in a bowl adding just enough warm water to cover it.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes, or until water is absorbed. Test bulgur to make sure it has softened to a tender, yet slightly chewy texture.  Drain any excess liquid.

2. In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Sautė the peppers and onions until they soften, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

3. Gently mash the boiled potatoes and set aside.

Bulgur - potato mixture prior to shaping
4. Once the bulgur has softened enough and the excess liquid is drained, add the peppers, onions, mashed potatoes, parsley, and the rest of the ingredients. Knead until well-combined. Adjust seasonings, if necessary.

5. Shape as desired –cigars; round, flat patties, etc. Arrange on a platter

To serve:  wrap in lettuce or grape leaves - or simply eat with a fork!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Apricot - Walnut Bites: a Three - Ingredient Lenten Confection


If you’re looking for an easy treat to satisfy your sweet tooth during Lent, try this recipe for Apricot-Walnut Bites. Pitted dates add a natural, sticky sweetness which would otherwise come from brown sugar.

Remember, Lent is all about moderation, so don't eat these all at once!

Dates
Dried apricots

Walnut pieces


Apricot - Walnut Bites
Yields about 12, depending on the size 

Ingredients:
6 oz. dates, pitted and coarsely chopped**
1 cup dried apricots, coarsely chopped** (Note any other dried fruit may be substituted)
1 cup walnut pieces

Optional coating: powdered sugar or additional finely chopped walnuts

**Note: Coat the knife with vegetable spray before chopping the dates and apricots. This will make the task easier.

Directions:

Place the chopped dates, apricots and walnut pieces in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until ingredients are finely chopped and will stick together.  

Roll mixture into a large ball. Pinch-off pieces and roll into 1-inch balls. 

If you wish, you can roll the balls into powdered sugar or additional finely chopped walnuts.

Serve immediately or store the balls in an airtight container in the refrigerator.


Sunday, February 11, 2018

An easy recipe for Lent: Carrot-Onion Sauté

The BAND at St. David Armenian Church Mardi Gras dance!

Guess who??
My sister, brother-in-law, Doug and I enjoyed an Armenian-style Mardi Gras dance at St. David Armenia Church in Boca Raton last night. The musical entertainment was great (can’t miss with John Berberian, Leon Janikian, Ken Kalajian, Mike Gregian – and, of course  singer, Khatchig Jingirian!). Homemade mezzas and desserts were delicious, and the company was so much fun!

We’re recovering slowly today from the event, but are keeping the Lenten season, which begins tomorrow, in mind.

I’m starting off with a really easy vegetable recipe that’s served as a side dish, and can be made anytime - in minutes!


Carrot-Onion Sauté 

Carrot - Onion Sauté

Ingredients:
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 lb. carrots, peeled, and coarsely chopped or grated
1 clove garlic, minced or mashed
Dash of salt, or to taste
1 Tbsp. lemon juice or vinegar (optional)
Garnish: ½ tsp. dried dill (chopped fresh dill or parsley may be used)

Directions:

In a skillet heat olive oil over medium heat until oil begins to shimmer. Add onions and a light sprinkling of salt; sauté until soft, but not brown, stirring often. (To expedite the onion-softening, cover the skillet, but be sure to check that onions don't burn.)

Add carrots, garlic and another sprinkling of salt; cook, covered, about 5 or so minutes, until carrots are tender, stirring now and then.

Remove from heat; add lemon juice, if using; toss to combine.

Garnish with dill (or parsley).

Note: May be served at room temperature or chilled.