Sunday, February 16, 2020

Sonia Tashjian celebrates the foods of Dikranagerd, helping preserve culture and memories

A view of Diyarbekir (Dikranagerd) - Source: Lamec Saad, "Zestien Jaar als Quarantaine-Artsin Turkije", De Aarde en haar Volken, Haarlem, 1917).
We’ve all experienced a rush of emotion while eating foods familiar from our childhood. For immigrants, especially those who escaped misery, this experience can be profound. Food can obscure our worst memories while evoking the best.

I learned this from observing my father, Nishan Kalajian, while I was growing up. Dad was born in 1912 in the city Turks call Diyarbekir and Armenians call Dikranagerd. He survived the first wave of Genocide but fled from renewed terrors in 1922.

He had no desire to return, except at dinner time.

Beyli Baghli
That meant our dinners in 1950's New Jersey were often like a journey to a far different place. We ate our share of steak and pork chops, but our daily fare was more often beyli baghli,or douzma. Or moutfouna (see recipe below), or sud keebah
Sud Keebah
Does that sound familiar? Maybe some of it does, or maybe none at all. 

The names of many Armenian recipes morphed as they were carried across the mountains and valleys of the homeland. But the foods of Dikranagerd not only sound different, they taste different. 

The city’s history as a trade center and crossroads delivered a bounty of seasonings and ingredients that made the local cuisine as distinctive as the local dialect.

As a boy, I learned all the names while watching my mother cook because she delivered a commentary in the language of her own Dikranagertsi mother. None of this seemed exotic at the time because I heard the same language and ate the same food in the homes of many relatives and friends.

Of course, that was a very long time ago and nearly all of those wonderful people are gone. With our widening circle of Armenian friends nowadays, dinner is more likely to feature hinkali or khachapouri than yekhni (recipe below) or kavourma. 

So I was particularly excited and more than a bit nostalgic when Robyn showed me a recent article on the foods of Dikranagerd by Sonia Tashjian. Sonia, as our regular readers know, is one of Armenia’s most valuable culinary resources, working tirelessly to explore, document and preserve the many facets of Armenian cooking.

Appropriately, Sonia’s story appeared on, an ongoing project to recreate the village life and culture of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. Reading her comments and recipes sent me on that long-ago journey once again, recalling the ever-present scent of allspice and coriander in our family kitchen while viewing photos from the rocky paths my father followed as a boy.

Most startling for me: one of the historic photos accompanying her article is a portrait of the Deriklian family, including my father’s aunt and cousins.

Of course, no story about Dikranagerd would be complete without noting the great troubadour, Onnik Dinkjian, who continues to celebrate everything about the Dikranagertsi life. Sonia offers a sample of Onnik’s ode to the foods he loves, sung in the distinctive Dikranagertsi dialect.

Mir mootfoonan boolghoorov
O yardele yardele
Mechuh sokh booghdoonoosov
O yardele yardele

You may well may have heard this and wondered what sort of dinner was worth singing about. Reading Sonia’s story will help explain. If you’re curious to know even more, check out Charles Kasbarian’s 'The Dikranagerd Mystique Armenian Cookbook' (in process).

I’m biased of course, but I think there’s a good chance you’ll find much to like no matter where you trace your family’s roots.

Moutfouna (Lamb and Eggplant Stew) from Charles Kasbarian

Serves 4 - 6


2 lbs. lamb neck bones, or 1 lb. boned, cubed lamb for stew

1 large eggplant, washed, unpeeled, and cut into 1-inch thick cubes

1 cup sumac seeds (sold in Middle Eastern stores)


1 lemon

4 cloves garlic, crushed, and mixed with 2 teaspoons of water

salt and pepper to taste

*small loaf of crusty bread for dipping


1. Place meat in a stockpot, and cover with water.

2. Heat over a low flame until most of the water evaporates, and the meat is detached from the bones.

3. Strain contents of the pot through a sieve or colander

4. Remove the bones from the sieve, and discard.

5. Place the meat back into the washed stockpot and add 3 cups of water.

(NoteIf served with bulghur pilaf in lieu of bread, reduce water to 2 cups in step 5.)
6. Heat over a low flame.
7. Add eggplant, and cook until tender
8. In the meantime, place sumac seeds with 1 cup of water in a small vessel and let soak until eggplant is cooked.
9. Strain out sumac seeds and add the water to the meat in the stockpot, discarding the seeds.
Add juice of 1 lemon and garlic and cook for 1/2 hour.

Serve with bread, which may be broken into chunks, and dipped in stew gravy.

Yekhni with Eggplants from Sonia Tashjian

2 lbs. ground lamb or beef, 85% lean/15% fat 
2 lbs. eggplant cut into 1-inch cubes
red and black pepper, to taste
allspice, to taste
salt, to taste

Cook the meat in its own fat until no longer pink; do not drain. Add the spices, to taste. Add the eggplant cubes and a small amount of water. Cook until eggplant is tender.
Serve with sliced onions, chopped green peppers, and garnish with parsley. 
Note: Yekhnis of green beans, squashes, and quince were prepared with the same ingredients following the same directions.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Mshosh, a Lenten dish of Lentils and Dried Fruit from Lena Tashjian

Ever since my copy of Lena Tashjian's 'The Vegan Armenian Kitchen Cookbook' arrived last week, I've been carefully studying every recipe. I already make a number of her dishes which are so gloriously depicted by photographer Siroon Parseghian.

For this post, I chose a dish I hadn't made before - Mshosh - which combines lentils, dried fruit, and nuts - all ingredients I had on-hand. This takes very little time or skill to prepare and the end result is earthy, nutty, slightly sweet, and definitely hearty! 

The name 'Mshosh' comes from one of its main ingredients - a specific variety of wild apricot. Traditionally, the apricots would be left whole, but Lena prefers them chopped 'to ensure a sweet taste in every bite!'

Lena also points out that variations of this recipe might use pumpkin, green beans, or beets instead of apricots, but the apricot version is the most popular. 
Mshosh, ready to serve!
Mshosh, a Lentil and Dried Fruit Dish
Serves 3 to 5 (This can easily serve 4 to 6)

1 cup dry green lentils
3 cups water
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 to 4 Tbsp. oil
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/2 cup prunes (dried plums), chopped
2/3 cup walnuts, crushed (I used a mixture of chopped almonds and pecans)
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste


Soak apricots and prunes in hot water. Set aside.

Rinse and drain the dry lentils. 

Place them in a pot with the 3 cups water. Bring to a boil, then immediately lower the heat to medium. Cook lentils, covered, until soft and liquid is absorbed, about 20-25 minutes. Check to make sure the liquid hasn't evaporated before the cooking time is up. Add a bit more water if necessary. However, if lentils are fully cooked and liquid remains, drain any excess liquid.
While the lentils are cooking, saute` the onion in a skillet over medium heat until translucent. Add the drained, chopped apricots and prunes; cook for an additional 5 minutes.

Turn off heat, add chopped nuts and stir, then add the entire fruit-nut mixture to the pot of cooked lentils. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Just before serving, garnish with chopped parsley.

Friday, February 7, 2020

From Warrior to Patron Saint of Youth and Love: St. Sarkis Day

St. Sarkis
The story of St. Sarkis is fascinating. Click here to read more. 

On the feast day of Saint Sarkis the Warrior, a special liturgy is held in all churches named after him. This year, St. Sarkis Day falls on Saturday, February 8th.

On Sunday, February 9th, the Divine Liturgy at St. Sarkis Armenian Church in Charlotte, NC will be conducted by His Grace Bishop Daniel Findikyan – a very special occurrence!

Along with this day of remembrance and celebration come two distinctive recipes relating to youth and love: Aghablit (salty cookies or wafers) and St. Sarkis Halva.

With the permission of Lena Tashjian, author of the newly released ‘The Vegan Armenian Kitchen Cookbook’, I offer her St. Sarkis Day Special video and two of her related recipes – vegan style. 
(To view Lena’s informative video, click here, then see her recipes below.) 

Happy St. Sarkis Day!!

Lena Tashjian's Aghablit - salty cookies (L); St. Sarkis Halva, vegan style (R)

Aghablit (Salty Cookies or Wafers)

Mix together 1 ¼ cup flour with 2 or so tablespoons of table salt until combined. Add enough water to make a dough. Roll dough out on a lightly floured work surface to about ¼ to ½-inch thickness. Cut free-style shapes or use cookie cutters. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Bake at 350°F until golden brown, about 20 to 30 minutes depending on thickness of cookie.

Lena Tashjian’s Vegan St. Sarkis Day Halva


¾ to 1 cup sugar

1/3 cup water

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

2 tsp. rose water

5 cups vegan marshmallows (gelatin-free)

1 cup walnut halves

2 to 3 cups white sesame seeds (Note: You won’t use them all, but a good amount is needed to coat halva pieces.)


Place white sesame seeds in the refrigerator to cool.

In the meantime, combine the sugar and water in a pot and bring to a boil. Once the water boils, reduce heat to low-medium and add the lemon juice.

A few minutes later, add the rose water. Once mixture becomes golden in color, add marshmallows, stirring until completely smooth. Turn off heat.

Pour chilled sesame seeds on a large tray.

While mixture is still hot, pour scoops of it as round and flat as possible, on top of the sesame seeds.

Pour as many scoops as you can fit onto the tray. Place walnut halves in the middle of each scoop. Let the halva cool for 45 seconds to 1minute, as it will be easier to roll and handle. Then fold one side of the scoop over, followed by the other.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

The winner in the ‘The Vegan Armenian Kitchen Cookbook’ giveaway is …

The giveaway has officially come to an end.

After randomly selecting a participant, we're very happy to congratulate Marina Simonian Minuta for winning a copy of Lena Tashjian’s cookbook! 

Lena and I thank all who participated so enthusiastically.

Remember, you can still get your own copy of the cookbook via 

Happy Vegan Armenian Cooking!

Sunday, January 26, 2020

'Armenian Blistered Eggplant Dip', aka Baba Ghanoush or Moutabal - a Lenten recipe

Back in December we were pleased to see a recipe for ‘Armenian Blistered Eggplant Dip’ by Dayana Sarkisova in the Washington Post. Why did this make us happy? Because the recipe, also known as ‘Baba Ghanoush’ or ‘Moutabal’,  is one that we love. We also enjoy the grilled zucchini version of this, Mama Ghanoush.
By the way, this is perfect for Lent, which begins on Monday, February 24th this year.

The Armenian Kitchen's version of 'Armenian Blistered Eggplant Dip'

Here’s my version of ‘Armenian Blistered Eggplant Dip’ - 
‘Baba Ghanoush’, or, ‘Moutabal’:

(Making this recipe a day in advance will allow the flavors to develop.)
Yield: about 1 ½ to 2 cups


2 large purple eggplants
2 large cloves garlic, roasted and mashed
¼ cup chopped parsley or cilantro
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. Aleppo pepper (freshly ground black pepper may be substituted)
1 tsp. ground sumac (sold in Middle Eastern stores)
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice


Preheat oven to 475°F. Line a baking sheet with heavy-duty aluminum foil.

Rinse eggplant; pat dry. Using a paring knife or fork, pierce the eggplant all around.
Roasted eggplant
Wrap 2 large, unpeeled garlic cloves in foil. Place pierced eggplant and wrapped garlic on prepared baking sheet. Roast for about 30-35 minutes or until eggplant and garlic are soft. To test for softness, insert the fork or paring knife into the eggplant. It should slide in without any resistance.

Using tongs, place eggplant on a wire rack to cool. Remove garlic from foil; gently squeeze softened garlic into a bowl and mash with a fork. Set garlic aside until ready to add.
Eggplant mixture before processing
Once eggplant is cool enough to handle, put it on a cutting board, pull away the skin and discard. Roughly chop the eggplant, then place it in a mixing bowl. Add the remaining ingredients mixing to combine.

To make a semi-smooth mixture, puree it in a food processor for a few seconds, but don’t over-do it.

Return mixture to the mixing bowl to adjust seasonings, if necessary.

To Serve: Place eggplant dip into a serving bowl. Garnish with chopped parsley or cilantro. Add a sprinkling of sumac and a drizzle of olive oil, if desired.

It’s best served at room temperature with chips, crackers, vegetable sticks, pita bread triangles, or lavash.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Time is Running Out! The offer to win your very own copy of ‘The Vegan Armenian Kitchen Cookbook’ ends soon!

A few weeks ago, Lena Tashjian and I posted articles about her new cookbook,The Vegan Armenian Kitchen Cookbook’, which will be available in time for Lent. 

If you haven’t already done so, we want to remind you to enter by Friday, January 31st following the instructions below.
Thanks, and Good Luck!

How to enter ‘The Vegan Armenian Kitchen Cookbook’ give-away:
(Only residents of the United States and Canada are eligible for this give-away.)

1- Make sure you are following ‘The Armenian Kitchen’ on Facebook -and-
2- Make sure you are following ‘The Vegan Armenian Kitchen Cookbook’ on   Facebook.
3- Comment on our Face Book pages to let us know that you’re following both!
(We'll be checking!)

        Give-away offer ends at midnight (Eastern Standard Time), Friday, January 31, 2020.
        One winner will be selected at random.
        Lena will message the winner via Face Book.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Khash: A Brief History -and Recipe to Try

A Brief History of Khash, Armenia’s Love-It-or-Hate-It Hangover Cure’ a story by Benjamin Kemper, and ‘Khash’, a recipe by Samvel Hovhannisyan originally appeared in about two years ago.
Khash (istock/Radist)
An abbreviated version of Mr. Kemper’s article, and, Mr. Hovhannisyan’s full recipe recently appeared in the online newspaper, The Armenian Mirror Spectator’s - Recipe Corner - thanks to Christine Vartanian-Datian. She, in turn, asked if I would share these on The Armenian Kitchen.

Enjoy the full article, and, if you’re daring enough, try Mr. Hovhannisyan’s khash recipe (see below) the next time you feel a hang-over coming on!
(Perhaps after Super Bowl Sunday??)
Armenian Khash (or pacha) is a traditional winter dish, and one of the tastiest Armenian national dishes. This distinctive soup has an interesting tradition of preparation, and also a unique way of eating

“A recipe for the Armenian soup called khash, at its most basic, goes something like this: Simmer cows’ hooves overnight. Serve.”

“Gelatinous beef trotters—flavored tableside with sinus-clearing add-ins like lemon, salt, vinegar and raw garlic—may sound like the last thing you’d reach for when nursing a hangover, but Armenians swear by khash’s panacean powers, particularly in the winter, when it’s customarily eaten. Across the small Caucasus nation, friends gather for morning-after khash feasts complete with ritualistic toasts and—as Anthony Bourdain discovered while shooting a Parts Unknown episode set to air in March 2018—punishing hair-of-the-dog vodka shots.”

“Even the soup’s preparation is a production. The hooves must be plucked meticulously of any stray hairs and soaked in water for a day to remove impurities and funky odors. Then comes the cooking, an eight-hour simmer requiring hourly check-ins, lest the pot dry out. Khash-fueled breakfasts start around 9 a.m., which means cooks often literally lose sleep over the dish. “It’s a sacrifice,” said Samvel Hovhannisyan. “That’s why the toast to the cook is so important.” Hovhannisyan is the owner of Bureaucrat Café and Bookstore in Yerevan.

“For the broth to remain white and nearly transparent, the mark of a well-made khash, Armenian cooks don’t add salt to the pot during cooking: It’s up to the end user how much salt and other traditional flavorings to mix into the finished soup. Armenians are known to add up to eight cloves’ worth of garlic to each portion. Two types of lavash, or flatbread, always grace the table: dry, for crumbling into the broth, and fresh, for draping over the bowl to seal in the heat. Purists, like Hovhannisyan, insist that fresh lavash — torn and folded for easy scooping — is the only acceptable utensil for eating khash, and that vodka, never wine or beer, is its only worthy sidekick.”

“Though khash is an ancient dish, mentioned in medieval Armenian texts as early as the 12th century, the ceremonial fanfare surrounding it appears to be a relatively recent phenomenon. ‘We haven’t found evidence that today’s khash rituals—the vodka drinking, the three toasts, the specific serving elements—were widespread or well-established before the Soviets arrived,’ said Ruzanna Tsaturyan, a researcher for Armenia’s National Academy of Sciences at the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, adding that the few historical references that do exist characterize khash as wedding food.”

“That khash culture stems from ancient wedding traditions is one of many theories—and folktales. According to Hovhannisyan, some locals recount that a king popularized the dish after tasting it on a junket through the countryside, while others contend that the poor created khash out of necessity as the better cuts of meat were reserved for the rich.”

The name khash originates from the Armenian verb khashél, which means to boil. Besides, the Armenian root 'khashn', well testified in early medieval records means a herd of sheep or goats. The dish, initially called khashoy, is mentioned by a number of medieval Armenian authors, e.g. Grigor Magistros (11th century), Mkhitar Heratsi (12th century), and Yesayi Nchetsi (13th century).

Samvel Hovhannisyan’s Khash Recipe
Serves 6-8

  • 3 cows’ feet (trotters), washed, patted dry, picked over for stray hairs and split in two
  • 30 cloves garlic, pounded in a mortar and pestle or minced and placed in a small bowl
  • Salt, to taste
  • Warmed flatbread, such as soft lavash or pita bread, for serving
Optional garnishes: Chopped parsley, chopped cilantro, sliced lemons, sliced radishes, sliced pickles, chopped fresh chiles

Cooking Instructions:

On the morning of the day prior to your khash feast, place the trotters in a large bowl and cover with water. Refrigerate at least 10 and up to 48 hours, changing water every two hours or so for the first 10 hours.

Place trotters in a heavy-bottomed pot and cover with 2 inches of water. Bring to boil over high heat. Regulate heat to maintain a simmer, and cook, uncovered, for 40 minutes.

Drain water, return trotters to the pot, and cover with 2 inches of fresh water. Bring to boil over high heat, reduce to simmer, and cook, uncovered, for 6 to 8 hours, topping up water every hour or two, until trotters are soft and tender.

Pour 2 cups of hot broth into the mortar or small bowl with the garlic and stir to combine.

Serve the remaining broth and meat immediately, passing salt, garlic mixture (Armenians recommend 4-6 cloves’ worth per person), and optional garnishes.

Khash can be made ahead through step three and refrigerated for up to four days. To reheat, simmer for 20 minutes.

Reprinted in part from, A Brief History of Khash, Armenia’s Love-It-or-Hate-It Hangover Cure (Recipe), Cow foot soup: It’s what’s for breakfast, February 27, 2018, by Benjamin Kemper.

References:, “Anthony Bourdain – Khash in Armenia”

Saturday, January 11, 2020

A Special Guest Post: A New Holiday, or any-time-of-year, Cocktail: The Armenian Manhattan!

Ron’s ‘Armenian Manhattan
My name is Ron, I’m the son-in-law of the authors of this blog. My other qualifications for receiving this special assignment include that I’m arguably Armenian – Armenian By Choice, the best kind of Armenian I’ve been told – and that I live in Manhattan. Well, Upper Manhattan, but close enough.

Mandy and I were visiting Doug and Robyn this past holiday season.
A few days before Christmas, my in-laws hosted a neighborhood gathering. Thanks to Robyn it was homemade Armenian Everything – lule kebab, lahmajoun, yalanchi, sarma gurgood, zucchini 'caviar' (See this recipe at the bottom of the page.), basturma, string cheese, boregs and kadaif, to name a few. There was even a priest from the nearby Armenian church in attendance.

When Doug invited me to bartend, I said Yes! But he mentioned a small challenge: An enthusiast of Manhattans (as in the cocktails) would be in attendance, so I needed to ask Google for a refresher on how to make one. Then I needed to make it Armenian, hence, The Armenian Manhattan.

Otherwise, the concept of Robyn’s Armenian Everything shindig would all fall apart at the bar.

Sitting atop Doug’s well-fortified, swing-open bar was a big bottle of Ararat brandy, “the legendary Armenian brandy since 1887”. I remembered some barkeeps use brandy as the secondary booze in a Manhattan, in lieu of sweet vermouth. Well, Merry Christmas!, the ‘Armenian twist’ problem was solved!

The Manhattan enthusiast – and others – lined up. I’m happy to report this libation (so popular it was made in larger batches) went down smoothly. Second rounds were served. Some guests even had thirds. Or was that just me?

Recipe for ‘The Armenian Manhattan’ by an 'A-B-C'

Serves: 4
Ingredients used for the Armenian Manhattan

1 Cup (8oz) Bourbon (Doug’s pick: Russell’s Reserve 10 Year)

½ Cup (4 oz) Brandy (Required: Ararat 3-Year - or make it fancy with an older vintage)

8 Dashes Bitters (Doug’s pick: Angostura)

12 Cherries - Boozy cherries (Doug’s pick: Stonewall Bourbon Bada Bing Cherries)

4 Teaspoons Cherry Juice - Use juice from the jar of Boozy cherries

12 Cubes of Ice -or- 4 single block cubes (My choice: regular cubes - or make it fancy with a single block cube)


Start by adding a cup of ice to a cocktail shaker. Slowly add the Bourbon, Brandy, Cherry Juice and dashes of Bitters.

Prepare 4 cocktail glasses (rocks glasses work nicely) by adding 3 regular cubes (or 1 single-block cube). 

Gently shake the mixture for 15 to 30 seconds.

Pour about 3 ounces (or 2 fingers) of the mixture into each glass. Garnish each glass by adding 3 Bourbon Cherries.

 Genatset! Կենա'ցդ!

Zucchini Caviar with celery sticks
Zucchini Caviar
Recipe adapted from


4 medium-sized zucchinis, peeled and shredded

2 medium carrots, shredded
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup canned, diced tomatoes, drained
2 Tbsp. tomato paste (or red pepper paste)
2 to 3 bay leaves
1 tsp. Aleppo pepper (or substitute 1 tsp. paprika and 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. granulated sugar
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place shredded zucchinis in a large, clean, kitchen towel. Roll up the towel and squeeze out the excess liquid.

In a large, heavy pot, heat olive oil on medium. Add strained zucchinis, onions and carrots; sauté for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Next, add diced tomatoes, tomato (or red pepper) paste, garlic, bay leaves, sugar and salt and pepper, to taste.
Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mixture should not be watery. If it is, continue to cook until almost all of the excess liquid is evaporated. 
Remove and discard bay leaves. 

Place mixture in a bowl and allow to cool slightly. Add the mixture into a blender or food processor. (You might have to do this in batches). Puree until a thick, creamy texture is achieved. 

To serve: Spread zucchini caviar on toasted baguettes, or, serve with your favorite crackers, chips, bread – such as pita or lavash - and/or vegetable sticks.