Friday, March 22, 2019

Rubina Sevadjian's One-Pot Vegan Lenten Dish

Rubina Sevadjian
For those of you who don’t know Rubina Sevadjian, allow me to introduce her. Rubina is an author, world-traveler, gardener, cook, and a dear, albeit, long-distance friend. 

At the start of Lent Rubina sent me a message asking for vegan recipe ideas because her intention was to follow a strict Lenten diet. I was happy to oblige.

I'm not sure if Rubina made any of my suggested recipes, but she sent me one she created herself. It doesn’t have a formal name, there are no specific amounts, but it sounds great – especially if you like pasta, veggies, chili flakes and a LOT of garlic.
Read on and give it a try!

Rubina’s One-Pot Vegan Lenten Dish


NOTERubina says: “Any ratio of each ingredient would work depending on how hungry one is. But lots of garlic is a must!” 

Edamame beans
broccoli florets
Maltagliatti pasta (any pasta would work)
olive oil
garlic, minced (lots)
two types of chili flakes—chipotle and Bird’s eye (to taste)

In a large pot bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add edamame & pasta first; cook for a few minutes; add broccoli and continue to cook until edamame, pasta and broccoli are tender, but not mushy. Drain in a colander.
Using the same pot lightly fry the garlic & 2 types of chili flakes in olive oil. Return all to the pot and mix well, sprinkle with sea salt! 


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Happy 10th Birthday (or is it Anniversary?) to!

For the past ten years The Armenian Kitchen has spanned the globe as we've shared and gathered Armenian recipes while making new friends and re-connecting with family.

We thank you all from the bottom of our hearts for helping to make this continuing journey possible!

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Stovetop Green Beans with Potatoes

My grandmother, Yeranuhe Genjian-Vartanesian, - as well as all of my grandparents - came from humble beginnings. Yeranuhe Nanny came from the mountains of Musa Dagh, Syria. She was one of the fortunate Armenians who found her way to America in 1921 where, upon arrival to Ellis Island, she married my grandfather, Oskan Vartanesian. (Sadly, how and when he arrived in America is not exactly known.)

Nanny could take ordinary ingredients, put them together in such a way that would make you beg for more. When she cooked, everything was made from scratch, down to making her own red pepper paste. Luckily, today we can take some shortcuts with results that are just as pleasing.
Yeranuhe Nanny's Stovetop Green Beans and Potatoes
Here is a modern take on one of Nanny’s humble dishes -Stovetop Green Beans with Potatoes:

Stovetop Green Beans with Potatoes 
Serves 4 to 5
Ingredients for Stovetop Green Beans with Potatoes
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 medium-sized sweet onion, coarsely chopped
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. cumin
½ tsp. ground sumac
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. dried mint, crushed
Salt and black pepper, to taste
1 (15-oz.) can diced tomatoes with its liquid
3 Tbsp. red pepper paste mixed into 1 cup of water (Note: tomato paste with a tsp. of paprika may be substituted for the red pepper paste)
1 to 1 ½ lbs. fresh French (thin) green beans, ends trimmed and cut in half (FYI: Frozen green beans are a good substitute!)
4 to 6 small red skinned potatoes, washed, unpeeled, cut into quarters (If larger potatoes are used, cut them into smaller chunks.)
lemon juice, optional
Garnish: chopped fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley (thick stems removed); lemon wedges or slices – pits removed

In a large pot, heat 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and a dash of salt; cook, stirring now and then, until onions begin to soften (about 5 mins). Add the garlic, allspice, cumin, sumac, oregano and mint. Cook - and - stir a few more minutes.
Green beans and potatoes simmering away!
Add tomatoes with liquid, pepper paste diluted in water, green beans, and potatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine ingredients.
Increase the heat until mixture starts to boil gently.  

Reduce heat to medium-low, cover the pot, and cook about 20 minutes, or until green beans and potatoes are fork-tender; stir occasionally.

Important tip: About 10 minutes into the cooking process, check to see if more water needs to be added. Add a small amount at a time, if necessary, and stir.
Before serving, adjust seasonings, if desired.

Transfer green beans and potatoes to a serving bowl. Garnish with chopped parsley and lemon wedges or slices.

Serve with your favorite crusty bread.

Click here to read about Hatz Baboog (literal translation: Bread Grandfather) who delivered our favorite bread right to our home!

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Lentil - Olive - Mushroom Patties

One of my go-to Lenten recipes is Lentil - Olive - Mushroom Patties. It’s easy, tasty and satisfying. If you prefer a heartier version, a variation of this is listed below. 
Lentil-Olive-Mushroom Patties
Lentil - Olive - Mushroom Patties   
Yield: 5 patties

        1 Tbsp. olive oil
        1 small onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
        1/2 pound white button mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced
        2 cloves garlic, minced
        Freshly ground black pepper
        1/2 tsp. dried oregano
        ¼ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
        1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives (Note: If olives are too salty, rinse before adding.)
        1-1/4 cups cooked lentils, (canned or dried, cooked lentils can be used)
        1/2 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs, plus more for coating
        1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
        Additional olive oil for pan-frying

1. Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Sautė the onions for about 3 minutes or until they begin to soften. Add mushrooms, garlic, black pepper, oregano, and parsley; sautė for 7 to 10 minutes, or until mushrooms are cooked. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

2. Place cooled onion-mushroom mixture into the food processor along with the olives, lentils, ½ cup breadcrumbs, and lemon juice. Pulse until almost smooth, leaving some of the ingredients chunky for added texture. Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl and thoroughly combine. 

  • No additional salt is added to this recipe since the olives are rather salty.
  • VARIATION: For a heartier final product, add about 1/2 cup of pre-cooked brown rice, bulgur, or quinoa to the mixture in this step.
3 Using a ½ cup measure, divide the mixture into 5 equal patties.  Slightly flatten them and coat each side in a little more of the bread crumbs. (This will create a nice crust on the surface when cooked.)

4. Place the shaped, coated patties on a plate lined with plastic wrap; cover and refrigerate for about 20 minutes, or until ready to cook.

5. Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the patties for about 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or until lightly golden brown and heated through.

NOTE:  The patties can also be baked in a preheated 350°F oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper sprayed with cooking spray. Spray a little cooking spray on the top of each patty to keep them for getting too dry; bake for 15 minutes. Turn them over and bake for an additional 12 to 15 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Eggplant-Chickpea Casserole: Perfect for Lent!

Preparing meals during Lent shouldn't be a challenge, if you know the guidelines.

According to information from the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church, “The oldest Armenian Lenten traditions hardly allowed for the consumption of any food at all. Indeed, the Armenian Church sometimes refers to Lent as Aghouhatzk, meaning “salt and bread,” because at one time these elements were the only permitted foods. Over time, Lenten rules have changed to allow any food – except for those which derive from animals (meat and milk, e.g.). Alcoholic beverages were also forbidden. These rules were based on the Biblical principle that many human vices proceed from eating and drinking.”

Some choose to follow a completely vegan diet during Lent, which means they will only consume vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes and will avoid animal products, such as meat, dairy, and even honey.
How strictly one follows a Lenten diet is entirely up to the individual.

To get you started, here is a Lenten-appropriate recipe for Eggplant-Chickpea Casserole.
Eggplant-Chickpea Casserole

Eggplant-Chickpea Casserole
Serves 4 as a main dish**; serves 6 as a side dish

1 eggplant, (approx. 1 to 1 ½ lbs.) cut into cubes
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 bell pepper (any color), diced
1 carrot, pared and chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried mint
1/2 tsp. ground sumac
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Salt, to taste
2 medium zucchinis, cut into ½-inch chunks
1 -15-oz can diced tomatoes (with liquid)
1 to 2 - 15-oz can(s) chickpeas (with liquid) **NOTE: If serving this as a main dish, add 2 cans of chick peas for a heartier meal.
Garnish: Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Place a colander in the sink; place cubed eggplant in colander; sprinkle with salt. Allow eggplant to release any bitterness for about 20 minutes. Rinse with water and pat dry on paper towels.
Sauteed Vegetables

In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil on a medium-high temperature until oil shimmers. Add onions, peppers, and chopped carrot. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic, bay leaves, dried herbs and spices, and salt to taste. Cook another minute, stirring until fragrant.
Add eggplant, zucchini, diced tomatoes with liquid, chickpeas with liquid. Stir to combine.

Bring to a boil and cook for about 8-10 minutes, stirring often. Remove and discard bay leaves.

Remove skillet from stove top. Transfer ingredients to a lightly greased, oven-safe casserole dish or baking pan with 2-inch sides.
Ready to Bake

Bake, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes, or until eggplant and zucchini are tender. (About half-way through baking, check to see if more liquid is needed. If so, carefully remove casserole from oven and stir in enough water to moisten without making it soupy.)

When vegetables are tender, remove casserole from oven and drizzle top with a little olive oil; garnish with fresh parsley.

This dish can be served hot or at room temperature. For a main dish, serve with a side salad and lavash.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Sonia Tashjian's Comfort Soup - NUNIK ABUR or SHELL SOUP

Years ago, I posted several recipes for a soup called Noonoog (spelling varies). This soup is made with chickpeas, mint, lemon, pasta – elbows or shell-shaped work well, and sometimes meat. 

My version of Noonoog made with chicken broth, chick peas, mint, and elbow macaroni, etc.
NOTE: To make these Noonoog recipes Lenten friendly, do not use meat, and use water or vegetable broth instead of beef or chicken broth.

Sonia Tashjian's Nunik Abour recipes
Sonia Tashjian recently sent me her ancestral recipe for Nunik Abour, or Shell Soup, along with a bit of its history.

NUNIK ABUR or SHELL SOUP (from Musaler)
According to Sonia, the original name of this soup is TERYI SHURBU. It is called this due to the homemade pasta. There are two versions of the soup: one is with tomato paste & the second one is with paste + matsun (plain yogurt), which gives the soup a very delicious, unique taste.
Sonia said, "In Musaler, in the days of our ancestors, pasta was prepared like this."
Sonia’s Nunik Abour
1.- cook the shell pasta in salty water, add 1 - 2 garlic gloves while cooking.
2.- add tomato - pepper paste, sour cream (or boiled matsun), already cooked chickpea, butter or cooked meat (if desired); continue to cook.
3.- season it with red & black pepper, mint.
4.- you can add lemon juice in the 1-st version (without matsun).

Monday, February 25, 2019

Apricot Brandy Cake - a decadent dessert for Adults!

Monday, March 4th, 2019 marks the first day of Lent in the Armenian Church. The day before, Sunday, March 3rd, is Poon (meaning ‘Main’) Paregentan (meaning ‘to live well or rejoice’). It’s a time to enjoy life, and to be happy on the days preceding the Lenten fasting period.
Christine Datian's Apricot Brandy Cake

To help you ‘live well’, Christine Datian provided The Armenian Kitchen with her decadent dessert – Apricot Brandy Cake. Bake it this week – or – you’ll have to wait until Easter to enjoy this with family and friends.
Warning: Due to the addition of brandy in this recipe, you should serve this to adults only – sorry, kids!

Apricot Brandy Cake by Christine Vartanian Datian
Serves 8-10
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
2 1/2 cups sugar
5 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla (or orange extract)
1/2 teaspoon rum or rum flavoring
1/2 cup apricot brandy (Calvados or brandy of choice)

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees F.  Grease and flour a large Bundt pan.

Cream the butter with the sugar in a large bowl.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Sift dry ingredients together two times and set aside.  

Combine sour cream, vanilla, rum, and brandy.  Add the dry ingredients, alternately with the sour cream mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.

Pour mixture into the prepared pan.  Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cake rest for 10 minutes in the pan or on a rack.  Carefully invert cake onto a serving plate.  
Serve with warm apricot jam, Brandy Glaze, or topped with fresh whipped cream.

Brandy Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
2-3 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons brandy
5-6 teaspoons milk or cream
Heat butter in medium pan over medium heat until melted and golden brown; cool slightly.  Add powdered sugar, brandy and milk; beat until smooth.
*Note: 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans and 1 cup chopped golden raisins may be added to this recipe.

**Christine’s recipes have been published in the Fresno Bee newspaper, Sunset magazine, Cooking Light magazine, and at

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Carolann Najarian's Whole Wheat Choreg Experiment

Carolann Najarian is a woman of many talents – she is a retired physician, author, philanthropist, and now, a choreg baker.
Carolann Najarian's whole wheat choreg
Over the years, Carolann and I have communicated about this-and-that via The Armenian Kitchen.  Recently she wrote saying she wanted to try her hand at baking choreg. She said her mother used to make a choreg which was not too sweet, somewhat dry, a bit dense, and was formed into diamond shapes. She no longer had her mother’s recipe – a family favorite – and turned to my website hoping to find a recipe.

Kalonji seeds
Her mother’s recipe sounded much like a recipe request I received ages ago for a Kharpetsi-style chorag recipe called Koolunja, a word she wasn’t familiar with. After reaching out to my readers about Koolunja, I never had any responses. My research provided a clue about koolunja (aka kalonji) and discovered it means 'black seeds'. 

Since black seeds are often an ingredient in chorag recipes, I came to the conclusion that “koolunja” simply refers to these seeds and is not really a recipe name.  
For Carolann's future use, I sent her a recipe for ‘Koolenja’ by Agnes Carman Hovsepian, from the cookbook, 'Armenian Cuisine - Preserving Our Heritage', St. John's Armenian Church, Southfield, Michigan.
(Carolann plans to try the Koolunja recipe and let me know how it turns out. This will be a separate post.)

NOTE: Charles Kasbarian (aka C.K. Garabed and Uncle Garabed, columnist in The Armenian Weekly), provided me with additional  information about Koolunja: 

According to C.K., “the black seeds that are referred to as koolunja and black caraway seeds are also referred to as sevakundig (sev hundig) and nigella.”

Koolunja explained, Carolann then asked if I’d ever made choreg using whole wheat flour, and asked me for any tips.
Since I hadn’t made choreg with whole wheat flour, I asked for her assistance, meaning that after she experimented with the recipe, would she please share her results. She agreed.

This is what transpired:
My ‘tip’ to Carolann about substituting whole wheat flour for all-purpose flour came from Better Homes and Gardens:
"You can replace part but not all of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour when baking. Blending whole wheat flour with all-purpose flour will lighten the finished product while maintaining the nutritional benefits of whole wheat. When baking, use half all-purpose flour and half whole wheat flour. The end product might not look the same, and it could have a coarser texture and less volume."

Carolann got down to work and sent me her whole wheat choreg report:
Rachel and Nonny Hogrogian's cookbook
“I did make the half whole wheat/ half all-purpose flour chorag and it is very good. I used the same recipe (almost) that I used last time simply because I had made twice before and felt comfortable with it. It is from Rachel and Nonny Hogrogian's cookbook, ‘The Armenian Cookbook’.” Her recipe, an adaptation of Rachel Hogrogian’s Choreg recipe, follows. 
Carolann's whole wheat choreg - hot out of the oven!
Carolann Najarian’s Whole Wheat Choreg Recipe
Yield: 25 pieces

3 cups whole wheat flour
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
½ cup sugar
1/2 tsp. each: finely ground mahlab** and ground anise seed
1 tsp. black caraway seeds
1 pkg. dry yeast dissolved in ¼ cup lukewarm water (105-110°)
3 eggs, room temperature
1 cup warm milk (NOTE: fat-free, low fat, or regular milk can be used)
1 ½ cups lukewarm melted butter
Egg wash: 1 egg, beaten
Garnish: sesame seeds

**Important Messages Regarding Mahlab:

C.K.’s daughter Lucine, author, writer, illustrator, sent me two vital links  regarding Mahlab:
#1. What Mahlab is: Click here
#2. If you- or anyone you know – is/are allergic to almonds, you’ll definitely want to avoid mahlab. Please click here to find out why! 

In a large mixing bowl, combine both flours, salt, sugar, ground mahlab, ground anise, and black seeds. Blend well. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the yeast, 3 eggs, melted butter and warm milk. Blend mixture by hand until a dough is formed.

Knead the dough in the mixing bowl. When the dough stops sticking to the bowl, stop kneading immediately. Do not coat the bowl or dough with oil. Cover the bowl with parchment paper and a clean towel; place it into a warm oven heated to 150°F. Turn off the oven; allow dough to rise until doubled in size - about 2 hours.

Punch dough and place it on the work surface. Flatten dough with your hands patting it down to about 3/4 inch thickness. Cut into squares, triangles, or diamond shapes. Alternately, take a handful of dough, roll it into a rope about 1 ¼” thick. Cut rope into 9” pieces; fold each piece in half and twist it once.

Place pieces on a parchment paper-lined tray. Brush each piece with egg wash. Sprinkle tops with sesame seeds.

Bake in a preheated 375° F oven for about 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
Many thanks, Carolann, for your enthusiastic participation in this project!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The Feast of St. Sarkis, the Authentic St. Sarkis Halva Recipe, and other traditional recipes from Sonia Tashjian

The Feast of Saint Sarkis, a moveable celebration, falls on Saturday, February 16th this year. Saint Sarkis, the Warrior, is one of the most venerated Armenian saints and is considered the patron saint of love and youth.

Two main recipes are associated with this feast day, St.Sarkis Halva – a sweet treat, and Aghablit – a salty wafer or bread. Other traditional recipes include Kumba Cake, Khashil Don - a pudding, and KLONTRAK – a type of halva (These recipes are below).

Sonia Tashjian, who first shared the story of St. Sarkis with me years ago, sent word that she has finally found the ‘old’ recipe of St. Sarkis HALVA. By that she meant that the recipe she found uses mastic powder or mastic gum rather than the marshmallow fluff or crème that is often used to make St. Sarkis halva today.

NOTE: Mastic powder – or mastic gum – is used in sweets (candies and ice cream), baking (choreg), and medicine. It can generally be found in Middle Eastern stores – and - be purchased online.

#1. The authentic recipe for St. Sarkis Halva from Sonia Tashjian:

Sonia Tashjian's authentic St. Sarkis Halva
Make Syrup: Boil 1 cup of sugar with 1/3 cup of water; then add 1/2 tsp. of lemon juice & 1/2 tsp. of crushed mastic (mastic powder called ‘maztaki’ in Armenian).
Mastic Gum
Meanwhile spread 1 cup of sesame seeds & chopped walnuts on a tray. Using a spoon pour small amounts of the syrup onto the sesame seed-walnut mixture on the tray forming small mounds; allow it to sit until it is lukewarm. Finally, pour extra sesame on them. After some hours, the halva will be firm.

The following recipe for Kumba Cake comes from Sonia's grandmother - a specialty from Musa Dagh. It is served on St. Sarkis Day and is also a great Lenten treat since it contains no dairy or eggs. This cake is very flavorful due to its combination of spice and sweet, but tends to be rather dense in texture.

Sonia's Kumba Cake

#2. Kumba Cake

5 cups of all-purpose flour
1 cup of olive oil
1 cup of boiling water
1 cup of sugar
½ cup of honey
1 cup of chopped nuts (walnut, almond, pistachio, hazelnut)
½ cup of raisins
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
½  teaspoon of ground cardamom
½  teaspoon of ground nutmeg
½  teaspoon of ground mahlab
a coin, wrapped in foil

½ cup of white sesame seeds for the top

If you desire, roast the flour, until it turns to pale. Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and the spices.
Add the oil & boiling water, stir until a thick dough is formed.
Add the honey, nuts & raisins.
Spread the dough in a large non-stick pan. Put the wrapped coin in it & cover with dough.
Dip your hands in water and smooth out the surface of the dough.
Sprinkle the sesame seeds on the surface.
Bake Kumba at 350° F, about 25-30 minutes, until golden brown.

According to Sonia, this holiday is also known as Khashili Don, because the main dish served on this day is a pudding which has been boiled. ('Don' means holiday; 'Khashil' means boil, in Armenian).

Sonia also explained that wheat has been the main ingredient for Armenians since Pagan times. So, each holiday it had been used in recipes to honor the gods. 

Sonia's Khashil Don Pudding

#3. Khashil Pudding Recipe:

Please Note: The amounts given for the pearled wheat and water are estimates.

Wheat Pudding Ingredients:
2 cups Pearled wheat (aka dzedadztsz - the same wheat that is used to make harissa/keshkeg)
Water: Start with 3 cups water and continue to add enough water to create a creamy pudding-like texture
Salt, to taste

Yogurt Mixture Ingredients:
1 egg
4 cups plain yogurt

Topping Ingredients for Garnish:
Melted butter
Fried onions

In a dry, non-stick skillet, toast the wheat until it is evenly golden. Let it cool, then grind with a coffee grinder. (In Armenian the toasted wheat is called ‘aghants’; the ground toasted wheat is ‘pokhints’.)

Cook the wheat with water, stirring frequently, until you get a creamy pudding consistency. Stir in salt according to your taste.

Meanwhile thoroughly mix an egg into about 4 cups of matsun (plain yogurt), then bring it to a gentle boil.

To Serve: Pour the pudding in a bowl, pour matsun around it & garnish with melted butter or fried onion in the middle of pudding.

#4. The final traditional recipe is KLONTRAK – a type of halva.

Sonia's Klontrak (halva)

Klontrak Recipe:

In a dry, non-stick skillet, toast 1 cup of pearled wheat until golden – stirring often. Let it cool, then grind with a coffee grinder.
Melt a few Tbsp. butter. Pour butter, some mulberry syrup (or honey), into the ground wheat. Knead it with fingers, then form small balls.