Monday, December 10, 2018

Broccoli-Parmesan-Yogurt Soup

Doug and I witnessed a miracle this morning … our first South Carolina snowflakes!! We watched in amazement as they drifted down, disappearing before ever touching the ground.

All I could think about was whether-or-not I had enough ingredients on hand to make soup. After all, there was no way we’d be driving to the store in this weather! (Hey, we’re not used to this type of weather; please don’t judge!)

Fortunately, there was fresh broccoli and enough other ingredients to make Broccoli-Parmesan-Yogurt Soup. Served with a little lavash, we were all set for a very satisfying lunch.
Broccoli-Parmesan-Yogurt soup with Lavash (just visible in the background)

Broccoli-Parmesan-Yogurt Soup
Serves 4

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 medium sweet onion, diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
2 heads of broccoli (approx. 8 cups), rinsed and coarsely chopped
4 cups chicken broth (vegetable broth may be substituted)
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt

Broccoli soup ingredients
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.

Add the onions and carrots; cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add broccoli and cook 3 more minutes.
Vegetables sauteing
To the pot, add broth, salt, and pepper; cook, covered, for 15-20 minutes, or until all the vegetables are completely tender. Turn off the burner.

Using an immersion blender, regular blender or a food processor, puree the broccoli mixture. (NOTE: If using a regular blender or food processor, blend soup in batches then return soup to the pot.) If the soup looks too thick, stir in a little water.

Once pureed, and with the heat still off, whisk-in the Parmesan cheese and Greek yogurt until well blended.

Turn burner on low heat. Gently heat soup before serving.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Pecan Date Balls

Last October I made Date-Pistachio Crescent Cookies to share with the Women’s Guild members at my church. The package of date paste was quite large so I only used a portion of it for the cookies. With so much paste left over, I figured I might as well make something else. 

With Christmas entertaining in mind I decided to make Pecan Date Balls based largely on the crescent cookie filling recipe. Think of this dessert as a healthy holiday treat - depending on how many you eat, that is! 

Pecan Date Balls

Pecan Date Balls
Yield: approximately 24 pieces (yield will vary depending on the size made)

Note: This recipe can easily be doubled.

13 oz. pressed date paste** (sold in Middle Eastern stores)
[See below for making date paste at home]
1 to 2 Tbsp. water
1 cup chopped pecans, divided (chopped walnuts, almonds, or pistachio nuts may be substituted)
1 Tbsp. orange blossom water (sold in Middle Eastern stores) – or – 1 Tbsp orange juice (optional)
1 tsp. orange zest
 ½ tsp. ground cardamom


If date paste is firm, cut into chunks; if soft and pliable, leave it as it is.

Place date paste and 1 to 2 Tbsp. water in a saucepan. Using low heat, stir until paste begins to soften and blend together, about 7 to 10 minutes. (Be patient!) 

Add ½ cup of the chopped nuts, orange blossom water (or orange juice) if using, orange zest and cardamom. Mix well. Remove from heat; cool.

When the mixture is cool enough to handle, break off tablespoon-sized pieces and roll them into balls. Coat each ball with the remaining chopped nuts, pressing so the nuts will adhere.

To Serve: Place each ball in a mini cupcake liner; arrange on a platter.

NOTE: Finely shredded coconut or powdered sugar can be used to coat the balls.

** Directions for making about 1 cup of Date Paste:

Soak about 12 to 13 pitted Medjool dates in warm water (1 to 2 – or more cups, depending on how dry the dates are) for about 20 to 30 minutes.

Scoop the dates out of the water (don’t drain it; you’ll need some of the soaking water) and place them in a blender or food processor with some of the soaking water. (Start with ¼ cup of the soaking water.)

Puree until the mixture is soft and fluffy. If it’s too thick, add a little more of the water.

Store the date paste in a jar with a lid. This should keep in the refrigerator for 7-10 days.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Thanksgiving menu have you stumped? Try some of our favorites!

Thanksgiving may have a different meaning from family to family. For ours, it means love, being thankful for all with which we’ve been blessed, and sharing our favorite recipes.

When it comes to the ‘feast’, ours takes a slight detour from the All-American menu. We sprinkle-in some of our family’s Armenian treasured recipes, passed down from our loved ones.
Midia Dolma
Cheese Boregs
For instance, our appetizers often include Midia Dolma, cheese boregs, homemade hummus, assorted olives, Armenian string cheese, and lavash or pita bread.

Sometimes a Roasted Leg of Lamb (recipe below) is the star of the show, but, when we do roast a turkey, it’s filled with Armenian Stuffing (recipe below), rather than the usual bread or cornbread-based varieties.

Dessert is more likely to be Apricot Pie, rather than apple or pumpkin, and for good measure an occasional plate of Boorma (or paklava) would adorn the table.

Image result for armenian apricot pie
Technically, this is my apple pie, but imagine it with an apricot filling!

No matter what you serve, the main thing is to share and give thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving from our Table to yours!

Roasted Leg of Lamb
Yield: approximately 6 servings

1 leg of lamb, bone-in, 6 to 7 lbs., untrimmed
2 Tbsp. Coriander seed, freshly ground
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground black pepper
2 medium onions, roughly cut, skin on
4 cloves garlic, whole, skin on
½ cup water

1. In a small bowl, combine the ground coriander, salt, and pepper. Blend well and set aside.
2. Place the oven rack as close to the center as possible, then preheat to 350° F.
3. Line the bottom of a roasting pan with heavy-duty foil.
4. Spread the cut onions, garlic, and ½ cup of water on top of the foil. This will impart a lively flavor, and fragrance to the recipe during roasting.
5. Place a roasting rack over the onion mixture.
6. Place the lamb on the rack, fat-side up. Leaving the fat on will flavor and moisten the meat.
7. Sprinkle the coriander, salt and pepper on the surface of the lamb, gently rubbing them in.
8. Roast the lamb for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours, basting periodically with the juices from the bottom of the pan. (There is no need to turn the meat during roasting.)
9. Remove the roast to a carving board, allowing the meat to rest for about 15 minutes before slicing.
10. Serve with pan juices that have been skimmed of fat.

Special Note
Do Not discard the juices at the bottom of the pan! When cooled, strain the juices into a food storage container, discard the onion & garlic.

Refrigerate overnight. Remove the layer of fat which hardens on the top. What’s left is a flavorful broth to use as a base for soup or sauces.
Armenian stuffing
Armenian Stuffing
Yield: Enough to stuff a 10-12 lb. turkey – or serves 6 or so as a side dish

½ lb. ground lamb (ground beef or ground turkey may be substituted)
½ cup chopped onion
4 Tbsp. butter, divided
1½ cups long grain, parboiled rice (Uncle Ben’s works well in this)
Salt, pepper, to taste and allspice (about 1 tsp.)
3 cups water or chicken or beef broth
1 Tbsp. Better Than Bouillon paste (optional)
¼ to ½ cup toasted pine nuts (optional)

1. Brown the meat in a large pot with a little salt, pepper and one tablespoon of water. Drain off any grease. Remove meat from pot and place in a bowl. Melt 2 Tbsp. butter and sauté onion until soft. Return meat to pot and stir.
2. Bring the water or broth to a boil. Add the rice and butter; stir. Reduce heat to low, cook, covered, until liquid is absorbed, and rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Remove pot from heat and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
3. Using a fork, fluff the rice and add the allspice, and more salt and pepper, if needed, and toasted pine nuts, if using.
NOTE: This recipe is used as a stuffing, but makes a delicious side dish, as well.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Holy Cross Armenian Church, Union City, NJ hosts its Annual Bazaar and Food Festival, Saturday, November 17, 2018

Are you hungry for Lule Kebab? Kavourma? Keshkeg? Kufteh?

Well, if you happen to be in the NJ-NY area, you’re in luck!

All of these delicious Armenian specialties and more will be available on Saturday, November 17th at the Annual Bazaar and Food Festival held at Holy Cross Armenian Church Center, located on the corner of 27th Street and Bergenline Ave, Union City, NJ.

Entertainment will be provided by DJ Berj, with a special performance by the Antranig Dance Ensemble!

Festivities begin at 6 PM; admission is free. 

You won't want to miss this, so bring your family, friends, and appetites!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Christine Datian's Potato-Cheese Patties

Thanksgiving is a time for families and friends to gather around the table studded with specialty foods. The stuffed turkey usually takes center-stage. (One of my relatives, who shall remain nameless, serves lasagna instead of the 'bird'.) Then there are those wonderful - and some not so wonderful - side dishes and desserts - too many to name!

As you plan your Thanksgiving menu, be sure to allow for leftovers.
Christine Datian's Potato-Cheese Patties 
(Image from

For instance, if mashed potatoes are to be served, make plenty so that you’ll have enough leftover to make Christine Datian’s Potato-Cheese Patties or one of her variations.

Making sweet potatoes instead? Not a problem. Christine offers a variation using leftovers of those.

Not making either kind of potato? She’s got you covered with a 3rd variation using zucchini or squash.

Check out her recipe and variations below, and decide which you'll serve the day after.

Happy Cooking!

Potato Cheese Patties by Christine Vartanian Datian
Serves 4-6

4-5 cups chilled leftover mashed potatoes*
1/2 medium onion, grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup crumbled Feta, shredded Monterey Jack, Swiss or cheddar cheese or grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup flour (or plain bread crumbs, or a little more)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons canned green chilies or minced green or red bell pepper
Salt, pepper, paprika to taste
Flour, plain bread crumbs or cornmeal for rolling
Butter or cooking oil for frying
Sour cream, yogurt or hummus
Chopped parsley, mint, paprika, green onions

Place mashed potatoes in a large bowl; combine with the onions, garlic, eggs, cheese, flour, parsley, chilies, and spices, and mix thoroughly. Flour hands and form mixture into patties; roll in flour, bread crumbs or cornmeal, and chill for 30 minutes until firm.

Flatten patties slightly and fry in butter or oil until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately.

Garnish with sour cream, yogurt, hummus or chopped parsley, mint, and green onions.

Serving Suggestion: Serve patties in pita pockets, topped with yogurt or hummus and thinly sliced red onions, radishes, and cucumbers or as a side dish or appetizer.

*Recipe Variations

Mashed sweet potatoes version: To the mashed sweet potatoes add 1/2 cup chopped raisins, dates or dried apricots and omit garlic, green chilies and parsley. Add 1/4 cup flaked coconut, 2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey, 1 tablespoon finely grated ginger, and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, pecans or almonds. Flour hands and form mixture into patties; roll in flour, bread crumbs or cornmeal, and chill for 30 minutes until firm.
Flatten patties slightly and fry in butter or oil until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels, roll patties in cinnamon and sugar. Serve immediately. Garnish with chunky applesauce, cranberry sauce or sour cream, if desired.

Zucchini/ Squash version (Baked): Patties may be made with 2 to 3 cups uncooked, unpeeled, shredded zucchini or squash, well drained. Add the grated onion, minced garlic, crumbled or shredded cheese (refer to above options), egg, flour (or bread crumbs) and parsley as listed above. (Omit green chilies) Season with salt, pepper, and paprika to taste. Shape into patties; chill 30 minutes. Coat patties in flour, bread crumbs or corn meal. Place patties on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 425° for 12 minutes. Carefully turn patties over and bake for an additional 12 minutes or until golden.

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

Friday, November 2, 2018

Quince Butter

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, pumpkin recipes are in the spotlight, and rightly so. But don’t forget about QUINCE.

Not as well known, or as readily available as the mighty pumpkin, quinces are not to be overlooked. They have a pear-like shape, but they are not pears.

Over the years I’ve posted a few recipes featuring the quince:
Candied Quince Preserves 
Candied Quince Preserves

If you come across quince, buy some and try making one of the dishes above, or try this very easy recipe for Quince Butter.

Quince Butter
Yields about 3/4 cup

6 large quinces (about 4 pounds total), peeled, seeded, and cut into large dice
1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar (the sweetness level is up to you!)
3 cups water
A squeeze of fresh lemon juice

In a medium-sized pot, bring quinces, sugar, and 3 cups water to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring now and then, for about 20 minutes, or until quinces begin to soften. Reduce heat to a simmer and stir in the lemon juice; cook, stirring frequently, for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until the mixture resembles applesauce.

Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.  If you prefer a smoother product, press the quince mixture through a sieve or food mill into a bowl and discard pulp.

Place quince butter in a covered container and store in the refrigerator. It should keep for about 1 week.

Serve on toast, crackers, pancakes, plain yogurt, etc. Or, just eat it with a spoon!

Friday, October 26, 2018

Armenian Madzoon Abour (Yogurt Soup)

Doug and I are supposed to be on a bus trip today from our new community in SC to Lake Lure, NC. The idea of seeing the fall leaves, taking a boat ride on the lake, followed by lunch with a view of the lake sounded idyllic when we agreed to go a few weeks ago.

What a boat ride on Lake Lure, NC looks like on a lovely day.
Enter Mother Nature … She’s dumping rain throughout the Carolinas – all day - with temperatures in the 40’s (50’s, if we’re lucky). NOT our idea of a good time outdoors. 
Much to our disappointment, we cancelled. We decided that, at our age, comfort and safety are more important than traveling for hours in a bus, then sitting on a wet boat.

To appease ourselves, we decided it’s a great day for soup. The one that will soothe and satisfy us is traditional Armenian Madzoon Abour (Yogurt Soup) – also known as Spas, in some regions.

We’ll re-visit Lake Lure some other time.
Armenian Madzoon Abour (Yogurt Soup) with Lavash (Image from Hannaford; mine isn't done cooking yet!)

Armenian Madzoon Abour (Yogurt Soup)
Yield: about 4 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced 
1 medium garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoon Italian, flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped (1 tsp. – or to taste - dried mint may be substituted)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1 cup hulled whole wheat berries, (dzedzadz) – sold in Middle eastern stores (NOTE: 1 cup quick-cooking pearl barley may be substituted)
3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth (chicken broth may be substituted)
2 cups plain yogurt, (low-fat or full-fat yogurt may be used – NOT Greek-style)
NOTE: Purists only use yogurt; no broth! In which case you’d add 5 cups.
Garnish: Paprika, fresh mint leaves or dried mint, optional


1. If using whole wheat berries (dzedzadz), cook them in 3 cups of water until tender to the tooth. Drain and cool. Set aside until it is added in step #3.

2. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté, stirring frequently until softened, about 3 minutes. Add parsley, mint, salt, and pepper and stir to combine. Add broth. (NOTE: If using quick-cooking barley, add it now.)

3. Increase heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 12 minutes or until soup just comes to a simmer. Remove from heat and let soup cool slightly, about 5 minutes. Stir in yogurt. (NOTE: If using cooked wheat berries from step 1, add it now.) Heat over medium heat until warmed through, about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir well.

4. Garnish with a sprinkling of paprika and fresh or dried mint, if desired.

Serve immediately with Lavash!

Friday, October 19, 2018

It's Gouvedge time again!

Autumn has arrived, for the most-part, in South Carolina. After 4 decades of not being able to differentiate one season from the next in Florida, Doug and I are finally experiencing, and loving, the cooler temperatures and colorful leaves on the surrounding trees.

To mark the occasion, I decided to celebrate with a a big pan of Gouvedge. Not familiar with gouvedge? It's a heart-and-tummy-warming casserole of lamb, vegetables and LOVE!
Gouvedge - hot and ready to serve!

Serves Many!
Gouvedge ingredients ready to assemble: Cut vegetables, par-boiled lamb (still on the bone), lamb broth, and canned tomato products
2 lbs. meaty lamb neck bones, trimmed of fat
Lamb broth (See Day 1 preparation for details)
1-6 oz. can tomato paste
1-15 oz. can diced tomatoes with the liquid
1 lb. fresh green beans, end trimmed
2 medium zucchini, cut into large chunks
2 medium eggplants, cut into cubes
1 lb. okra, optional (If okra is large, cut it into smaller pieces)
2 medium red or orange peppers, seeds removed, and cut into chunks
1 large onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
A small bunch of Italian flat-leaf parsley, washed
Measure all - or some - of the following seasonings according to your taste: Dried oregano, salt, black pepper, paprika, Aleppo pepper, dash of cayenne pepper, ground coriander seeds, allspice, etc.

Day One Preparation:
Place the lamb bones in a large pot with enough water to cover bones. Bring to a boil, skimming any residue from the surface during the cooking process. Reduce temperature to medium-low; place a cover, tilted, on the pot. Cook for 1 to 1 ½ hours, or until the meat is tender enough to easily be removed from the bones. Periodically check the water level; do not let it all evaporate. Add more as needed. You should end up with at least 2 cups of broth.
Remove bones from the liquid and place on a plate. Once cool enough to handle, remove meat from the bones; place meat in a bowl, cover and refrigerate until the next day.
Strain the liquid from the pot; discard any unwanted particles. Place strained cooking liquid in a bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight.
While the lamb cooks, cut all of the vegetables as noted above. Store the vegetables in separate plastic food storage bags and refrigerate.

Day Two Preparation:
Preheat the oven to 350°- 375° F (ovens vary). Lightly oil a 9” x 13” baking pan.

Remove the layer of fat from the surface of the chilled lamb broth; discard fat.

In a large bowl, dilute the tomato paste with the lamb broth (there should be about 2 cups). Stir in the diced tomatoes and its liquid. Mix in the seasonings to taste. Add the lamb and vegetables – EXCEPT for the okra. Gently toss to combine.

Evenly spread the lamb-vegetable mixture in the prepared pan, cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil. If using okra, add it now. Mix okra into the gouvedge and bake an additional 45 minutes.

While gouvedge is baking, make rice or bulgur pilaf to serve as a side dish. 
Crusty bread is required for dipping!

Friday, October 12, 2018

Easy Date - Pistachio Crescent Cookies

In preparation for next spring's Food Festival, I was asked by the Chair of St. Sarkis’ Women’s Guild to prepare a cookie – specifically one with a date filling - for the members to sample. (It's never too early to plan for such a special event!) 

The Apricot Crescent Cookie recipe I posted ages ago came to mind. I immediately got to work making the cookies, switching the apricot filling for one made with dates.

After the cookies were sampled at last week's meeting,I was invited to include my recipe to their dessert line-up. (I guess they liked it!)

You don’t have to wait until spring to make these. My easy version takes hardly any time to prepare and they'll make an impressive addition to any holiday meal!
My Easy Date-Pistachio Crescent Cookies

Easy Date - Pistachio Crescent Cookies

For the dough:
2 commercially-prepared pie crusts, such as Pillsbury

Filling Ingredients:
1 ½  cups (give or take) commercially prepared date paste (sold in Middle eastern stores)** See recipe below for creating homemade date paste
1 Tbsp. orange blossom water, optional (sold in Middle Eastern stores and Whole Foods)
1-2 Tbsp. orange juice
2 tsp. orange zest
¼ cup unsalted, shelled pistachio nuts, finely chopped
Egg wash: 1 egg, beaten
Garnish: additional chopped pistachios and/or coarse sugar, optional

Filling Directions:
In a mixing bowl, combine the filling ingredients –EXCEPT for the nuts - until smooth and spreadable. If the date mixture is too stiff, stir in warm water a little at a time without making the filling too watery. Stir the pistachios into the date mixture until evenly distributed. Set filling aside.

Dough Directions:
Work with one prepared crust at a time. 
On a lightly floured work surface and using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the pie crust dough into a fairly thin large circle.

Assembly Directions:
Rolled pie crust spread with a thin layer of date-pistachio filling
Spread half of the filling on the dough, leaving about ¼ inch of the dough exposed around the edge.

Cut, as you would a pie, into 12 wedges – or more - depending on how large or small you want the cookies to be. (A pizza cutter makes this step very easy!)

Start rolling each wedge starting at the wide end toward the small point. Using your fingers, turn the ends downward to make a crescent-shape. Place cookies on an ungreased baking sheet.

Brush the cookie surfaces with egg wash. Sprinkle additional chopped pistachios and/or coarse sugar, if you wish. Gently press toppings so they adhere.

Bake in a preheated 350°F oven 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown. Cool cookies completely on wire racks. Store in a container with a tight-fitting lid. Any leftover cookies can be wrapped and stored in the freezer.

You can make date paste at home. It’s really easy! You just need dates and water. Pitted Medjool dates work extremely well for this.

**Directions to make about 1 cup of Date Paste:
Soak about 12 to 13 pitted dates in warm water (1 to 2 – or more cups, depending on how dry the dates are) for about 20 to 30 minutes.

Scoop the dates out of the water (don’t drain it; you’ll need some of the soaking water) and place them in a blender or food processor with some of the soaking water. (Start with ¼ cup of the soaking water.)

Puree until the mixture is soft and fluffy. If it’s too thick, add a little more of the water.

Store the date paste in a jar with a lid. This should keep in the refrigerator for 7-10 days.