Thursday, May 16, 2019

Stay cool with Chilled Yogurt-based Soups!

Outdoor temperatures are beginning to rise, so it's time to start collecting recipes for chilled soup.  

Rich, tangy,  creamy yogurt-based soups offer delectable, refreshing dining on hot days. Add some fresh herbs and these soups are out of this world!

Here are two chilled yogurt-based soup recipes with fresh herbs (mint and basil) to help you get on your way to cool, delicious dining.
Chilled Yogurt-Mint Soup (Madzoon Abour)

Chilled Yogurt-Mint Soup (Madzoon Abour)
Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:
1/2 cup barley**
1 ½ cups plain yogurt
1 tsp. kosher salt
3 cups very cold water
1 Tbsp. crushed mint

Directions:
1. Cook barley according to package directions. Cool and set aside. **NOTE: Quick-cooking barley works well in this recipe.
2. In a mixing bowl, stir yogurt and salt until smooth.
3. Mix in the barley.
4. Add the cold water and mint; stir to combine.
5. Place in the refrigerator for an hour or two before serving.
6. To serve: stir the yogurt soup, ladle into bowls, add an ice cube, garnish with a fresh sprig of mint.



Chilled Cream of Zucchini Soup with Fresh Basil
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp. olive oil
¼ cup sweet onion, chopped
¼ tsp. salt
3 medium zucchini, washed, ends trimmed, and sliced into ¼-inch circles
2 cups chicken (or vegetable) broth
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup light cream
½ cup plain, low fat yogurt
Dash white pepper
Garnish: Basil sprigs

Directions:
1. Heat oil in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and salt; sauté, stirring occasionally, until onions are transparent.
2. Add zucchini and broth; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer the mixture, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Add the basil leaves.
3. Puree the soup in a blender.
4. Place pureed soup in a large bowl. Stir in the cream, yogurt and white pepper.
5. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
6. Serve in chilled bowls, and garnish with basil sprigs.



Thursday, May 9, 2019

St. Sarkis Armenian Church in Charlotte, NC hosts its annual Food Festival May 10, 11, and 12


Come One – Come All! 
St. Sarkis Armenian Church in Charlotte, NC is hosting its annual Food Festival May 10-12.

If you happen to be in the area and are looking for family fun and delicious food, please join us!

See you there!

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Introducing a NEW Armenian coffee company – SARA Coffee Company

Sos Nazaryan
Sos Nazaryan reached out to The Armenian Kitchen to announce his family’s new Los Angeles-based Armenian coffee company - SARA. He asked if we would mention its existence to our readership. In order for us to do this properly, Sos kindly sent us a bag of their medium roast product to sample.
SARA coffee from the Nazaryan family


SARA coffee - getting ready to taste-test!
Doug and I were pleased to have been asked and agreed to help, but we needed some family background information to understand the story behind the company.

Here's a bit of the Nazaryan family background as told by Sos:

“My parents, Alfred and Rita, immigrated from Soviet Armenia in 1988, one year before my brother Ara was born and four years before I was born. Both of my parents had and continue to have a strong passion for Armenian music, poetry, and culture. In 1992, my father purchased an Armenian music store in the heart of downtown Glendale, which later grew into a community hub for Armenians in Glendale. When the recession hit, we had to close the music store. Fortunately, however, in 2008 we were able to purchase the mom-and-pop Armenian grocery next door to the music store, allowing us to continue our relationship with the community and sustain our family economically. 

All hands were on deck at the grocery store. My dad orchestrated the show, while my mother, brother, and I supported in any way we could. It was tough, but the silver lining was that we spent a lot of time together. While there was always an endless list of errands waiting to be finished at the grocery, a cup of "soorj" gave us an opportunity to take a short break together. It was around this time that my parents began to test out different coffees and blends, simply to find a coffee for our family that we thoroughly enjoyed; we hadn't even begun thinking of any type of coffee company yet! 

Well, eventually, I relocated to Santa Barbara for college and my brother moved to Seattle for a great job opportunity. My parents, however, continued their pursuit to find this perfect coffee blend and even began sharing this ever-evolving blend with the community. People seemed to really enjoy it, and shortly thereafter, people came to the store asking for more of it. It was at this point that we began entertaining the idea of a coffee company. 
I slowly started to work on the design, while my parents continued to refine the taste. 

Fast forward a couple of years and we have Sara Coffee Co. and the Original Blend. 

Armenian coffee is tricky because, in addition to great taste, the beans need to also be able to produce a nice, thick and creamy layer of froth or crema on top. The Original Blend features medium-roast beans from South America and Africa, resulting in a cup of coffee that is rich in taste, has a velvety body, and produces an excellent layer of crema. 
We launched the company in February of this year and have been overwhelmed by the support we've received. This coffee is something that I am truly proud to share. 

Any time we all four of us (my parents, my brother, and myself) are back together, a cup of coffee together is the first order of business. So when I tell people it's from our family to yours, I truly mean that. In the same way that you and Doug are trying to keep our culture alive by sharing recipes, our family is trying to do the same by bringing generations of Armenians together to enjoy a cup of coffee together and share stories about our culture.”

What a wonderful family project, and such passion!

To do our taste-test properly, Doug and I gathered a few friends in our home and put their coffee to the test. Naturally, we had to serve ‘nibbles’ to go along with the brew – choreg, string cheese, fruit, cookies.

Doug prepares pot #1 of SARA coffee for our tasting
 Doug, as always, was the coffee maker. Our friends watched as Doug prepared 3 pots of coffee – 2 of the SARA brand, brewed in 2 strengths, and one from a canned brand that’s often used.
Doug pours coffee for our guests
Our SARA coffee-tasting party in full-swing
After our careful sipping and sampling of each cup, here are the comments and final result of our SARA coffee experiment:

Guest's unbiased comments:

SARA coffee transports you to the old world with a rich, robust flavor. It’s smooth yet robust.

The stronger serving was very rich, with a full taste - a premium coffee.

   Grandma (Mayrig) would approve! Reminiscent of family     gatherings around the living room coffee table.

Delicious, with a deep-roast taste.

Subtle flavor with a slightly smoky undertone. You get a burst of flavor with every sip. 

    By the way, if you’re into reading fortunes in the coffee grounds, SARA’s grounds make an interesting story! This is the image Doug’s cup produced. Don’t know what you see, but we all agreed it resembled the Three Wise Men!

Group Analysis:
A Unanimous Decision: The SARA coffee made with the heaping scoop rather than the level scoop was the standout. 

On the other hand, the coffee made using the canned product was a total let-down.

As a way of introducing you to SARA Coffee, Sos provides a Promo (Coupon) Code for a 15% savings. So, if you go to https://saracoffeeco.com/ include the promo code ARMKITCHEN15 to receive the discount on your order. 

Just so you know, Sos informed me that plans for both a dark roast and a decaf version are in the works. 
Also,they don't have a storefront (yet). Customers living in/or visiting the LA area can find SARA products in Armenian grocery stores and bakeries throughout Glendale, including Lord and Villa Bakery on Pacific Ave. in Glendale.


We wish the Nazaryan family and their SARA Coffee Company much success!

Happy sipping!





Friday, April 26, 2019

Gluten-Free Sheet-Pan Lahmajoun – and - Simit

Doug (L) and Aram hug as they meet in Yerevan, April 23, 2015
My husband, Doug, and Aram Aslanian have been close friends for slightly over 60 years. That’s right – 60+ years! You might even consider them brothers.

Despite living in different states, we manage to see each other as often as possible spending quality time while sharing homemade Armenian food and wonderful Armenian beverages (tahn, coffee, cognac, etc.).

Much to Aram’s dismay, he learned that he must follow a gluten free diet. So, when he and his wife Tricia visited us recently, he put me to the test. Aram’s wish was to learn how to make a gluten-free lahmajoun base, and possibly gluten-free choreg.

I didn’t accomplish the choreg request but managed to prepare the gluten-free lahmajoun, and, about 1 dozen simit using left-over dough from the lahmajoun.
Gluten-free Simit using left-over lahmajoun dough. After shaping dough, I brushed tops with beaten egg, sprinkled on sesame seeds, baked for 15-20 minutes at 350°F.

The dough recipe I used, which follows, was made by adapting a gluten-free dough recipe (for pizza) by katie.horgan.75
The meat topping recipe is at the bottom of the post.
Gluten-Free Sheet -Pan  Lahmajoun

Gluten-free Pizza (or Lahmajoun) Dough
Yield for Katie: 1-1/2 crusts, enough for 2 small-medium pizzas, or 1 large and 1 personal pan.
Yield for me: dough for one sheet pan crust and enough left-over dough to make simit

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp yeast
1 1/4 cup warm water, divided
3 cups gluten free flour (which contains xanthan gum - check the ingredient list on the flour bag)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 Tbsp sugar, divided
1 Tbsp olive oil

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a small bowl, combine yeast and 3/4 cup warm water (105° to 110°F). NOTE: Water that is hotter than that will kill the yeast. Cold water won’t properly activate the yeast. Let it rest for 5 minutes to activate. Stir in 1 Tbsp of the sugar after a few minutes.

In a separate bowl, combine gluten free flour, salt, baking powder and remaining 2 Tbsp sugar. Whisk until well combined.
Preparing the dough
Make a well in the dry mixture and add the yeast mixture. Add the olive oil and additional 1/2 cup warm water before stirring. Stir it all together until well combined, using a wooden spoon. (I used my stand mixer fitted with the dough hook to complete the task.) 
Dough pressed into the lightly greased sheet pan
Lightly coat a baking sheet with one-inch sides with non-stick spray. With your fingers press dough into the pan spreading it evenly. Ideally, the dough should be less than ¼” thick. It’s best to work from the center and push to flatten the dough out to the edge of the pan. 

NOTE: If the dough sticks to your fingers, dip them in some extra gluten-free flour.
Put the pan in the oven to pre-bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until the dough begins to look dry. Cracks may appear, but that's typical.

Aram and I are getting ready to pop the tray of lahmajoun into the oven to complete baking. He's VERY excited!
Remove partially baked dough from oven and spread the lahmajoun topping evenly covering the dough’s surface. Return the pan to the oven and bake for another 20-25 minutes, or until the crust edge looks golden brown and the lahmajoun topping is completely cooked through. Once baked, allow lahmajoun to rest a few minutes before cutting.

To Serve: Cut into squares and serve with fresh parsley, sliced onions, lemon wedges and for good measure, a chopped salad.
Ready to serve

Wrap and refrigerate any leftovers. Leftover pieces can be reheated the next day,  preferably in the oven rather than in the microwave.

Aram’s Evaluation: He thought the lahmajoun and simit were amazing! I know the meat topping was good, as it was my tried-and-true recipe. Those of us not on a gluten-free diet weren’t as enthusiastic about the crust or simit as Aram was. It wasn’t so much the taste that was disagreeable, but the texture.

Next time Aram visits, we'll make lahmajoun using gluten-free tortillas. It’ll be a huge time-saver! 


Meat topping recipe for Lahmajoun
Lahmajoun topping
Ingredients:
1 lb. ground lamb or beef (or a combination of the two) Note: Ground turkey may be substituted
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium red pepper, chopped
1/2 small green pepper, chopped
½ bunch parsley, washed well, stems removed, chopped
1 - 15 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained well
2 Tbsp. tomato paste or red pepper paste
1 to 2 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 tsp. dried mint
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
1 ½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. sweet paprika
dash cayenne pepper

Directions:
1. To save time, process the onion, peppers, and parsley in a food processor, using the metal “S” blade. Squeeze out any excess liquid - this is VERY important! Be careful not to over-process. Vegetables should still be a bit chunky, not pureed. Note: If chopping by hand, be sure to finely chop the vegetables.

2. In a large bowl, combine all of the topping ingredients, mixing well.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Gluten-free Chickpea-Cardamom-Tahini ‘Pie’: An Accidental Recipe

Aram, our recent house guest, is on a gluten-free diet. While he and his wife Tricia were here, Aram and I experimented making a gluten-free crust for lahmajoun and gluten free simit. (Coming soon in a separate post.)


After Aram and Tricia left for home, I purchased the Sadaf brand of chickpea flour with the idea of making the gluten-free cookie recipe on the back of the product’s bag and sharing the recipe with Aram.

The company’s recipe is as follows:
Chickpea Cookies
Yield: 36 pieces
Ingredients:
1 cup unsalted butter
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
2 tsp. ground cardamom
3 ½ cups sifted fine chick-pea flour
Directions:
  1. Melt butter over low heat. 
  2. Combine powdered sugar and cardamom in a large bowl. Mix melted butter into the sugar-spice mixture until creamy. 
  3. Add chickpea flour, stirring constantly, to produce dough. 
    Chickpea dough
    Knead well for 10 minutes. Cover and set aside for 2 hours; do not refrigerate.
  4. Preheat oven to 300°F. Roll dough to ¼ inch thickness on a large plate. Cut out cookies with tiny cookie cutters.
  5. Place the cookies 1-inch apart on a greased baking sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until slightly golden.
  6. Remove from oven, cool and carefully put on a serving plate.

I followed the recipe to a “T” through step #3. Once the two hours were up, I tried to lift the ball of dough out of the bowl, but it crumbled into a heap! 
Crumbled chickpea dough

There was NO way I would be able to roll the dough as suggested in step #4.

What to do? I scooped up the crumbles and put them into a mixing bowl. Put about 1+ Tbsp. water and 2 Tbsp. of well-stirred tahini into the dry, crumbly mass. I gently mixed it together with my hands, making sure all was combined. The consistency was similar to a thick brownie batter.


Using an 8-inch glass pie pan which I lightly greased, I pressed the mixture into the pan. I used the back of a fork to create a pattern on the surface and added a few pistachio nuts as a garnish.
Chickpea 'pie' - before baking
The dessert baked for about 25 minutes at 350°F. 
Baked Chickpea-Cardamom-Tahini 'Pie'
The dessert had to cool completely before serving. Note: The longer it sat, the easier it was to slice and serve.
Candy-coated chickpeas
How did it taste? If you’ve ever eaten candy-coated chick peas, that should give you an idea. It was sweet, without being too sweet, with a hint of cardamom and tahini. 
It was actually pretty good, especially with a cup of coffee!


Saturday, April 20, 2019

Happy Easter!

We, at The Armenian Kitchen, wish you and your families a very Happy Easter!


Monday, April 15, 2019

Wondering what to prepare for Easter? Look no further!

I don’t know about you, but we’re all about tradition when it comes to Easter. Here’s a recap of some our Easter favorites.
Dying Easter eggs with onion skins
If you haven’t already gathered onion skins to color eggs for Easter, you’ll have to scurry to do so. If that isn’t an option, there are other ways to color hard-cooked eggs naturally. Click here to learn how.
Chorag (choreg) - perfect for Easter or Anytime!
Zadigi Kahke - Easter Cookies

As far as baking goes, chorag takes center-stage at Easter, as do Easter Cookies (Zadigi Kahke).
Easter egg salad with chorag
Just a suggestion: We sometimes have Easter Egg Salad to go with the chorag. It's a nice way to jazz-up otherwise boring hard-cooked eggs.
Roasted Leg of Lamb
Shish Kebab
The main meal? Lamb, of course! Roasted Leg of Lamb  or Lamb shish kebab.
For side dishes, just scroll through our two recipe lists and select what strikes you. (Our go-to side dishes include rice or bulgur pilaf, and fassoulia without the meat.)
Bulgur Pilaf
Another side dish option, Easter Spinach Salad, comes from Rose Baboian's "Armenian- American" cookbook.
Mini Paklava!
There’s absolutely NO question what dessert will be … Paklava (or mini Paklava), of course!


Thursday, April 4, 2019

Chickpea-Tahini and Brown Rice Pie

If you’re looking for a hearty, nourishing meal that satisfies a Lenten, vegetarian, and/or vegan diet, this just might be the one!
The hearty crust and creamy, slightly crunchy chickpea-tahini-nut filling provides a variety of textures to please your palate.


Chickpea-Tahini and Brown Rice Pie (Photo credit: Diana Herrington. Photos below are from TheArmenianKitchen.com)

Chickpea-Tahini and Brown Rice Pie
Serves 4 to 6
 (Recipe adapted from Diana Herrington, http://realfoodforlife.com)
Filling Ingredients:
1 onion, chopped
1 small garlic clove, minced
¼ cup chopped parsley
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 -15 oz. can chickpeas, drained, and rinsed
¼ cup tahini (sesame seed paste), well-stirred
1/4 cup nuts, chopped (walnuts or pecans work well)           
Salt and pepper to taste

Filling Directions:
Chickpea-tahini-nut filling
1. Sautė onion in a little olive oil until onions begin to soften, about 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic, parsley, cumin and coriander, and cook 1 more minute.

2. Add chickpeas and tahini.  Mix together, adding a little water, if necessary, to achieve a creamy, sauce-like consistency. Stir and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes. Add chopped nuts, and salt and pepper to taste. Adjust seasonings, if necessary. Set aside.

Pie Shell Ingredients:
2 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
1 cup cooked short grain brown rice** (prepared according to package directions)
2 Tbsp. fine chickpea flour                                
1/4 to 1/2 cup water

(** I used Uncle Ben's parboiled long-grain brown rice, and it worked well.)

Shell Directions:
Sesame seeds coat the bottom of the pie pan
1. Sprinkle the sesame seeds on the bottom of a pie pan that has been lightly coated with vegetable cooking spray.  Set aside.

2. In a mixing bowl, place cooked brown rice and chickpea flour. Add water, a little at a time. Gently mash with a fork to create a sticky dough-like mixture. (NOTE: Do not add water all at once!)
Brown rice crust
3. Place rice mixture in pie pan. With wet fingers, press rice mixture to create a ‘crust’.
Ready to bake!

4. Spoon chickpea filling into the crust spreading evenly.

5. Bake, uncovered, in a preheated 450°F oven for 25 - 35 minutes. Allow pie to cool slightly before slicing and serving.

Serve with a tossed salad.









Saturday, March 30, 2019

Peanut Butter Kufteh - a Unique Lenten Recipe

During Lent many take it upon themselves to take a step back and review their lives. Some choose to follow a strict  diet forgoing meat, dairy, eggs, alcohol, sweets, and the like.

If you’re one who prefers to follow a strict Lenten diet, you might want to try this recipe which offers a unique blend of flavors.
Some of St. Sarkis Women's Guild Members (L- R: Robyn, Joanne, Donna, Maro, Betty, Diane, and Noelle)
The Women’s Guild of St. Sarkis Armenian Church inCharlotte, NC reserved one day to gather in the church’s kitchen and prepare a Lenten recipe not known to many – Peanut Butter Kufteh.  Since I’d posted this recipe a while back, I was asked to ‘lead’ the project, meaning I would gather the ingredients, and share the recipe. Easily done.

Once the ladies arrived, sleeves were rolled up and work was begun. We had lots of fun while learning from each other in the process!
Peanut Butter Kufteh
Peanut Butter Kufteh (Peanut Butter filled Patties)
Yields about 24-30 kuftehs (depending on size)
Filling Ingredients:
21 oz. chunky (or smooth) peanut butter (3/4 of a 24-oz. jar)
3 cups chopped onion
1 tsp. dried mint
¼ tsp. dried basil
Pinch of cayenne pepper
2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
½ tsp. salt
Outer Shell Ingredients:
2 ½ cups fine bulgur (#1 size)
1½ cups oatmeal
1½ cups farina (Cream of Wheat)
3 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried mint
¼ tsp. dried basil
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 ½ to 3 cups hot water

Peanut Butter Filling
Filling Directions:
Mix all of the filling ingredients in the order listed until well-blended. Set aside.
Shell ingredients
Outer Shell Directions:
1. Mix together the bulgur, oatmeal, farina, flour, salt, mint, basil, cayenne, and black pepper; add most of the hot water, stirring to create a dough. Knead. If mixture is too dry, add a little more hot water. If mixture becomes too wet, add a bit more flour or farina. The dough should not be too sticky.

2. Take a ball of the dough the size of a golf ball. Make an indentation in the center with your thumb and keep opening and shaping with your index and middle finger. Press down in center and sides, rotating until you get a thin shell.

3. Fill the shell with one tablespoon or more of the filling. Seal the top and smooth with wet hands. (Keep a bowl of water handy to dip your hands to ease this process.) Shape the kufteh so that it’s flat on the bottom and slightly rounded on the top. If that’s too hard to master, keep the shape round.
Shaped kuftehs before boiling
ROBYN'S NOTE ON SHAPING:
To make the shell as thin as possible, we lined a small plate with plastic wrap, took a golf ball sized piece of the 'dough', flattened it into a circle by hand, then gently lifted it off the plastic - while trying not to break it. You really do have to keep a small bowl of water to dip your hands into for this process. The water helps 'glue' the outer shell together. After placing a spoonful of filling in the center,  gently encase the filling with the outer shell. Finally, smooth the surface with wet fingers, making sure the kufteh is flat on the bottom and slightly rounded on the top.

4. Place shaped kutfehs on a waxed paper-lined tray or plate, and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

5. While the kuftehs chill, boil water in a large pot with some salt.

6. Remove kuftehs from the refrigerator, and boil, in small batches, for about 10 minutes until all are cooked. Serve immediately.

If you prefer, after the kuftehs are boiled, place them on a paper towel-lined tray and pat dry. Lightly oil the tops of each kufteh. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for a few minutes or until the tops are lightly browned.

Serve with tahini sauce, if desired. (See recipe below)


To freeze the kufteh: After kufteh is boiled, cool completely. Wrap individually in plastic wrap to prevent them from sticking together, and store them in a freezer storage bag.


To defrost and reheat: Defrost in the refrigerator overnight. Boil some lightly salted water; reduce to a gentle boil. Add kufteh without crowding, and heat for about 5 minutes. Or, follow the instructions above for heating in the oven. 


Tahini Sauce

Ingredients:
1–2 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup tahini paste, well-stirred
¼ to ½  cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup cold water, more if needed

Optional Garnish: 1/4 cup freshly chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley, thick stems removed

Directions:

Using a garlic press, crush the garlic cloves. Place on a plate and mash with salt create a paste.

Add the mashed garlic, tahini paste and ¼ cup of lime juice to the bowl of a food processor and blend until smooth. Add a little bit of water and blend again. Taste to see if you need to add more lime juice. If the consistency is thicker than you’d like, add more water until you reach the desired consistency. 

NOTE: Tahini sauce will thicken as it emulsifies.

Transfer the tahini to a serving bowl, and garnish with fresh chopped parsley, if you wish.