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.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Alphabets and Apples

A few months after Doug and I moved to South Carolina, we bumped into an old NJ friend at the St. Sarkis Food Festival in Charlotte, NC. What a surprise it was to see our friend Andy, whom we hadn’t seen in 50 years!

It turns out that Andy and his wife Linda live just a few miles from us - but just across the state line. We’ve gotten together several times sharing good (Armenian) food and stories of decades gone by.

Recently, Doug and I were invited to their home for a delicious lunch and a tour of the nearby Alphabet Museum, a  truly interesting place!

The museum traces the history of the world’s alphabets in an array of very impressive displays. You can imagine how delighted we were to see the Armenian alphabet exhibit featuring Mesrob Mashdots! His greatest achievement was inventing and systematizing the Armenian alphabet in 406 AD.
A bust of Mesrob (Mesrop) Mashdots at the Alphabet Museum, Waxhaw, NC
After our outting, we headed back to Andy and Linda’s for dessert and coffee. Since it’s officially apple season, my contribution to the meal was an apple galette – a French version of an apple pie. I realize it’s not an Armenian recipe, but at least it was made by one!

Here’s how I made it …
Apple Galette

Quick and Easy Apple Galette
Serves 6 to 8

1 commercially-prepared refrigerated pie crust -or- one sheet of puff pastry (I used the pie crust)
4 apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch chunks (I used a combination of Honey Crisp and Fuji apples)
1/3 cup sugar (use more- or- less depending on the sweetness of the apples, and, your own preference)
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
¼ tsp. salt
1 ½  to 2 Tbsp. cornstarch or flour
Egg Wash: 1 beaten egg
Garnish with a sprinkling of sugar, if you wish

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Roll the pie crust dough or puff pastry dough into a thin, 12-inch circle. Place it on an ungreased baking sheet; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Meantime, mix together all of the filling ingredients, tossing gently to coat apples.

Remove crust from the refrigerator and uncover. Arrange the apples in a mound in the center of the crust, leaving a 2-inch border of dough.

Gently fold the dough edge over the apples, pleating loosely as you go. Leave the apples in the center uncovered.

Brush dough surface with egg wash. Lightly sprinkle sugar over the crust and apples, if you like.

Bake for about 30-40 minutes, or until the dough is golden brown.

Cool galette on the baking sheet for 10-15 minutes, then carefully slide it onto a wire rack to cool completely. Carefully transfer the galette onto a serving platter.

To Serve: The galette is delicious on its own, but may also be served with freshly whipped cream or a good-quality ice cream.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Belgian Endive with Roquefort, Walnuts and Cranberries, by Chef David Vartanian

Way back in 2011, I introduced Christine Vartanian-Datian to the readers of The Armenian Kitchen. In the story I mentioned that Christine’s love of cooking was passed down from her grandmother and mother. Another family member, Christine’s cousin, David Vartanian, also inherited the ‘cooking gene’. He is a highly regarded chef  at The Vintage Press in Visalia, CA.

 David Vartanian ,The Vintage Press, Visalia, CA, named one of America’s Best Chefs

I haven’t been to the Fresno, CA area in almost 50 years (yikes!), but if I ever do get back there, I will certainly pay a visit to Chef Vartanian’s restaurant. (Please read the full details below.)

Christine offered the following recipe from Chef David for The Armenian Kitchen to share. Please enjoy!  
Chef David's Belgian Endive with Roquefort, Walnuts and Cranberries

Chef David Vartanian's Belgian Endive with Roquefort, Walnuts and Cranberries
This salad with crunchy walnuts is for real blue cheese lovers.  Pair with a grilled steak or lamb chops and boiled baby red skin potatoes for a classic steak house meal.
Serves 4.
Ingredients for Roquefort Dressing:
1/4 cup Roquefort cheese
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup buttermilk
2 limes, juice of
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Pinch black pepper

Ingredients for Salad:
4 heads Belgian endive
1/2 cup cranberries, dried
1/2 cup California walnuts, coarsely chopped
4 ounces Roquefort cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup Roquefort dressing, prepared

Preparation for Roquefort dressing:
1. Melt Roquefort cheese in the oven or in a pan on top of the stove, being very careful not to scorch. Let cool.
2. In a bowl, combine the melted cheese, mayonnaise, buttermilk, juice of two limes, Worcestershire Sauce, cayenne, red wine vinegar, and black pepper; mix well until all ingredients are combined. If desired, add an additional 2 ounces of Roquefort cheese for an even more intense flavor.

Salad Preparation:
1. Trim the base of the endive using a diagonal cut, then separate the leaves.
2. Toss the cranberries, nuts and Roquefort together in a bowl, being careful not to break up the Roquefort too much.
3. Spoon the mixture into the endive leaves and garnish with the watercress.  For advance preparation: Fill the Belgian endive leaves up to three hours before, cover and chill.  Garnish just before serving.  Drizzle with Roquefort Salad Dressing, as desired.  

The Vintage Press Restaurant, in Visalia, California is one of Central California's most elegant dining experiences. Since 1966, the Vartanian family has welcomed local residents, visitors and dignitaries alike on many special occasions.  Wine Spectator writes that the Vintage Press has "one of the best wine lists in the world," while Fodor's raves it is "The best restaurant in the Central Valley.”  The L.A. Times applauds the Vintage Press as "a bastion of culinary merit."  With four distinctive rooms and classic menus that reflect the current season, the Vintage Press invites you to join them at your earliest opportunity. The Vintage Press is renowned for its outstanding food and service.  Critics believe this is the best restaurant in the Sequoia region and a true fine-dining experience, with white tablecloths, plush red leather banquettes and exceptional service.  The Vintage Press serves classic beef, lamb, seafood and specialty dishes. The exceptional menu encompasses a wide range of influences, meaning you could order the excellent lamb kebobs while your companion feasts on spicy chile relleno.  Classic American dishes and pastas are well done, especially the restaurant’s famed filet mignon. The wine list is similarly superlative. 

"Best Place in Visalia!”

“The VP, as it's commonly called, is the finest restaurant in Visalia. The food is always amazing. The service is impeccable. And the atmosphere provides an elegant feeling. Outstanding restaurant!”
- Trip Advisor, 2016

"A Favorite for Everyone”
“This fine dining establishment is a favorite for everyone in the area as well as for many who drive long distances to enjoy a fabulous meal. You can't go wrong whether you choose from the menu or from the always interesting list of specials for the day. The chef, David Vartanian, should have a TV show about farm to table ingredients as well as unusual takes on the familiar. From comfort food to exotic fare, he is a master.”
- Trip Advisor, 2017
216 N. Willis St.
Visalia, CA 93291
Phone: (559) 733-3033
Featuring upscale, classic cuisine with a creative twist and farm to table sensibility.
Open for Lunch, Dinner or Sunday Brunch.

Friday, September 21, 2018

CHICK BRTUJ (Meatless Kyufta) from Sonia Tashjian

Today is Armenian Independence Day! To help celebrate,
Sonia Tashjian, my go-to food expert in Yerevan, offered her recipe for Chick Brtuj - Meatless Kyufta (Kufteh) to share with you.  
Sonia Tashjian's Chick Brtuj (Meatless kufteh) with Onion-Tomato Dipping Sauce

Traditional Kufteh is made with fine bulgur mixed with finely ground meat for the shell, and then stuffed with a spiced meat-onion filling. It's sometimes shaped like a small football (my maternal grandmother's style), or flattened on the bottom with a rounded top (my paternal grandmother's style) - somewhat like a flying saucer -at least, that's what we thought, as kids.

Sonia's meatless kufteh is perfect for a vegetarian or Lenten meal.

Sonia explains:

"'Chick' means "chga" - or - 'there is none - or - without' and the Armenian name of such kyuftas is 'brtuj', which means a portion prepared in the palm.
(other synonyms are sekhem & jankig).....
Therefore, chick - brtuj (or chick kyufta) means this is a meatless dish.

This recipe is the everyday version of uncooked meat brtuj, or chi kufteh. 
(Nowdays when we say chick kyufta, we understand it to be the meat version; but in the old books, there is mention about this non-meat kyufta)."

Sonia's recipe:

1)- Mix 1 Tbsp. of red pepper paste into 1 cup of fine bulghur; set aside.
2)- Finely chop 1 medium onion + 1 tomato + 1 green or red pepper.
3)- Mix together, knead it by pouring olive oil; season with red & black pepper, cumin & lemon juice.
4)- Blend it in a food processor if necessary.
5)- Mix in chopped mint leaves & parsley;
6)- Shape brtuj to resemble little sausages using wet hands. 

Serve with onion - tomato sauce.

To prepare sauce:
Dilute some water into 4 Tbsp. tomato paste until it can pour thickly from a spoon. Mix in finely chopped onion. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.