Saturday, August 17, 2019

Gorgod Abour KHOURE TANOU / ԽՈՒՐԸ ԹԱՆՈՒ - A dish with Bulgur and Vegetables from Sonia Tashjian

The following recipe is one of Sonia Tashjian’s go-to dishes. It’s easy to prepare, and most Armenians will have all of the ingredients on hand. (FYI, bulgur is sold in Middle Eastern stores. Many large grocery store chains now carry bulgur, too!)

My maternal grandmother and Sonia’s family came from the same region of the world (Musa Ler), so needless to say, I’ve chowed-down on similar bulgur dishes for my entire life.
Luckily for us, Sonia also provides a bit of background to the food she prepares.
My version of Sonia Tashjian's Gorgod Abour


According to Sonia:
“Gorgod means cracked wheat which comes in several sizes. For example, fine gorgod (size #1) is best used for kololak; medium (size #2) for eech; coarse (size #3) for pilaf.

The word ‘apour’ has two meanings: 1. Soup – and - 2. Pilaf. In the Musaler dialect, apour means pilaf. There are a lot of regions, that use APOUR for pilaf, & SHOURBA for soup.”

This pilaf recipe is very tasty and so simple to make.

(A dish with Bulgur and Vegetables)
Serves about 4

1 small onion, chopped
1 small bell pepper, any color, seeds removed and chopped
2 small to medium tomatoes, chopped (I used a handful of grape tomatoes)
1 cup coarse (#3) bulgur (I used a smaller size - #2- bulgur as it’s what I had on hand)
1 cup water (vegetable or chicken broth may be substituted)
red & black pepper, cumin, mint, salt to taste
1 to 2 Tbsp. olive oil

Vegetables I had on hand for the recipe - grape tomatoes, orange and yellow bell peppers, and onion.
Heat oil in a medium sized pot. Sauté the onions in olive oil for a few minutes. Next add the peppers and cook a few more minutes, stirring now and then. Add the tomatoes and cook about 2 more minutes.
Vegetables and seasonings sauteeing in olive oil
Season with red & black pepper, cumin, mint, salt to taste, and stir.
Bulgur and vegetables cooking together for a minute before adding liquid.
Add the bulgur to the vegetables; stir to coat.
Liquid added to bulgur and vegetables
Finally add 1 cup of water (or broth). Stir. Bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to low and cover the pot. Cook for about 10-12  minutes (without lifting the lid to peak!) or until the liquid is absorbed.

Once done, use a fork to fluff the bulgur. Arrange in a serving bowl. Garnish with parsley, if desired.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Peach Sorbet

Georgia is known as the ‘Peach State’, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only place to get amazing peaches. According to the SouthCarolina Dept. of Agriculture, S.C. actually ‘averages more than three times the amount (in pounds) of peaches harvested in Georgia in a typical season.’ In addition, peaches from South Carolina are mighty delicious – sweet, juicy – you get the idea.
South Carolina Freestone Peaches
This year’s crop has been abundant, so peaches have become part of our daily diet. I’ve even had to freeze a bunch for future use.
The recipe below is one perfect way to use frozen peaches – and they’re great in smoothies, too!

Peach Sorbet (Image from Bon Appetit)
Peach Sorbet
Yields 4 to 6 servings
(Original recipe is from Bon Appetit Magazine)

4 medium peaches, peeled, chopped, frozen (about 4 cups)
½ cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp. vodka (Note: The vodka helps prevent ice crystals from forming, and, no, you can’t taste the vodka!)
¼ tsp. kosher salt
¼ cup honey

All ingredients ready to blend
Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender. 
Ingredients thoroughly blended
Blend, scraping down the sides now and then with a spatula, until mixture is very smooth. 
Mixture spread evenly in metal loaf pan
Spread the mixture evenly in a metal loaf pan. (Sorbet will freeze better in a metal pan rather than a Pyrex one.) 
Parchment paper placed on sorbet before freezing
Press a piece of parchment paper directly on the surface. Place the pan in the freezer until sorbet is firm, about 6 hours.

Note: This can be made about 3 days in advance. But keep it frozen!

To serve: Thaw in refrigerator about 30 minutes before scooping.

It’s that simple.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Bijug – Bulgur Patties in Tomato Sauce - a recipe from Sonia Tashjian

Sonia Tashjian
Sonia Tashjian, Armenian food expert and enthusiast, is a never-ending source of interesting, delicious, and easy-to-prepare recipes from numerous Armenian regions.
Here is one such dish which Sonia was kind enough to share.
Sonia Tashjian's Bijug recipe - Bulgur Patties in Tomato Sauce

Bijug – Bulgur Patties in Tomato Sauce - a dish from the Sasun region

Ingredients for bulgur patties:
1 cup fine bulgur (#1)
1/2 cup flour
Measure the following to suit your taste: garlic (mashed or powder), red and black pepper, dry basil, dried thyme, and salt

Ingredients for the sauce:
3 medium onions, chopped
2 Tbsp. oil
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
Salt to taste

Combine the flour, bulgur, and seasonings to taste; knead with just enough water for the ingredients to hold together well. Pinch-off pieces and roll into balls the size of walnuts. 

Flatten the balls and cook them in gently boiling salted water. Remove from water and place on a plate lined with paper towels. Place patties in a serving bowl; cover to keep them warm.

Fry the chopped onions in the oil; add the tomato paste that's been diluted with enough water to create a sauce; add salt to taste. Bring to a boil and pour over the flattened balls; serve.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Parsley, Onions and Eggs - made in a muffin tin!

My family loves Sokhov Boghdonosov Dabag, known in English as Parsley, Onions, and Eggs. It’s is one of those regional Armenian dishes that one side of my family (the Dikranagerdsis) made, but the other side (the Musa Daghsis) didn’t.

These delicious little egg ‘pancakes’ (for lack of a better word) are cooked in olive oil, and, boy, can they soak it up! I always place the cooked ones on paper towels to absorb as much oil as possible and that helps - to a point.

Over the years I’ve mixed eggs with other ingredients, such as spinach, peppers, shredded cheese, etc. and baked them in muffins tins. If made in advance, these are great for a quick breakfast or an easy snack. Plus they freeze well, and heat-up in a flash in the microwave for a grab-and-go breakfast.

Why I never thought to make the parsley onions and eggs in a muffin tin before now, I’ll never know.
But as it’s said: Better late than never!
Parsley, Onion, and Egg 'Muffins' served with crispy strips of ... Basturma!
Baked Parsley, Onion, and Egg ‘Muffins’
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 bunch Italian parsley, washed, patted dry, stems removed, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh dill or 1 tsp. dried dill, optional
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ tsp. Aleppo pepper or to taste, optional
6 to 8 large eggs


Sautéed onions
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Sauté onions in olive oil over medium heat until they begin to soften - about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and cool a few minutes before adding to eggs.

Place the eggs in a mixing bowl and beat with a fork until light and fluffy. Add parsley and onions, dill and Aleppo pepper – if using, salt and pepper; mix together until combined.

Using vegetable spray, lightly grease 8 to 9 sections of a 12-cup muffin tin. (Note: I used 7 large eggs which filled 9 of the cups.) 
Parsley, onions and eggs - ready to bake
Using a ladle, add equal amounts of the egg mixture into the sprayed cups, but do not fill each cup more than 3/4 full. 

Bake for about 20 minutes or until eggs are set. This can be checked by inserting a small paring knife or a wooden toothpick in the center. When done, the inserted knife or toothpick should come out clean.
Hot from the oven!
Serve immediately or at room temperature.

To make this meal really something special, serve with crispy strips of basturma (bet you thought I was going to say bacon, didn’t you?!), Armenian string cheese, and lavash or pita bread.

Note: When completely cooled, the leftover ‘egg-muffins’ can be placed in a freezer storage bag and frozen for later use.

To reheat: I'd suggest placing the number of frozen egg-muffins you plan to eat in the refrigerator overnight to defrost. Next morning, place a few at a time on a microwave-safe plate, without crowding; cover with a paper towel and heat in 30 seconds increments at 50% power until heated through.
WARNING: Don’t over-do the heating or else the end result will be rubbery!

Friday, July 19, 2019

Fox Trot Farm - to - Table Recipe (and tour): American Lamb Shanks

While doing an online exploration of Lancaster County, South Carolina last month, Doug came across a place called Fox Trot Farm not far from our home. What drew him to this farm was the fact that they raise lamb for their meat. According to the website, the owners raise ‘a breed of meat sheep known as “hair sheep” due to their ability to shed their coats in the spring and summer. Their meat is lean, mild, and tender.’
Sheep and baby lambs roam at Fox Trot Farm
In addition to sheep, Fox Trot Farm has goats (their milk is used to make soap which is sold on the farm), a donkey, a pig, livestock guardian dogs, and chickens for their farm-fresh eggs. 
Freshly laid eggs! These are NOT dyed; it's their natural color.
There’s an apiary for their honeybees, too. The honey is harvested in June and the extra beeswax is melted for use in soaps. Honey is for sale as it becomes available.

Farmer Bob Burgess and his wife Debbie, a warm and welcoming couple, own and operate the farm. It's open only on Sundays between 1-5 PM, weather permitting. 
Farmer Bob getting ready to take a group on a tour in the hay wagon.
Bob takes visitors on a tour in the hay wagon pulled by his tractor, while Debbie runs the store, among many other things.

Doug and I chose to walk the grounds in order to hang out with the farm animals; it was pretty neat!

We’d hoped to be bringing home a variety of lamb cuts that day but discovered their lamb production isn’t until September. You can bet-your-boots we’ll be heading back then.
Rack of Lamb for sale at the Farm, when available
I was particularly happy to learn that the Burgess' favorite recipes are posted on their website, including the following one for Lamb Shanks.

As soon as lamb products are available, we'll return to Fox Trot Farm, to purchase the shanks and other cuts. We'll have a lamb-fest – and report back to you!

Here’s Debbie and Bob’s special Lamb Shank recipe …
Fox Trot Farm Braised Lamb Shanks

Fox Trot Farm Braised Lamb Shanks
Makes 2 hearty servings
1 package Fox Trot Farm Lamb Shanks (2 shanks, about 1 ½ lbs.)
Flour, salt, and pepper
2 tablespoons bacon drippings or olive or canola oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped carrots
½ cup chopped celery
1 heaping teaspoon minced garlic
½ teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc, or chicken broth
3 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste

-Defrost, rinse and dry lamb shanks.
-Liberally dust with flour, salt, and pepper.
-Heat oil in Dutch oven till shimmering. Do not burn.
-Brown shanks on all sides in hot oil, turning as the meat becomes deep brown. (Important for richer flavor to not skip this step.)
-Remove browned shanks to plate.
-Add chopped vegetables to the pan drippings and sauté till they start to soften.
-Add garlic, thyme, and tomato paste and stir till combined with vegetables.
-Pour 1 cup wine (or chicken broth), and remaining broth into the vegetable mixture. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
-Add bay leaf and season to taste with salt and pepper. (I go light on the pepper and let folks add more to their plate when served.)
-Return shanks to the Dutch oven and nestle them down into the vegetables and broth.
-Tightly cover and turn heat down to low simmer. Braise, turning every 20 minutes or so, for 2 hours or until the meat is falling-off-the-bone tender.
-Serve over rice, potatoes, noodles, or just in a bowl with the broth and sop up all that delicious broth with crusty bread or rolls.
-One shank is a perfect portion for each person.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Cheesy-Basterma Fillo Cups: A Tasty Little Appetizer

I’m a big fan of American-Greek chef, author Diane Kochilas. I watch her cooking show, 'My Greek Table', with great admiration. She’s talented, witty, and really knows her way around the kitchen!

In one episode, she made an appetizer which included basterma (pasturma to the Greeks), so I paid close attention.
It’s really simple actually, and not too different from the cheese borag bites I posted years ago. I’ve changed her original recipe, which uses Kasseri cheese, just a bit to suit our taste. 
Image of Pita Kaisarias in Phyllo Cups from Diane Kochilas' 'My Greek Table'

Cheesy-Basterma Fillo Cups

½ cup unsalted butter, melted

2 – 15 count pkgs. frozen fillo cups, defrosted (Note: sold in the freezer section of most grocery stores)

2 cups grated Colby cheese (Monterey Jack or Muenster cheese may be substituted – or a combination of these to equal 2 cups) Note: Diane’s recipe uses 2 cups of grated Kasseri cheese)

2 or 3 ripe Roma tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped

15 thin slices of basterma with most of the spice rub removed, finely chopped (sold in most Middle Eastern stores) Note: If basterma is unavailable, you can substitute Bresaola which is sold in the deli section of most grocery stores.

Salt and pepper, to taste, optional

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place fillo cups on a lightly greased – or parchment-lined- baking sheet. Brush insides of cups with melted butter.

In a mixing bowl, combine the grated cheese, chopped tomatoes, and basterma. Taste mixture to see if you’ll need salt and pepper. If so, add it here.

Place a small spoonful of mixture in each fillo cup. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool slightly; serve.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Two wheels plus great meals make this Dutch traveler's visit to Armenia and Artsakh special

Our friend David Blasco authors a lively blog about Royal Enfield motorcycles, You may recognize his name from previous posts and from his occasional comments on this site. You probably don’t recognize the brand.
Royal Enfield motorcycles have never been common in the States but they have a storied history in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. Their popularity eventually waned in the home country, however, and the factory closed in 1970.

David Blasco and his Bullet
Production resumed a few years later, not in England but in India. David, who was not yet a motorcycle rider, knew nothing about this until he read a newspaper article in 2001. He was enchanted by a peculiar circumstance: Enfield India wasn’t building replicas or updated retro bikes. It had simply continued to build the Royal Enfield Bullet, icon of long-ago era.

David, inveterate Anglophile and fan of unusual vehicles, could not resist buying a brand-new 1955 British motorcycle. Readers around the world have been following his adventures since 2008.

Note that I use the word “adventures” from a special perspective: I do not ride a motorcycle. My big excursion most days is walking to the mailbox. So, David’s tales of puttering along the palmy streets of Fort Lauderdale, Florida at harrowing speeds up to 40 miles per hour seem adventurous to me.

At least, they did until David passed along this link to a video blog by a 31-year-old Danish rider named Noraly. She is traveling the world on a Royal Enfield, albeit a more modern variant suited to traversing deserts, mountains and rock-strewn trails.

In other words, the perfect vehicle to reach Armenia.

Noraly and her Royal Enfield Himalayan
Noraly has posted several videos from her time there, including a side trip to Artsakh (Karabakh). Food features prominently. If you’re impatient watching roadside scenes, fast-forward this video to 9 minutes, 10 seconds and join her for an impromptu dinner with an Armenian family who invited this stranger into their home when she stopped to ask for directions.
Traveler Noraly didn't recognize most of what her Armenian hosts offered but she apparently loved it all. And yes, at center is my favorite anytime-breakfast, scrambled eggs with tomatoes!

She later spends the night at a “hostel,” really a rented room in a village home. For her, it’s an experience. For us, it’s a sobering glimpse of life in rural Armenia where nearly all roads are rocky and rutted, and where the little dram offered by a passing traveler can provide a critical boost to a family’s fortunes.

Fresh cheese and bread in Artsakh
Noraly is not a tour guide nor historian, so her commentary is mostly about the rigors and rewards of long-distance motorcycle riding. But she offers repeated praise for the beauty of the countryside and for the friendliness of Armenians who have so little for themselves yet share everything so generously.

And, of course, she instantly learns to love Armenian food!

You can learn more about Noraly and her journey at We wish her safe travels. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

An Armenian-inspired menu for a very American Fourth of July

Instead of serving the usual hamburgers and potato salad, why not celebrate America’s independence with their Armenian-inspired counterparts instead? Your family and guests will thank you for it!

Entrée: Lule Kebab (seasoned ground meat shaped like a sausage) or Losh Kebab (seasoned ground meat shaped like a hamburger) with Yogurt-Garlic Sauce
Side Dish: Nanny’s Armenian Potato Salad (no mayonnaise needed!)
Dessert: Watermelon with Armenian string cheese and fresh mint
Lule kebab and veggies on the grill

Yields 5 or 6 kebabs - enough for 2 to 3 hungry people (NOTE: You can double the ingredient amounts for a larger crowd.)

1 and 1/2 lbs. ground lamb or beef
3 Tbsp. finely chopped onion
3 Tbsp. finely chopped flat leaf parsley
1 Tablespoon tomato paste - or - red pepper paste (available in Middle Eastern stores - or- tomato paste mixed with a dash of cayenne pepper and paprika may be substituted for the red pepper paste.)
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. allspice
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste

**Gently mix all of the ingredients with salt and pepper (see note below) and shape the kebabs like sausages(Lule kebab) or hamburgers (Losh kebab) -- you don't have to get fancy or worry about making them perfect, but try to keep the thickness about the same so they cook evenly.

Cook on the grill until done - which, to us, means well done, or about 15 minutes in all. Since these aren’t flat burgers, turn them periodically so they’ll cook through.

**NOTE: To check the seasonings, make a mini-kebab and cook it in a frying pan.

Tip: Toss some tomatoes, peppers and onions in olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper.

Grill them along with the kebabs. Serve with a salad and the pilaf of your choice.

Serve with lavash or pita bread, onions and parsley, and yogurt-garlic sauce on the side, if you like.

16 oz. plain yogurt
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt to taste

1. In a small mixing bowl, combine yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, and salt. Mix well.
2. Chill until ready to serve, allowing flavors to blend. Can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.

NOTE: If you want a thicker sauce, use Greek yogurt or labne - or - line a strainer with cheesecloth or coffee filters. Place the strainer over a bowl. Pour the yogurt into the lined strainer and place all in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. Discard the excess liquid that collected in the bowl - or save it for another use, and place the thickened yogurt in a separate storage container. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.
Armenian Potato Salad (Photo courtesy of Sonia Tashjian)

Yield: Serves 4
This recipe can easily be doubled.

1 to 1 1/2 lbs. potatoes, boiled, peeled and sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 tsp. red pepper paste, diluted with a little water (Note: Tomato paste mixed with a dash of cayenne pepper and paprika may be substituted for the red pepper paste.)
cumin, allspice, salt and pepper, to taste
about 2 Tbsp. olive oil
lemon juice, optional

1. In a small bowl, mix the red pepper paste with a little water to thin it out. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, onion, parsley, diluted red pepper paste, and seasonings. Add olive oil; gently toss. Adjust seasonings, if needed. Add a little lemon juice, if desired.
3. Serve at room temperature, or chilled.
Watermelon and Armenian string cheese


For an effortless dessert, serve seedless watermelon – sliced or cubed. Served with Armenian string cheese or Feta cheese, garnished with chopped fresh mint, if you like.
NOTE: Armenian string cheese is sold in Middle Eastern stores and in some supermarkets.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Armenian Food Products - in a Gas Station? You bet!

Back in 2012, Doug and I discovered a gas station in Stuart, FL that housed a Middle Eastern grocery store and surprisingly terrific café. What a find!

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, May, 2019 in Indian Land, SC. As Doug and I were driving toward Charlotte, NC, we passed an Exxon gas station with a yellow and black sign which caught our attention: Eastern European Foods.  

We stopped in to discover an array of food products from Russia, Georgia, the Ukraine – and – Armenia! 

Besides the shelved groceries, there are refrigerated compartments with cheeses, perogies, cakes, sausages, and more.

The Armenian products included a variety of fruit nectars, jellies, preserves, and grape leaves – and, the best part, it's only a 10 minute drive from our home. Naturally, we bought a bunch of things - Noyan grape leaves, Apricot Nectar, Eggplant Caviar, to name a few. 
Two of our purchases from a local gas station in Indian Land, South Carolina.

On a second visit recently, we noticed the largest package of lavash we’d ever seen, Armenian Lori cheese (actually, a product of Tbilisi, Georgia), and – drum roll, please – basterma (basturma)– in a gas station!

We bought the lavash and cheese; basterma purchase would have to wait for another visit.

Lavash and Armenian Lori cheese - our latest  gas station finds. 
I wasn't familiar with Lori cheese, so I did some research. First, I went to the company’s website – you can read the findings below.

The following explanation about Lori cheese comes from the manufacturer’s website: ABOUT PRODUCT : Rennet cheese. Pulp of color from white to light yellow. Has a dense, brittle structure. Throughout the volume of the cheese body are small holes. Without a peel. Taste - milky, medium salty, sometimes with sourness.

Next, I reached for my copy of Irina Petrosian’s book, ‘Armenian Food: Fact Fiction and Folklore’ for more details. 
Ms. Petrosian notes that Lori cheese, ‘a traditional Armenian cheese, has a short fermentation period, is aged in brine, is salty and not fully aged. Its firm texture is due to the curd being heated twice. Lori cheese has irregular holes formed from gases produced during the curing stage.’

After tasting a tiny piece of the cheese, it reminded me of a cross between a good Parmigiano-Reggiano and Feta cheese.

For cheese-lovers who like a rather tangy, salty cheese, it’s good on its own. When grated or crumbled, Lori cheese would be a lovely addition to soup, salad, pasta, or in a filling for cheese boregs. Serve it with fruit, fresh greens (scallions, fresh herbs), fresh tomatoes – but don’t forget lavash! 
For cocktail hour, why not pair Lori cheese with wine? (Sorry, I can’t suggest a wine – not my department).

For those who prefer a less salty cheese, I have it on good authority from Sonia Tashjian, that Lori cheese can be cut into pieces then immersed in cold water to reduce the saltiness.

The next time you're driving past a gas station, stop inside; you might be surprised at what you'll find.