Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

So you think Santa's soaking up the sun on South Beach these days just because Dec. 25th has passed?

Not as far as Armenians are concerned, and we ought to know: The original Hye Flying old timer is one of us, and this is his big day.

We call him Gaghant Baba and he's been scribbling out that famous list of his since the Western Santa was just a subordinate Clause.

As you know, Armenians celebrate Christmas on Jan. 6th, but it's a strictly religious holiday. New Year's Day is the time for merriment, and New Year's Eve is when the jolly old gift-giver makes his rounds.

Of course, if you want to get really technical, Armenian New Year was originally in August -- but that's just too brutal to even think about here in Florida.

We just hope you still believe in Gaghant Baba, because we sure do. We'll be leaving out a tray of fresh-baked choreg for him before we go to bed tonight.

And I can promise you: It will all be gone by morning.

Happy New Year to all!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Roejig - a Grape Juice and Walnut Delight

I recently received a comment from reader Carol on the post, “Bastegh is the only Nanny Candy worth eating…”. She's been looking for a recipe for Roejig, a grape juice and walnut roll, and asked for help from The Armenian Kitchen in finding one.

I found a ROEJIG recipe in the Treasured Armenian Recipes cookbook published by the Detroit Women’s Chapter of the AGBU (Armenian General Benevolent Union).

 This cookbook was originally copyrighted in 1949; my copy came from the 17th printing in 1968. It's a wonderful resource -- and it's still available. (Contact the AGBU bookstore for information by emailing

I must warn you: this recipe takes time and plenty of patience. Roll up your sleeves, and Good Luck!

ROEJIG -or- Sweet Soujouk

3 quarts white grape juice (or other fruit juice)
3 cups flour (Gold Medal)
3 cups sugar
1 cup cornstarch
Walnuts in shells


Blend flour, sugar and cornstarch together, then add juice and mix well until smooth.

Soak walnuts in water for ½ hour, then shell. Try to get the nuts out in complete halves. Take a strong string with a big needle to string the half nuts only. The first two half nuts should come back to back in the middle of the string. Then string the rest of the nuts in the same position as each of the first two. Tie the ends of string to a stick leaving a space of 3 inches between them in order to keep the row of nuts apart and also to hang conveniently. Nuts should be facing upwards so the thickened grape juice clings on.

Cook half the amount of the grape juice until thick. Dip the strung nuts into this juice several times then hang to dry overnight. Cook the remaining juice the second day, dip the nuts several times and hang to dry overnight. Takes several days to dry well. When dry, cut any desired length and roll in powdered sugar.

Cut round slices for eating. Keep in covered jars.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

If you like wine, thank an Armenian

In an article on the outlook for Armenia's wine industry, the Web site notes that Turkey has about 1,200 native varieties of grapes -- and 250 of them have pure Armenian names.

It's one of the rare vestiges of Historical Armenia to have escaped linguistic cleansing. But the vineyards once cultivated by Armenians have  been neglected by Southeastern Turkey's heavily Kurdish population.

The article speculates that an open border between Armenia and Turkey could someday result in an effort by Armenians to restore these vineyards and revive wine-making there. Of course, the world would know the result as Turkish wine, not Armenian.

In the same article, Armenian ethnographer Suren Hobosyan states that almost none of Armenia's own 500 varieties of wild grapes have survived.

"History shows that these sorts first became victim to Islam, then to Czarist Russia, then to the Soviet Union. Meanwhile, the world's best sorts are descendants of Armenian grapes."

You think that's maybe a bit of ethnic boasting? Check out a book called Ancient Wine by Patrick McGovern (Princeton University Press). McGovern notes mounting evidence, including DNA, to support the long-held Noah theory of the origins of viniculture, the cultivation of grapes for wine-making.

Simply put, the lands around Mount Ararat appear to be where it all began.

"Ancient Armenian viniculture was so advanced by the eighth century B.C. that the Ararat Valley was described as the 'land of vineyards' in inscriptions of the kings of Urartu," McGovern writes. "Deep irrigation channels, still in use today, were dug through volcanic rock along the Razdan River (ancient Araxes) to water the grapevines and other crops."

In fact, McGovern argues that all agriculture as well as viniculture may be traced to the lands between the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers -- in other words, ancient Armenia.

So you can thank Armenians for bread as well as wine. I'll have to do a little more digging to see if we invented cheese, too. What else do you need to make a perfect meal?

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas To All!

Yes, we know it's not Armenian Christmas -- but we're here in America, and it would be pretty depressing to feel left out of the joyous celebration going on all around.

Besides, it's always appropriate to pray for peace on Earth and good will among all of us who have to share the planet.

Looking back on this year, our family feels truly blessed. We wish the same for all of you, for all time.

So please forgive us if we repeat ourselves on Jan. 6: Shnorhavor Nor Dari yev Soorp Dznoont to you all, from Robyn, Doug, Mandy and Mary (Rob's Mom!)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Eating well means eating "gud" - Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds (aka 'Gud')
When we were kids, a bowl of roasted pumpkin seeds (what Armenians called "gud") always meant company was coming.

I could nibble through the whole bowl in no time, which is why they were usually locked away or stashed up high. Running out simply wouldn't do, as they were among the required mezzeh items that Armenians have always lavished on guests.

I can still nibble through a bowl in no time, but nowadays it's at least defensible and maybe even a smart thing for someone my age to do.

Roasted pumpkin seeds get raves from health-smart food sources. Among their good qualities are high levels of zinc, which is very much in vogue. Among the touted benefits are improved prostate and bone health in older (ahem...) men and potential cholesterol-lowering properties for everyone. Gud has even been promoted as a treatment for arthritis pain, according to the folks at Whole Foods.

Regardless of whether they're really a miracle snack, they're sure fun to eat. They're a little less fun to prepare because you have to scoop out a pumpkin, separate the seeds, dry them, soak them, boil them and roast them.
Or use my favorite method and buy them ready to eat.

If you insist on doing things the old fashioned way, try simmering the seeds in salted water for a half hour or so. Then spread them on a baking pan and roast at 350 for another half hour to 45 minues.

Just be careful not to let them burn.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Cheese Kadaif

Christmas is a time filled with holiday cheer - and- holiday desserts.

Cookies are bountiful, but I’m on cookie-overload after the cookie-exchange party!

We were invited to the home of friends Bonnie and David for dinner, so I offered to bring something. Bonnie said anything would be fine, but if I just happened to be testing an Armenian recipe...
I wasn’t planning to test a recipe with Christmas shopping on my schedule, but I figured, “what the heck?"

So, this is what I made…. Cheese Kadaif (aka Kinaffeh).
I must warn you: if you're counting calories, this dessert might not be for you.

This is actually easier to make than cookies, and it’s oh, so good! The hard part, at least in certain areas, is finding the kadaif dough.

FYI: Kadaif  dough is shredded phyllo dough which is sold fresh or frozen. As long as you have access to a Middle Eastern store, you should be able to find  the dough. A box of Shredded Wheat (the large size rolled cereal) can be used in place of the commercially prepared kadaif dough, but it needs to be softened in cold milk, and placed on a towel to drain. Separate the cereal rolls and continue the recipe as given below.

Baked Cheese Kadaif
Here’s how to make Cheese Kadaif


1 lb. package kadaif, defrosted and at room temperature
¾ lb. unsalted clarified butter*
1 lb. fresh mozzarella cheese**, or curd cheese, cut in 1/4inch slices

1. In a large bowl, separate the shreds of dough, fluffing it with your fingers.
2. Pour the melted butter over the dough, tossing to distribute butter throughout. (See first photo.)
3. Distribute half of the dough in a 8” x12” inch baking pan. Gently press down dough.
4. Arrange all of the cheese slices on top of the dough.
5. Cover cheese with the remaining dough, distributing it evenly.
6. Bake in a preheated 375°F oven, uncovered, for 45 minutes, or until golden brown.
7. Cut into serving pieces.
8. While still hot, pour some simple syrup*** over each piece. Let guests add more syrup, if desired.
9. Best served warm with steaming hot coffee.

* How to clarify butter: Slowly melt unsalted butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Let butter rest 5 minutes. Skim foam from the surface and discard. Ladle clarified (clear) butter into a bowl being careful not to scoop up any milk solids and water which have sunk to bottom of saucepan.

 **Robyn's note: I used Bel Gioioso Fresh Mozzarella. My local Publix (Hypoluxo & Lyons Rd, Lake Worth, FL) had a super deal on the cheese. Manager Eric, an Italian from Brooklyn, was selling it for $4.99 a pound instead of the usual $10.39 a pound. Who could pass up such a bargain?

***Simple Syrup:
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
A drop of lemon juice

Heat sugar and water in a saucepan until sugar is dissolved.
Add lemon juice.
Cool until ready to use.

By the way, Bonnie and David REALLY liked it, and so did we - if you don’t mind my saying. Hope you'll like it, too!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Spice up the holidays!

Spiced POM Cider
The people in the test kitchen at POM Wonderful have been busy coming up with tasty recipes using pomegranate juice.
In fact, they created a dandy beverage just in time for the holidays called “Spiced POM Cider."

Here’s how to prepare this festive drink:

Spiced POM Cider

32 ounces POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate juice
8 oz. water
4 cinnamon sticks (broken in half)
6 whole cloves
1 star anise
6 green cardamom pods
6 juniper berries
1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
Zest and juice from half of an orange

1. Combine all ingredients in a medium pot and bring to a slow simmer over low heat.
2. Keep heat low and simmer for an additional 45 minutes, then turn off the heat.
3. Allow mixture to steep for at least 2 hours off the heat.
4. Strain and refrigerate.
5. Serve hot or cold; garnish with an orange slice.
6. For an alcoholic beverage, add 1 oz. apple brandy and ½ oz. Cointreau per serving.

We're making ours with Armenian brandy, of course!

For more of their recipes, visit

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dolma Deconstructed

Deconstructed Dolma
I love stuffed vegetables. I love them even more when someone else does the stuffing.

All that mixing and scooping can be a drag after a long, hard day of blogging. Here's a shortcut that leads to the very same taste and texture with less effort.

Robyn calls it Dolma Deconstructed, because it breaks the traditional dolma recipe down into its basic components: vegetables, rice and meat.

Here's the deal...

Dolma Deconstructed (serves four)

1 cup white rice
1 pound chopped meat (lamb, beef or turkey)
1 medium onion, diced
1 handful of chopped parsley
3 medium zucchini (or veggie of your choice), peeled and cut into half-inch slices
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
olive oil
salt and pepper

Cook the rice according to package directions.
While the rice is cooking, saute the onion and zucchini until both just start to soften. Add the parsley, stir, then remove from heat.
Brown the meat. Drain excess fat, then add seasonings to taste.
Add the diced tomato, stir, then thicken with the tomato paste
Add the zucchini and onion and season again.
Add lemon juice, or sumac.
(Optional: Add one beef bouillon cube and stir until dissolved.)

Cook on medium-high heat until the zucchini is tender (about 15 to 20 minutes)

Serve with the rice -- side-by-side, on top or any way you like. Also serve with cold yogurt. Eat it with your eyes closed and you'll swear you're eating dolma!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Good News- Found quince! Bad News- It'll cost you!

If you've been reading about our quest for quince, you know we found some - after a long and arduous search.

My local grocery store FINALLY started carrying quince, much to my delight! I saw a basketful of rather small, but healthy-looking quince, with no price. I found the produce manager - the one who thought persimmons were quince- and asked him "how much?". Of course, he didn't know, and had to check.

Upon his return, he grinned and said, "Too rich for my blood!"  "The price?" I asked. $3.29 each!

And I thought $2.99 each at The Fresh Market was over-priced!

What does quince cost in your area?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Finding quince: An Armenian culinary quest

My Candied Quince Preserves
Nobody ever said that finding quince would be easy.

Most supermarket produce managers don’t even know what they are, so how am I to find them? Instead of driving around, wasting time and gasoline, I got smart, and started calling nearby markets.

*Publix: the manager insisted I must be referring to persimmons or Asian pears. (I wasn't!)
*Winn-Dixie: had no clue what I was talking about.
*Whole Foods: told me they weren’t in season until December. I asked in October, at the beginning of quince season. For  the record: it's December now, and my local Whole Foods still doesn't have quince!
*Fresh Market: said they carried quince, but didn’t know if any were in stock- couldn‘t be bothered to check.

On an outing, Doug and I happened to be passing The Fresh Market (TFM). We stopped in even though I wasn’t sure any quince were in stock - at least I knew the store carried them.

At first glance I didn’t see any, so I asked the pleasant, young produce clerk where I could find quince. She asked me to repeat the question, which I did. She apologized meekly, admitting she didn’t know what a
quince was.

Oh My Gosh, I thought! I explained that I had phoned earlier, and was told TFM carried them, so could she please ask. While the young lady was gone, I spotted the elusive, exotic fruit. Smiling, I picked one up, caressing it - until I saw the price - $2.99 EACH!

I dug deep into my pockets and bought two beautiful quince - I had to. Where else was I going to find them?

So ,I finally had the quince. My next hurdle was to find a recipe that only used 2. After some serious searching, I located a recipe that came close.

Here it is- with some ingredient adjustments:

Candied Quince Preserves
2 quinces
Juice of ½ lemon
1 1/2  cups water
1 cup granulated sugar
1 small cinnamon stick
Dash salt

1. Peel skin and core. Fruit is very hard so use caution!
2. Cut into ¼ inch slices.
3. Place slices in a heavy pot, covering with water and lemon juice to prevent quince slices from turning brown. Stir.
4. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cook for 10 minutes. Drain.
5. Return quince to pot, add the sugar, 1 ½ cups water, stick of cinnamon and salt.
6. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
7. Cook for 1 to 1 ½ hours, or until syrupy, and quince turns a
slightly pinkish color.**
8. Remove pot from heat. Discard cinnamon stick.
9. Store, refrigerated, in a container with tight-fitting lid. This
should keep for up to 2 months.

**For the record, my quince did not turn pink. (See photo) But, it sure tasted great!

To serve:
Top with plain, unsweetened, thick yogurt, clotted cream -or- creme fraiche and a cup of piping hot Armenian coffee!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Another Christmas Gift Idea...

About 10 years ago, I received a really neat gift from my sister, the likes I’d never seen before. It was a sampler box of infused vinegar from a company with an Armenian name - BOYAJIAN! What a great find!

Now that the shopping count-down has begun, the stress of trying to find the perfect gift is at it’s peak. Worry not; that’s what computers are for!
Boyajian, Inc.  was started in New England in 1978 by John Boyajian who was looking for a way to support himself through graduate school. He began by exporting live lobsters to Europe, then by distributing Petrossian caviar to hotels in the U.S. The infused oils and vinegars idea came later.

Boyajian, Inc. has a unique variety of oils which are infused with fresh herbs and spices such as habanero, basil, rosemary, lemon pepper, roasted chili. They have an Asian oil collection, as well - wasabi, Asian chili, spicy sesame- to name a few.

There are vinegars, vinaigrettes, dipping oils, citrus oils, and flavorings galore - and smoked salmon, too. Sorry, no more caviar, and raspberry-infused items are temporarily unavailable.
If you don’t see exactly what you want, Boyajian, Inc. will create a custom blend just for you! What more could you ask for?

Ready to order? Go to, or call 1-800-965-0665.

In case you missed Sunday's (Dec. 6th) post, check it out for MORE gift ideas! Only 14 shopping days left!!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Christmas is Armenian cookie time!

OK, really -- anytime is Armenian cookie time. But...

When I think of a Thanksgiving dessert, PIE automatically comes to mind. Mention Christmas, and all I can think of is ……COOKIES!

Every year for the past 10 or so years, my dear friend, Diana Saker and her neighbors, have hosted a cookie - ornament exchange extravaganza several weeks before Christmas. The neighbors, who all live on the same block, rotate hosting the big event thus cutting down on the stress and anxiety associated with this time of year.

The party is a BLAST! It’s become a Coral Springs, Florida phenomenon.

Women of all ages attend, dressed in traditional holiday colors of red and green. Each comes with one, gloriously wrapped, ornament which is immediately placed in a designated location, and 4 dozen of their favorite Christmas cookies.

One dozen of each batch of cookies is set out for sampling, along with a lavish buffet; the other 3 dozen are
placed on a special “cookie table” for mixing and matching at the end of the festivities. Every guest knows to bring a Tupperware container with a tight-fitting lid to take home the rewards of this sweet event. The host provides newcomers, and those who have simply forgotten, with a suitable container for packaging their take-home treats.

The ornament exchange is a humdinger, too. Each guest picks a random number from a bowl. No one ever wants to be #1. The higher your number,the better your chances are for taking home the most sought-after
ornament. Selecting a high number allows you to examine the ornaments that have already been chosen and unwrapped.

If you like someone else's ornament, you have the option of “stealing” theirs, or selecting one of the remaining wrapped ones. It’s really amusing to see women snatch a coveted ornament from someone else, causing the other person great disappointment. Fear not, the disappointed person has the opportunity to select again from the available packages - or - steal from yet another guest!

NOTE: This part of the party can last a while, depending on the number in attendance, and can get down-right-dirty …. in a fun way, of course!

The cookie recipe I’m making isn’t fancy - no sprinkles or exotic ingredients. It’s a very traditional Armenian cookie that goes really well with coffee, tea or even hot cocoa. Dunking is highly recommended!

Armenian Cookies

3 Tbsp. butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
4 ½ to 5 cups flour (perhaps a little more)
2 eggs
½ tsp. vanilla
2 heaping Tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
½ cup warm milk

1. Using an electric hand or stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar, until blended.
2. Add eggs, vanilla, baking powder, salt, and milk. Mix until blended.
3. Add flour, one cup at a time, mixing well after each addition until a dough forms. At this point, gently work dough with your hands on a lightly floured surface. If the dough is too sticky, you might need to add a little more flour.
4. Pinch off about a walnut-size piece of dough and roll it into a 6 inch rope. Shape into a circle (doughnut-shape) with lightly floured hands by pressing rope ends together. Continue this process until all dough is used.
5. Place cookies on a lightly greased baking sheet.
6. Place baking sheet on bottom rack in the oven. Bake in a preheated 375°F oven for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.
7. Cool completely on a wire rack.
8. Store in an air-tight container.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Need Christmas Gift Ideas?

I happened to mention to one of my new friends, Margie (she’s the lady who asked for the Bishi recipe) that my husband and one of his colleagues, Leila Alson, wrote a booklet called Say It Again, a say-it-yourself guide to the most commonly “mispronunciated” words.

(Get it? It’s supposed to be “mispronounced” words!)

It’s for anyone who just wants to sound intelligent, no matter the occasion -- especially anyone who has to speak in public.

Much to my surprise, she ordered 3 right on the spot! (Thank you, Margie!)

So, if any of you are interested, click on our connection below (keep on scrolling down to find it) and order yours today at Amazon's discounted price of $9.32!

If you look closely at the bottom of this page, there are some other gift ideas for you, too - books, CD’s, etc.

Make life easy; do your shopping with the click of your mouse! Only 19 shopping days left and counting!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

An Armenian Christmas Cookie Recipe - Apricot Crescent Cookies

Apricot Crescent Cookies
As I was flipping through the pages of an old Kalajian-family cookbook, a yellowed, slightly tattered piece of paper dropped to the floor.

When I picked it up, I realized it was a newspaper clipping - obviously from an Armenian-American newspaper. Don’t know which one, or when it was printed.

Apparently my mother-in-law saved this for a long time. She might have made the recipe, but I don’t know for sure. It certainly sounded good!

The recipe, which was submitted to the paper by Ms. Irene Guregian, of Chelmsford, Massachusetts, is called “Apricot Crescent Cookies” (Dziranamahig).

Doug discovered that Ms. Guregian still resides in Chelmsford, and with the click of his mouse was able to find her phone number. I called, and had a nice conversation with her daughter Karen. Unfortunately Ms. Guregian isn’t well, and did not recall which paper printed her recipe, but did remember that she created the recipe herself, and Karen confirmed that they are, indeed, delicious.

With Christmas just a few weeks away, I figured I'd better get a head-start on trying out this recipe. I altered it a bit, as noted below, and decided that these Apricot Crescent Cookies really are delicious!

Apricot Crescent Cookies
Yield: approximately 3 dozen.
2 cups sifted flour
½ lb. butter or margarine
1 egg yolk
¾ cup sour cream
¾ cup chopped walnuts ( pecans work well in this, too)
One jar apricot preserves

Shaped and ready to bake
Cut butter into flour, using fingertips. Add yolk and sour cream. Mix well. Dough should be sticky. Shape into ball and sprinkle with flour.
Wrap in waxed paper and chill several hours. Divide dough into 3 parts.
Roll each section out to a large circle like a pie shell. Cut, as you would a pie wedge, into 12 sections or less. Mix nuts into apricot preserves.
Place heaping teaspoon into large section and start rolling toward small point to make crescent-shape (using fingers) as you place on (ungreased) cookie sheet. Bake in 350° oven 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown.

For the record: The procedure I used to make this varied a bit. Here are the changes I made:
1. I used a pastry blender instead of my fingers.
2. After making the dough, I separated it into 3 equal balls, wrapped them individually, then refrigerated as directed. I kept the other balls of dough in the refrigerator until I was ready to use them.
3. After rolling each ball into a 12 inch circle, I spread 1/3 of a 10-ounce jar of apricot preserves on the surface of the dough.
4. Then I sprinkled about 2 or 3 Tbsp. of chopped pecans over the apricot.
5. I used a pizza wheel to cut the dough into 12 wedges. The wheel made this so easy! After that I prepared the recipe  as directed.
6. Be sure to cool the cookies on a wire rack. Store in a container with a tight fitting lid.