Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Onnik Dinkjian's Kavourma

Like many Armenian food terms, Kavourma can mean something different depending on the region or even village your family comes from.

It's always some form of cooked lamb, but to us the definitive kavourma is the rich, fat-enveloped favorite from the city where both our fathers' families originated: Dikranagerd.

So when Doug mentioned kavourma in a post the other day, I got an idea to call America's best-known Dikranagertsi: Onnik Dinkjian.

You probably know Onnik as one of the most beloved Armenian singers in the world. We know him as...well, Onnik. No matter the setting, he is every bit as charming as his on-stage persona. He is a warm and generous host, an engaging raconteur and an enthusiastic proponent of all things Dikranagertsi!

So his response really should not have surprised me when I asked when he last ate kavourma. "I just had some for lunch today," he said.

How could that be? I was sure nobody still made kavourma in this age of heightened cholesterol consciousness.

But Onnik does. His wonderful and patient wife, Araksi, won't eat it -- but she's given up trying to stop him.

The mere mention of kavourma launched Onnik into reminiscences about his parents' table. He remembers his father soaking up the excess fat with bread, and then wolfing down the bread with gusto.

Trust us: That is SO Dikranagertsi!

Armenians have been preserving meat in fat for centuries. Now it's our turn to preserve Onnik's recipe for generations to come.

Onnik’s Kavourma
1 leg of American lamb
1 apple, any kind, cut into quarters (quince can also be used when in season)
flank fat (order from the butcher ahead of time) If flank fat is unavailable, use unsalted butter.
salt, to taste

1. Trim the leg of lamb to remove skin and so on.
2. Cut meat into approximately 2 inch squares.
3. Place cubes of meat into a large pot and cover meat with water. Bring to a boil. Cook for about 15 minutes.
4. Remove meat and rinse with cold water.
5. Clean the pot, return meat to the pot, add fresh water, salt, and the apple pieces. Cook until meat is fork tender, about 1 ½ hours.
(Onnik says the water should have evaporated quite a bit, without burning the meat on the bottom. The purpose of the apple is to cut the heaviness of the fat.)
6. Add flank fat, if you were able to get it, otherwise add 1 lb of  butter.  Continue to cook for a while - keep your eye on it!
7. Place cooked meat in a non-metalic bowl - (for ex: Corningware). Press meat as you place in the bowl, so fat rises to the top. The fat must cover the meat. This keeps air out, acting as a preservative.
8. Cover tightly and refrigerate. The longer it sets in the refrigerator, the better it is! NOTE: The kavourma can be frozen, too.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Michael Aram: Artist, Armenian and nice guy!

Michael Aram and me (March 2010)
I felt like a teenager standing in line, waiting to get a rock star’s autograph.

The truth is I was standing in line with a group of well-dressed, middle-aged women in the housewares department at Bloomingdale’s in Boca Raton, Florida.

Who was this "rock star"? No rock star at all. It was metal artist Michael Aram.

Doug and I first saw his metal work in a San Francisco department store a few years ago. I recall remarking how lovely it was. Once we realized the artist was Armenian, these beautiful objects seemed more like works of art -- and that’s exactly what they are.

The other women on line had purchased items from his collection, and were getting them "autographed," not with pen and ink, but with an engraving tool. Michael Aram was engraving his signature most elegantly for each customer on their just-purchased metalware.

Why was I there? To get this blog item, of course, and to meet - The Man.

He was charming, and cordial enough to have a photo taken with me. He took time away from the other customers to chat with me a bit, too. Who else would do that? I want to add that he has a fabulous smile - and those dimples! But I digress...

You’re probably wondering what his metalware has to do with a food blog. The answer is that he creates serving pieces, and many other items, using metal in one way or another.

And if you're wondering just how "Armenian" Michael is and what influence that has on his art, check out this story on NewYorkSocialDiary.com, where you'll also get a glimpse at his work and his magnificent home. Here's our favorite part of the interview:

"The other thing that I would say from my Armenian background that has been highly influential is this love of food and family, the ritual of eating together. Every night was family dinner … it all revolved around beautifully set tables, beautifully cooked meals, and that sense of like a ‘sacredness’ to those moments."

His official website is www.michaelaram.com. You should see what he has to offer on-line or, if you happen to be in New York City, in his flagship store at 136 W. 18th St. between 6th and 7th.

I promise you, your Armenian recipes will look fabulous if served on a Michael Aram piece of art.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Getting ready for Easter

Easter -or anytime - Chorag!
Are you ready yet? What are you waiting for? Easter is almost here!
Did you order the leg of American lamb? Gather the onions skins for dying the eggs? Bake the chorag? Buy the ingredients for those “special” recipes?

We’ll try to assist you by offering this menu:
Note: The star (*) next to each menu item indicates the recipe can be found by clicking on the recipe’s name in our recipe link.
Start the day with:
Warm chorag*, served with Armenian string cheese, olives, juice, coffee, and, of course, the Easter eggs*.
For dinner, may we suggest:
Cheese boregs*
Hummus* or Muhamarra*
Homemade sesame crackers* (or store-bought ak-mak crackers)
Roast leg of lamb*
Bulgur or rice pilaf*
Vegetable Stew - Tourlou*
Armenian chopped salad
Apricot pie*
Nory Rahat Locum or Aplets & Cotlets
Easter chocolates
Assorted  fresh fruit
Armenian coffee*

You can, of course make whatever you like, but in our home, it just wouldn’t be Easter if we served anything else.
Ah, traditions..........!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Macar and Sons: Where to order Armenian and Middle Eastern ingredients

Have you ever wondered where Middle Eastern grocery stores and restaurants get all those exotic ingredients?

In this part of the country, the source is likely to be our friends Nazan and Eddi Macarian, who own a wholesale food company called Macar and Sons, Inc. in Deerfield Beach, Florida.

Here's the really good news for those of you around the country who don't have access to a good local Middle Eastern store: You can get your ingredients from the same source by mail order.

The Macarians began with a retail grocery business in Sunrise, Florida in 1992. When they had trouble finding Middle Eastern ingredients, they decided to switch gears and go into the Middle Eastern ingredient wholesale business in 1994. They’ve been at it ever since.

The  Macarians provide a dizzying array of products to shops and restaurants throughout South Florida as well as Orlando, Tampa, and Naples.

We've known Nazan, Eddi and their two sons for more than 10 years, but I hadn't visited their business until recently. As Eddi stresses, it's not a retail shop so there's no storefront. In fact, as you drive up to their building, you’d never know a business existed.

There’s no exterior sign, just a number on the door marking their entrance. Upon entering, you step immediately into their modest office. A few steps to the rear, and you are in "The Warehouse."

The first thing you see is a small showroom brimming with samples of their goods. I felt like a kid in a candy store! I’ve seen a lot of Middle Eastern ingredients in my day, but I have to admit, there were items I’d never heard of before.

Nazan was kind enough to do a "show-and-tell" for me. For instance, she showed me a tiny packet of white-ish pellets, called mastic gum (Mastica), which is sap from an evergreen shrub from the pistachio tree family. She said it’s an ancient Greek ingredient used in making chorag. A small amount is mashed, then added to the other chorag ingredients. This I did not know!

Continuing the tour, Nazan pointed out carob syrup, mulberry molasses, shelf-stable Monti made with - are you ready?- tofu!

Then there is the rice flour and wheat starch that are used as thickening agents. Moving along Nazan explained that they carry commercial-size eggplant pulp for restaurant use - a real preparation time-saver, and pressed dates for use in recipes.

Not all products are available all of the time. When in season, they carry specialty dried products, such as okra, mulberries, and eggplant skins.

The Macarians carry a number of Armenian products. Large Ak-mak crackers, flat soujouk, ready-made Monti, Armenian string cheese, lahmajoun, tahn, thick madzoon, matnakash - a traditional, soft Armenian bread. I could go on forever.

Mail orders are shipped via Federal Express or UPS. Besides the cost of food, the customer is responsible for shipping costs which can be expensive depending on the product’s weight.

Eddi, Nazan, and son, George Macarian are extremely knowledgeable and helpful. Want to place an order? Have any questions? Contact them at:
Phone: 954 - 571-9505
Fax: 954 - 571-9504
Email: info@macarfoods.com 

Monday, March 22, 2010

Homemade Whole Wheat Sesame Crackers

Recently, our friend, Steven Aslanian, was visiting his mother who lives near us in Florida. Since we hadn’t seen him in about 10 years, Doug and I were anxious to catch up with news about his family and him.

As Steven was running errands for his mother, he told us he was shocked at how expensive grocery items are here compared to his home stores in Pennsylvania - especially the crackers. He couldn’t believe it!

I agreed with him whole-heartedly, and told him about our cracker-buying experience back in December, and our discovery of the more reasonably-priced “ak-mak” crackers.
Even with ak-mak’s lower price, I wanted to see if there was a cracker recipe I could make that would be economical, yet delicious. 

I found a recipe given to me long ago by a friend and former colleague , Gina Skillings. She’s a terrific teacher, cook, and artist. And a strict vegetarian. (You MUST check out Gina's artistic creations at http://www.claynfiber.blogspot.com/). Her cracker recipe is so easy to make, you'll want to make them over and over again! Look out, ak-mak,  this just might be your latest competition!

Homemade Whole Wheat Sesame Crackers

3/4 all-purpose flour

3/4 cup whole wheat flour

1 tsp salt

½ tsp baking powder

1/4 cup sesame seeds

1 ½ Tbsp oil

1/3 to ½ cup water

1. Mix together both flours, salt, baking powder and sesame seeds.

2. Drizzle the oil on top of the flour mixture and stir in well.

3. Gradually stir in water, adding just enough so that the batter can be gathered up into a ball.

4. Roll dough out onto a floured work surface. Roll thin and transfer to an ungreased baking sheet.

5. Bake at 400 F for about 20 -25 minutes or until golden around the edges.

6. Cool completely.

7. Break into pieces and serve as is, or with dips or spreads.

Robyn's notes:
1. I separated the dough into 2 balls, rolled each separately - very thinly. This made nice, crispy crackers.
2. This recipe can also be made with all whole wheat flour. 
3. When adding the water, be sure to add it slowly. Too much water will make the dough sticky.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Happy Birthday To Us! TheArmenianKitchen.com is one-year old!

It’s hard to believe a year has passed since we first turned on the kitchen lights on March 20, 2009.

Our dream was to spread what we know about Armenian food and culture throughout the world. Little did we know we’d reach over 116 countries and territories, and attract more than 20,000 viewers in such a short time!

Thousands more have watched us make kufteh, boorma and other favorite dishes on YouTube, where our audience continues to grow and our videos are generating lively comments from around the globe.

We’ve made many new friends along the way, and reconnected with those long-lost. Our recipe repertoire has grown considerably with your help.

Our appearance has changed too, with the addition of our new logo. 

Best of all, we seem to learn something new almost every day. The Armenian culinary tradition is so rich, so varied and so marvelous that there seems to be no end to the variations and innovations that you've been kind enough to share.

We're still hungry for Armenian food, so we plan to just keep on cooking and sharing our stories and discoveries. We hope you'll continue to enjoy and share your recipes and anecdotes with us and the rest of the world. 

Please click that comment button and let us hear from you.

Meanwhile, thanks for all you've given us! -- Robyn and Doug Kalajian

Friday, March 19, 2010

Remembering when fat meant happy

Our pantry and diets have little room these days for unhealthy fats. Olive oil takes center stage, with guest appearances by canola, peanut and sesame. Ingredient labels are scutinized, and meats are trimmed with ruthless zeal.

I wonder what my mother would think?

As I've mentioned, Mom started preparing just about every meal by browning onions in butter -- real butter, the salty kind. She rejected oil of any sort with a typical Armenian flip of the hand. "It just doesn't taste the same," she'd say.

Of course, she was right: Butter tastes great! That's the reason so many famous chefs dump gobs of butter into every sauce and soup -- and probably even salad when nobody's looking.

Butter does have one major limitation in cooking: It burns at a relatively low temperature. So for heavy-duty applications, Mom never hesitated to use what a cardiologist nowadays would probably consider the nuclear option: Yiugh.

Yiugh (Yoogh?) is Armenian for fat or oil. In our kitchen, it meant flank fat rendered in a giant pot, sweetened with an apple or quince and skimmed until it was as clear as rain water. The ritual always coincided with the making of kavourma, lamb cooked until it was nearly soft as butter, salted and plunged into the freshly rendered yiugh.

When the fat cooled and solidified, it formed an air-tight seal around the lamb which, along with the heavy dose of salt, helped preserve the meat. The technique is similar to confit, which the French imagine they invented.

The kavourma was always stored in a heavy, earthen crock that appeared to hold a couple of gallons of yiugh. It could be kept on the back porch in winter, or in the fridge any time. One of the great treats of my childhood was opening the crock and cracking through the thick layer of white fat on top with a fork, then pulling out a fat, salty slab of meat. It was sort of like ice fishing for lamb!

There is nothing that compares to kavourma and eggs for breakfast, unless it's kavourma and bulgur for dinner.

And there is truly nothing to compare with yiugh as a frying medium. It withstood heat so well they probably should have just slathered the space shuttle with it instead of fiddling with those tiles. You like golden, crispy French fries? They came out perfect every time -- and never greasy.

That's the thing: Yiugh sealed in the taste without soaking into the food. At least, that's how I like to remember it, and memories are all I'm going to have of yiugh and karvourma along with any number of wonderful foods of my youth.

In the Old Country, fat was considered an essential part of the winter diet -- and preserving meat by any means was vital. Now, well...maybe we know too much, or we have life too easy to have the patience for such things.

Either way, we won't be making kavourma any time soon. I guess I'd rather wallow in nostalgia than wallow in fat.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Falafel Gourmet, a really nice Mediterranean Market

It wasn't so very long ago that we struggled to find the most basic Armenian ingredients such as bulgur here in South Florida -- and despite the region's growth, we're still left with few shopping choices.

So we get a little excited whenever we hear about a new Middle Eastern store. But that excitement often fades when we walk through the door.

A number have come and gone over the years. Many were small and poorly stocked, and a few have been less than appetizing in their appearance and not very hospitable.

So what a pleasant surprise it was when we visited the just-opened Falafel Gourmet in Coral Springs (not far from Fort Lauderdale) and were greeted warmly by Hamest Guiragousian, a fellow Armenian, and her husband Mohammed Flafil.

The store is bright, clean and impressively stocked with a vast selection of dried, canned and packaged goods, refrigerated cheeses, yogurt, frozen meats (including lamb!), sweets from Syria and other countries that will knock your socks off.

Ms. Guiragosian cooks many of the fresh foods along with a team of cooks, right on the premises. They have a take-out menu which includes appetizers, savory pies, salads, kabob plates which come with rice and salad, and sandwiches (falafel and kabobs), chicken or lamb shawerma, makanek (a beef and lamb sausage), and more.

South Florida's diversity -- and growing Near and Middle Eastern population -- is illustrated by the variety of languages and country-of-origin tags, as well as labels marked Halal and Kosher.

Part of the reason the store is so attractive is the gorgeous wood cabinetry that looks hand-made because it is: Mr. Flafil was a custom cabinet maker in his native Jordan. 

The couple got started in the food industry by running a wholesale business for 15 years from home -- something they enjoyed doing very much. Their dream of someday having their own store became a reality on December 10, 2009, when the Falafel Gourmet opened.

They hope to expand to include a restaurant. But for now their focus is on their store, with help from their their two high school-age sons whenever school is out of session.

I found them by word of mouth, and now I’d like to spread the word.

Falafel Gourmet Mon-Sat: 9am - 9pm
4344 N. State Rd. 7 Sun: 10 am - 9 pm
Coral Springs, FL 33073.
Tel: 954-752-8340
Fax: 954-752-8339.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Topig - A very special Lenten appetizer

Have you ever heard of Topig? It’s a Lenten (of course) appetizer recipe that sounds amazing! It’s kind-of-like kufteh, but the outer “shell” is made with tahini and a mash of chick peas and potatoes, while the stuffing consists of onions, pine nuts, currants, and an array of seasonings. No meat or bulgur in this!
 I’ve never tasted it, and after reading the directions, it’s not likely that I ever will. Let me explain, the instructions say this takes 36 hours in all to prepare - this does NOT fit into my schedule! Sorry, folks!

I was searching the web to see if there was a short-cut version, but to date I have not found one. What I did discover, however, was a website called Taste of Beirut, http://www.tasteofbeirut.com/ . The blogger, Joumana, prepared Topig, and posted it on her website, along with wonderful words about Armenia and Armenian food.

Joumana wrote:
“I mentioned in a previous post (cinnamon roll with tahini) that there is a large Armenian community established in Lebanon; the Armenians are fully integrated into Lebanese society, even participate in government with deputies and ministers and political parties. However, they have remained steadfastly faithful to their culture of origin. Armenia, just like Lebanon, is a land of ancient history, with a rich heritage. One of my aunts who visited Armenia recently came back with tales of a very beautiful country with pristine lakes, lush valleys, majestic mountains, ancient monasteries and churches galore and captivating art and archeological sights; as well as fabulous, fresh, foods. My interest in Armenia is reinforced by the fact that, like Lebanon, it is a country that has suffered many tragedies especially in the last hundred years and yet its people have remained stoic and kept plowing forward. Like Lebanon, it is a country that is placed in a strategic spot and thus has endured many invasions. And like Lebanon, it is a country whose diaspora is greater in number than the Armenians actually living in Armenia.”

That said, Joumana went to great lengths to prepare Topig, and provide step-by-step photos. Click on the link above to get the full recipe.

I admire - and thank - Joumana for doing all that work!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Eggplant Caviar, AKA, "Poor Man's Caviar"

The “AZAD-HYE biz: Your Middle East Armenian Business Resource”   describes Lucine Kasbarian as:
“ a New Jersey-based writer and self-syndicating cartoonist whose comics have appeared in a number of publications including The Armenian Weekly, The California Courier, and Blogian.net. She is a second generation-born American-Armenian descendant of Armenian Genocide survivors, and the author of Armenia: A Rugged Land, an Enduring People (Simon & Schuster). Lucine was brought up in an Armenian-speaking home where humor, politics and the arts shared equal stage.”

Since Lucine contributed one of her mother's recipes to The Armenian Kitchen, we’ll add ”cooking” to the above list!

From April 1st through the 30th, five of Lucine’s political cartoons will be displayed at an Art Exhibit: The 95th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide in Providence, RI.  For details, click on the following link: http://www.armeniangenocide95years.com/.

In the meantime, try this recipe from Lucine's mother's recipe collection.

Alice Hamparian-Kasbarian's Recipe for Eggplant Caviar
aka "The Poor Man's Caviar"

Combine in a large cookpot:
1 medium eggplant, unpeeled but chopped rather fine
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup chopped green pepper
1 (4 oz) can of mushrooms, drained and chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/3 cup olive oil

Cover pan and simmer for 10 minutes. Add:
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 cup chopped stuffed green olives
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1/4 cup capers

Mix and simmer, covered, for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally until eggplant is cooked but not mushy.
Chill overnight.
To serve, bring to room temperature. Serve as a side dish or as an appetizer spread on pita.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

TURLUH, a "Mixed-Up" Vegetable Stew

Ratatouille is a popular recipe from the French region of Provence, consisting of eggplant, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, zucchini, garlic, herbs, simmered in olive oil.  It can be served hot, cold, or at room temperature, and the vegetable combination can vary according to the season, and to the cook's preference.

Does this recipe sound familiar? It should! It's been a popular dish for Armenians, Greeks, and the like for many a moon.

An any-time-of year, but especially good during Lent (when made without meat) recipe, is Turluh,or Tourlou Gouvedge, a "mixed-up" vegetable stew. This was sent in by Ara Kassabian to add to our ever-growing Lenten recipe collection. Thanks again, my friend!

Ara wrote:
“This can be made vegetarian or non. Its success depends on the freshness of the vegetables, so splurge on farmer-market produce or wait until the summer, but for heaven's sake do not use three day old wilted veggies. The list of vegetables can be adjusted based on what's fresh and available in the market. I am not giving exact quantities because the quantities depend on the size of your baking dish (see below).

Choose an oven-proof baking dish (pyrex or similar), about 2 inches in height. Pour a generous amount of extra-virgin olive oil in the baking dish, enough to coat the bottom of the dish. Don't skimp on the quality of the oil; much of the flavor of the dish comes from the olive oil.

You will need to buy a mixture of fresh vegetables, enough to fill up the dish when diced. The following list is a suggested mixture: eggplants (Japanese are preferred), zucchini or Mexican squash, baby okra, fresh green beans, bell peppers of any color or a mix of bell peppers and jalapenos for that extra kick, ripe tomatoes (in the winter, get some hot-house heirloom tomatoes), a few whole cloves of garlic (no more than 5-6; this is not a garlicky dish), garbanzo beans (canned is OK), sliced onions (in thin rings), potatoes (fingerling potatoes or the waxy variety). You can also add some extra-firm tofu (obviously, this is a contemporary addition). Dice the vegetables in 3/4 inch dice and arrange in the dish.

If the tomatoes are not very ripe or juicy, add about half a can of tomato sauce.

Add the juice of half a lime or lemon. You can also use verjuice, the juice of unripe grapes (sold in bottles at the Middle-Eastern market) or the green grapes themselves if you can find them.

Add about a handful of golden prunes, which you can find at a Middle-Eastern or Persian market. If you cannot find golden prunes, then use the same amount of golden (not brown) raisins and increase the amount of lemon or lime juice. Another option is to use sour plums (in May/June, when they are in season).

If you are doing the meat version, add about a pound of beef (loin or chuck steak or shank, not too fatty), diced in one-inch cubes.

Salt and pepper. No water is required as long as you use zucchini and/or eggplant, since they will give off water. Otherwise, add 1/2 cup of water (but the zucchinis and eggplants are recommended).

Pre-heat the oven to 325-350 F. Bake, covered, for about 1 hour. Uncover and bake for another hour. Serve hot with bread.”

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

In any language, our accent is on food

A great email arrived the other day from reader Tom Merjanian, who was nice enough to relay a few kind words about this site and to take the time to share some Armenian names for recipes we've posted.

As you know from a recent post on the topic, we're in a bit of a quandary when it comes to such things. We don't speak Armenian, and even friends and relatives who do speak Armenian often mix-in Turkish, Greek, Persian or Russian food terms.

Tom is among those who feel strongly that Armenian food is best tasted with the mother tongue, and he is particularly averse to using Turkish names.

"Since these people still will not admit to the world to their heinous crime, I avoid using their language as much as possible," he wrote.

For example, he notes that we call pickled vegetables tourshou, which is Turkish.

"Pickles in Armenian is TUTVASH. The root word is tutu or tutoo ...meaning sour. Assortment of pickles – TUTVEGHEN."

He contiued: "Sarma? Oh, No! PATTOTZ. Pattel is to wrap. The suffix 'otz' indicates 'the place in which something occurs.' Dolma? Oh, no! LITZK or LEETZK. The verb is 'letzunel' meaning to fill. The 'K' suffix is the ancient Armenian (Krapar) plural suffix."

Tom, thanks for the Armenian lesson!

He promises to send more as examples arise, and we welcome the contribution and applaud the effort.

Meanwhile, we'll also continue using common terms of whatever origin because we think they're what many of you also use and recognize.

As I've written before, we try hard to keep politics out of the kitchen. But Tom raises an issue that Armenians feel strongly about, although we sometimes differ on how best to achieve our goals.

Strictly my opinion: I feel as passionately about The Genocide as anyone, but my quarrel is with the Turkish government and its allies in politics and business (shame on you, Chevron) who continue to deny history.

I have no quarrel with Turkish people, however, and no objection to Turkish food or the Turkish language.

As I said, strictly my opinion.

What do you think? -- Doug Kalajian

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Vospov Kufteh - Red Lentils with Bulgur

Here's a simple Lenten dish, Vospov Kufteh. Think of it as Hoom Kufteh without the meat.
Serve it with a salad, and you've got a delicious, nutritious, vegetarian meal.

Vospov Kufteh - Red Lentils With Bulgur

1 cup red lentils, rinsed and picked over
3 cups water (for the lentils)
1/2 cup fine bulgur (#1)
1 cup water (for the bulgur)
1 medium onion, finely chopped and divided
3 Tbsp. Olive oil
1 tsp salt
½ tsp. Cumin
½ tsp. Paprika
1/4 tsp. Cayenne pepper, optional

Garnishes: Chopped parsley and thinly sliced onions

1. Place 3 cups water and lentils in a medium-sized pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a gentle boil. Remove any foam that rises to the top. Simmer, and cook for about 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. The finished mixture should be very thick.
(Robyn's Note: If, after 40 minutes, the mixture seems a bit watery, strain it through a fine sieve before adding bulgur.)

2. While lentils are cooking, soak the bulgur in one cup of warm water to soften; do not let it get mushy. Drain off any excess water.

3. Saute half of the chopped onion in heated olive oil until slightly golden. Allow to cool a bit.

4. In a large bowl, mix together the cooked lentils, bulgur, raw and sauteed onion. Add the salt, cumin, paprika and cayenne pepper, if using. Knead the mixture to combine all of the ingredients. Adjust seasonings, if necessary.  (Robyn's Note: If mixture is too soft to shape, chill it in refrigerator for about 30 minutes.)

5. Shape the mixture into 10 to 12 sausage shapes.  (If mixture is on the dry side, be sure to moisten your hands while shaping.) Arrange on a serving platter.

6. Garnish with chopped parsley and thinly sliced onions. Serve with a chopped salad to complete the meal.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Vegetable-Stuffed Zucchini Boats

Since I don’t cook with eggplant (which is tricky to do in an Armenian kitchen), I use zucchini in it’s place. Needless to say, I buy a LOT of zucchini! Here’s my take on the meatless Imam Bayeldi recipe. Even without the eggplant,  it tastes mighty good!

Vegetable-Stuffed Zucchini Boats
(Serves 4 as an entree; 8 as a side dish)

4 large zucchini, cut in half lengthwise
2 onions, coarsely chopped
2 large red or yellow bell peppers, seeds removed, and coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1- 15 oz can diced tomatoes, drained and liquid reserved
½ bunch flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped
½ cup fresh basil, chopped
2 Tbsp. Tomato paste or red pepper paste (or a combination of the two)
1/4 cup pine nuts
olive oil
salt, pepper and ground coriander, to taste
 1/2 cup water


1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a large roasting pan with aluminum foil. Set aside.

2. Slice each large zucchini in half lengthwise.

3. Scoop out the insides of each zucchini half; chop and set aside. Leave about 1/4 inch of zucchini “flesh” to create a canoe shape . Place the empty zucchini boats in the lined roasting pan.

4. In a large skillet, saute the chopped inner flesh of the zucchini, onions and peppers in about 3 Tbsp. olive oil until soft, but not brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic; cook 2 more minutes.

5. Add the drained tomatoes, parsley, basil; cook 5 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and coriander to taste.

6. In a small bowl, combine the reserved tomato liquid with the 2 Tbsp. of paste until smooth. Add to vegetables; cook until liquid is a bit thickened and somewhat reduced. Add pine nuts.

7. Season with additional salt, pepper and ground coriander, if desired.

8.. Divide the vegetable mixture to fill each boat. Add about ½ cup water to bottom of pan; this will create steam to aid in the cooking process.

9. Cover pan with foil. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes.

Serve with your favorite pilaf recipe!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Meatless Imam Bayeldi -or- Baylee Baghlee

I absolutely LOVE Imam Bayeldi, or to some, Baylee Baghlee! One bite and you'll know why the "Imam fainted", it's literal translation. It is stuffed eggplant traditionally filled with ground lamb, seasonings, and pine nuts, then baked until the eggplant is silky, and the flavors marry into an incredible taste that would delight the most sophisticated palate.

This being Lent, however, we offer a meatless version that is sure to please. The recipe below was submitted by Ara Kassabian, and believe me, this is one of those anytime-of-the-year meals that you’ll want to make again and again. Thank you, Ara!

Since eggplant is a forbidden food in my home (food allergies!), I make a variation of this using zucchini, “Vegetable-Stuffed Zucchini Boats”, which will be posted separately, and it is a hit at our dinner table!

IMAM BAYELDI– submitted by Ara Kassabian

Choose a baking dish with 2-in high walls. You will need:

6-10 Japanese eggplants, as small as you can find them, enough to fill up the dish if arranged lying down side-by-side.
2 medium brown onions, sliced in thin crescents.
3-4 medium ripe tomatoes, or the equivalent in canned whole tomatoes, diced.
1-2 bell peppers, or a mixture of bell peppers and jalapenos, sliced or coarsely diced.
3-4 cloves of garlic, sliced very thin or minced.
1/2 a bunch of cilantro or parsley, chopped coarsely.
1/2 can tomato sauce.
(Optional) 1 tbsp sweet pepper paste.
Extra-virgin olive oil.
Salt and pepper.

Cover the bottom of the pan generously with the olive oil and tomato sauce. If you are using the sweet pepper paste, stir it in with the tomato sauce and oil.

Make a slit lengthwise on the top of each eggplant, leaving about an inch on each side. Prick the eggplants a few times with a fork.

In a pan, saute the eggplants in olive oil until slightly soft. This will allow you to open up the "pocket" that you made by slitting the eggplants. Remove from the pan. Sprinkle with salt the bottom of the pocket (to taste). Arrange in the baking dish side-by-side with the pocket facing up.

In the same pan, saute the onion, peppers, tomatoes, garlic, and cilantro (or parsley) until the onions are soft but not brown. You will need to add the vegetables successively in the order listed. Salt and pepper to taste. You can also add a handful of pine nuts or chopped walnuts to the onion mixture. This increases the protein content and adds a crunchy texture.

Fill the pocket of each eggplant with the onion mixture.

Cover and bake at 325-350 F in a pre-heated oven for about 1/2 hour, then uncovered for about 1/2 hour. Remove and let it cool to room temperature.

Garnish with more chopped parsley or cilantro when serving.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Arshile Gorky stamp

Lucine Kasbarian sent The Armenian Kitchen the following message and article regarding the March 11th issuance of the Arshile Gorky stamp by the U.S. Postal Service.

Let’s get on the band-wagon and do our part!
On March 11, the U.S. Postal Service is issuing the Arshile Gorky postage stamp (see article below).

Let's get behind this by asking everyone -- Armenian and non-Armenian organizations and businesses -- to buy and use the stamp.

For example, we can have Armenian churches use the stamp for all their correspondence. We can ask Armenian schools, newspapers, bookstores, gift shops, cultural centers and societies, youth groups, Armenian groceries and restaurants to do the same.

We can also ask any business we associate with-- such as banks, insurance companies, real estate agencies -- to use the stamp in their correspondence when it's not bulk mail. We can do it !

Please circulate.

Stamps featuring Arshile Gorky’s “The Liver in a Cock’s Comb”. (Click on the highlighted title to read all about it!)