Monday, May 31, 2010

Armenian Foods in Unexpected Places

Whenever Doug and I take a road trip, we instinctively search for anything related to Armenians along the way - people, restaurants, exhibits, films (you never know when a new Atom Egoyan movie is premiering!).

On our return drive from North Carolina recently, we stopped in St. Augustine for the night. We could have made the drive back to Florida in one day (10-hour drive), if we wanted to, but at our age we didn’t feel the need to push.
We randomly selected a hotel and checked in. The manager noticed our name, and asked if we're Armenian. He told us he's Lebanese, from Beirut, and mentioned Beirut's large Armenian community. He's been in St. Augustine for 19 years, and what he misses most, he says, is Armenian basturma! After dinner, we strolled through the area’s Prime Outlet Mall for something to do, and to stretch our cramped legs. While I was looking at shoes, Doug wandered off then returned excitedly, dragging me to see a store he’d just found - Le Gourmet Chef. I have to admit, it was much more fun wandering through the over-stocked aisles of kitchen and household wares than looking at Easy Spirit shoes!

It never ceases to amaze me what you’ll find in unexpected places. We found Boyajian flavored oils, Boyajian flavorings for baking, and Boyajian fondue oil. If you’ll recall, I wrote about them back in December as a suggestion for a Christmas gift. Since we live a good four hours away from St. Augustine, and this lovely store, it was our duty to purchase as many Boyajian products as we could. Of course we could have ordered directly from the company, but I love having the products in-hand for immediate use.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Charlotte, NC - our next "Home Sweet Home"??

Doug and I just returned from a scouting mission in Charlotte, NC. After 32 years of Florida living, we’re searching for a destination closer to the northeast without the severe weather extremes of that region. We’ve decided Charlotte, North Carolina would be a nice place to call home, but wanted to be sure it has all of the amenities we’ve become accustomed to.

Our relocation must-have list includes:
• an Armenian church (St. Sarkis Armenian Church, pictured left)
• a place to purchase necessary Armenian ingredients
• a store that sells American lamb
• a decent butcher shop
• Greek or Middle Eastern restaurants/diners
• at least one major mall, airport, and train station
• art, cultural, and musical events
educational programs and medical facilities
We’re happy to report that Charlotte has all of this and more!

So, what else could  we possibly need? Sounds like the Charlotte area is the ticket for us. All we have to do now, is sell our home in South Florida, and take the plunge.

Wish us luck!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

An Armenian Christening - and- a traditional recipe, Hassa

There’s nothing more glorious than the birth of a child.

Our daughter Mandy's christening - May,1982. Father Paree Metjian officiates; Godfather Aram Aslanian, and Godmother - Aunt Dawn Hourdajian participate.

In the Armenian Apostolic Church, the sacraments of Baptism, Chrismation (Confirmation), and Holy Communion are administered at one time. This is the child’s initiation into the Christian community.

The child is baptized as an infant, generally by the 8th day after birth to the 40th day, according to Apostolic Canon #13. This sacrament is administered in the church rather than the home, according to the teachings of the Armenian Apostolic Church - unless it is an extreme emergency, such as a child’s ill health.

Just as birth is necessary to begin life, baptism is necessary for a child to start their life as a “child of God”.

Confirmation provides strength in the child’s body and mind to live as a member of the church. Through Holy Communion, the child receives spiritual nourishment - the body and blood of Jesus Christ, for salvation.

After the ceremony, the celebration begins!

A traditional dish that is served at christening celebrations is Hassa. My Aunt Arpie was the hassa maker for our family’s christenings. Be warned... you must eat this with a very small spoon, and try not to breathe in as you eat it. The powdery ingredients will fill your sinuses!


1 lb. unsalted chick peas, roasted and ground into a powder*
1/3 lb. candy-covered chick peas (set some aside for decoration) *
1/3 lb. candy-covered almonds(set some aside for decoration) *
1/4 lb. candy-covered fennel seeds *
dash nutmeg
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ground anise seed
½ tsp. ground fennel seed
dash ground cardamom*
½ cup powdered sugar

* The starred ingredients can be found in most Middle Eastern grocery stores.

1. Ground chick peas in a blender or food processor. Sift and re-grind any coarse pieces until powdery. Place in a large bowl.
2. Add the remaining ingredients to the powdered chick peas, and mix thoroughly.
3. Top with candies that were set aside for decoration.

NOTE: Spices can be adjusted according to your taste preference.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Don't try to Shanghai our national fruit!

Visitors to just-opened Expo 2010 in Shanghai, China can stroll through the Apricot Garden, showcasing Armenia's cherished fruit.

They'll see real Armenian apricot trees in bloom and listen to the sounds of the ancient duduk, a reed instrument made of apricot wood.

What they won't see is the behind-the-scenes tussle between China and Armenia over the apricot's origins. It's not exactly breaking news, as it's been going on for at least 2,000 years.

That's when Pliny the Elder gave the apricot its Latin name, Prunus Armeniaca, the Armenian prune or plum.

These days, most Western sources say Pliny was mistaken. The apricot, they insist, traveled west from China to Armenia, where it was discovered by Europeans.

Armenian sources disagree. CWR, the ongoing project to catalogue and preserve Armenia's native wild crops, says apricot pits at least 6,000 years old have been excavated near Yerevan, the capital. That predates any reference in Chinese literature by 2,000 years.

All we know is that the apricot is an essential part of Armenian cuisine and culture, and a favorite flavor in our home. While we have no scientific basis to render a decision, we think any suggestion that the apricot isn't Armenian is strictly the pits.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A book that lifts the veil on ethnic warfare

My long-time friend and former colleague Lou Salome has written a book based on his years of reporting from war zones around the world as a foreign corespondent for Cox Newspapers.

Violence, Veils and Bloodlines isn't just another old-reporter's memoir about close calls and blown deadlines. It's an insightful expose of how ancient tribal allegiances and rivalries continue to shape and often bloody today's world

It's a topic Armenians will instantly grasp and identify with.

Lou's observations are shaped not only by reporting but by very personal experience. From Belfast to Bosnia, from Tel Aviv to Tashkent, his clearly non-Nordic features prompted the same question over and over: Where are you from?

He came to understand the real meaning: Do you belong to my tribe, or are you the enemy?

Lou and I met late in our reporting careers in the newsroom of The Palm Beach Post. His early life as a Syrian in Rhode Island resonated with my experience as an Armenian in New Jersey. He was probably the only other person in the building who shared my preference for lamb over beef.

But while my career was winding down, Lou was just resting. Before retiring a few years ago, Lou made one last foray to Afghanistan. He returned with tales to rival Kipling's, and a gift for me: an Afghan hat called a pakul made of thick wool knitted tightly enough to keep your head toasty on the coldest mountain top.

I am undoubtedly the only person you'll ever see wearing one in Florida.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Armenian Iced Tea (Tay, Chai)

It’s heating up again outside in the sunny south and our thirst level is on the rise. There’s no better way to quench our thirst than to sip a tall, icy glass of iced tea (“chai” as Nanny would say). In the deep south you’ll get sweetened tea unless you specify unsweetened, so be careful what you order.

In our home - and on the road, we prefer unsweetened tea.

You don’t even need tea leaves to make iced tea. All you need, really, is cold water, fresh, aromatic herbal plants, some spices to jazz things up, and sweetener, if desired. If you grow your own herbs, that’s great. We don’t have a traditional garden, just containers on our patio filled with a variety of herbal plants, such as mint, basil, and lemon grass.

To make 8 cups of Armenian-style tea, you’ll need:

8 cups cold water
2 cinnamon sticks
about 4 whole cloves
3 to 4 tea bags (optional)
sweetener to taste, if desired

1. Place the water in a large pot. Tie the cinnamon sticks and cloves in cheesecloth; place in the water. Bring to a boil; simmer about 10 minutes.
2. Remove pot from heat; remove the cheesecloth with the cinnamon sticks and cloves, and discard.
3. Add tea bags to pot, if using, and allow to steep about 5 minutes. Discard tea bags. Add desired amount of sweetener, if using; stir until sweetener is dissolved.
4. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
5. To serve, pour in tall glasses filled with ice.

Variation: Mint Iced Tea

For minty iced tea, follow the same instructions as above, EXCEPT: add about 1 cup of fresh mint leaves, slightly crushed to release their flavor, or two tablespoons of dried mint (tied in cheesecloth) to the boiling water, and eliminate the cinnamon and cloves. Remove tea bags, and strain mint leaves before adding sweetener. Sweeten as desired. Serve with ice.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Kardashian sisters make Armenian Pancakes

Did you ever wonder what Kim, Kourtney, and Khloe Kardashian like to cook? Apparently millions of people do. They have a family-secret recipe, Beeshee, an Armenian pancake, that they wrote about recently. But sharing the recipe with their adoring public was another matter.
Bishi, from The Armenian Kitchen
Minna, an enterprising Kardashian fan, googled the word “Beeshee” but found nothing. Then she found my website, but not the recipe, so she wrote to me asking if I had a recipe for this Armenian pancake. (This was my first Kim Kardashian- related recipe request. Considering how the Kardashian’s are expressing their Armenian-ism these days, I’m surprised no one ever tried to connect them with before. This is a first!)

Minna wrote:

I was reading the Kardashian sisters were making an Armenian pancake.They called it BeeShee. Here is what Kourtney wrote maybe you can find and post the recipe as I have googled beeshee to no avail and she says she will not share the recipe as it's a family secret.

" 'making my famous Armenian breakfast called Beeshee. My grandmother on my dad’s side taught me how to make it and I am the only person in our family who knows how. You have to make it the night before, let the dough rise, and then prepare it in the morning, which Khloe always does. So we do it together as a team effort haha. Because it is a bit of a process, we only make it on special occasions, and every year for Father’s Day, my dad would ask us to make him Beeshee…and of course we always did. It is so delicious and fattening! It’s basically like a thin, crispy fried pancake that you pour tons of sugar on.’

I was surprised when Minna couldn’t find Beeshee (I spelled it B-i-s-h-i) on my website because I’d written about it back in November, as a request by reader Margie. After sending the recipe, Margie made it, and took photos, which we posted on the blog.

The reason Minna couldn’t find it was because I never linked the recipe name to the story. My mistake; sorry!

I’m sure this recipe can’t be too different from the Kardashian's.

So, Minna, and the rest of you Kardashian fans, check out the recipe, try it, and let know how you like it. We'd love to hear your comments.

Monday, May 17, 2010

America's getting a taste of the good stuff

Robyn and I were drooling our way through our local Whole Foods the other day, marveling at how expertly they make everything look appetizing -- and at the amazing array of both ingredients and prepared foods from around the world.

It's partly a generational thing, of course. We grew up at a time when Americans really believed that Wonder Bread helped build strong bodies 12 ways.
Here's more dramatic evidence of how much more varied America's menu has become -- and how far it's moved in our direction: The Houston Chronicle reports that downtown Houston is about to get a new 28,000-square-foot gourmet market called Phoenicia Specialty Foods.
It's a companion to an existing Phoenicia store opened in the early '90s as a small restaurant and cafe by Zohrab (Bob) and Arpi Tcholakian, Armenians from Lebanon.
The original Phoenicia now sprawls across more than 50,000 square feet and has become a major tourist attraction. It's also won a ton of awards, including being named one of the top 10 grocery stores in the country.
Phoenicia's extensive offerings seem to include just about every ingredient needed by the Armenian or Middle Eastern cook. Their web site notes that products come from more than 50 counties, including France, Lebanon, Chile, Saudi Arabia, Iran -- and, of course, Armenia.
Who'd have guessed such a thing would catch on in Texas, home of the barbecued steer?
The new store is expected to open in December. We've never been to Houston, but it's just moved up on our destinations list.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Searching for Mushroom Dip and Cake with a Crunchy Filling

The hunt is on again... we’re searching for two more recipes - a dip made with mushrooms and possibly yogurt, and a 2-layer cake with a unique, crispy, crunchy filling.

Reader Lori wrote:
“I am so excited to see this site though!

I used to work in Hollywood. All my staff were Armenian, and for every birthday, the treat was the cake. There was always a spread--and if you could tell me what the name of the mushroom and Yogurt? side dish dip was I will be so excited!

BUT THE CAKE!!!!!!!!!!

It would come as a classic double layer sheet cake, just like an American sheet cake--

But, the filling was this crunchy, honeycomb like molasses crisp wonderful stuff- so in your cake bite there was always a crunch from the filling. I LOVE THIS STUFF!

So--I am trying to find out what it is called, and if I am able to be gifted with this cake on my b'day.... I need to tell my family what it is called and which is the best bakery in Little Armenia to get it?????

Can anyone help me?
Cake is crucial-

The mushroom dip would be an extra bonus!!

Thank you!


Lori, I hope you're reading this! The search might just be over.
Two of my loyal California "contacts", Armand Sahakian, proprietor of Nory Locum and Pastries, and Ara Kassabian have joined me in this search on your behalf.

Ara said: "The cake Lori is describing sounds like the walnut honey cake. It is a layer cake that has crushed walnuts and honey, including a layer of crushed walnuts on the top. If this is it, then it is found in most Armenian stores and bakery stores. The Hayastantsi stores do it the best. For this particular cake, I recommend Flor de Cafe, on the corner of Colorado and Glendale Blvd, or Paradise Bakery, on Glenoaks close to Western.
The mushroom dip sounds familiar also but I don't have the recipe. To get it ready-made, there is Kozanian's Market on the corner of Chevy Chase and Verdugo, in Glendale. At least they have a mushroom salad that sounds like the one Lori describes."

Armand, reporting directly from Kozanian's Ranch Market in Glendale, CA, stated,
"Hi Robyn,
As Ara said, they have both the cake and the mushroom salad. The salad is not made with yogurt however. It's made with mayo."

Although Kozanian's carries the cake in question, Ara suggests going to Paradise Bakery or Cafe de Flor for the cake where it will be fresher and  of a higher quality.

Lori, give these stores a try, and please let us know if they satisfy your cravings.
My personal thanks to Armand and Ara for their swift response, and willingness to help!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Hummus War: Weapons of Mashed Confection

Have you heard about the Hummus War? It's sort of funny, but it's no joke.

CNN reports that Lebanon has asked the European Union to declare hummus a Lebanese dish, in the way feta cheese has been certified as Greek.

Anyone can make and sell feta cheese, but the label must say "Greek style cheese" if it's not actually from Greece. If Lebanon succeeds, hummus will have to carry a similar Lebanon-origin label.

In order to dramatize their claim, a group of Lebanese chefs recently set the Guiness World Record for the largest plate of hummus ever made (see photo at top).

The recipe used eight tons of boiled chickpeas, two tons of tahini, two tons of lemon juice and 154 pounds of olive oil. The completed dish weighed 11.5 tons, which sounds adequate for the average Armenian church picnic.

Who wouldn't marvel at such an achievement? The Israelis, who aren't ready to concede their share of the worldwide billion-dollar hummus market.

The Lebanese say Israel is poaching (or maybe just boiling) their chickpea territory. Israel makes no claim that hummus is of Israeli origin but says hummus is a regional dish that no country can claim as its own.

Fascinating, isn't it?

We hear plenty from readers (and especially YouTube viewers) who are certain that this dish or that either definitely is or isn't Armenian. It's not enough to say that Armenians enjoy certain foods or traditionally prepare them a certain way. Some people just can't enjoy a meal without knowing, or at least believing, that Armenians were the first to cook lamb on a skewer or wrap rice in a grape leaf.

Of course, we were.

So why doesn't Armenia register something? Yogurt (madzoon) would certainly be profitable. How about lavash bread? A slice of the worldwide sandwich-wrap market would be mighty satisfying!

What do you think? What should we Armenians insist the world recognize as our own?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

No Better Gift

Moms, I hope you all had a fantastic Mother’s Day. I certainly did!

No flowers, chocolate, or jewelry for me. There was only one gift I wished for - a visit from our daughter, Mandy. She’s a young professional working and living in New York City - excitement central! It’s hard to have a phone conversation with her, much less a visit.

But, a visit is what I got! (How did she know??)

Mandy and I share a special mother-daughter bond which can never to broken. When she was a toddler, she’d hang on my leg, sobbing, as I’d attempt to leave for work in the morning. Talk about breaking a mother’s heart! As she got wee-bit older, she’d panic if she couldn’t find me in the house. Daddy Doug, would tease her and say, “Your mother has gone to France.” Mandy would wail and shout, “No she didn’t!” Doug got a big chuckle out of this; Mandy wasn’t amused. Luckily, I’d wander back into view moments later to receive a huge hug and kiss from Mandy, not realizing what had just taken place. It’s nice to know you’re appreciated.

When Mandy went off to college in Tampa, I was the one sobbing. It was only a 4-hour drive from home, but it might as well have been halfway to the moon. (Mandy had promised to go to college near home; funny how that changed!) After college Mandy ended up pursuing her career in the Big Apple, where she remains today - 6 years later. I had to pretend to be mature, and give her the blessing she wanted in order to follow her dream.

Now I know how my mother felt when Doug and I moved from New Jersey to Florida almost 32 years ago!

Thank you, Mandy, for the BEST Mother’s Day gift ever (and the spa massage was great, too)! I love you!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day! wishes mothers everywhere a wonderful day!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mothers - and their (Yalanchi) Recipes- are Special!

We've been trying to do our part by helping to preserve treasured recipes passed down to family, friends and to so many of you readers who have become our new friends.

One stand-out favorite is stuff grape leaves (yalanchi). We've tasted many variations, including some we love so much we wouldn't want future generations to do without them.

Two of those come from 1) my cousin, Vivian Vezirian Hovsepian, and 2) dear friend, Arousiak Avedyan.

Robyn’s note: They are both phenomenal cooks!

Vivian, from my Dikranagerdsi side of the family, was happy to share the recipe and said it was handed down from her mother, Victoria Vezirian. Vivian thinks this recipe probably came from her maternal grandmother, Gadar Najarian. Both women are gone now, but it’s wonderful to know they are remembered through their recipes. (Mother, Vicky, and daughter, Vivian, are pictured above.)

(If you need a refresher on how to roll grape leaves, check out our YouTube video.)

TheVezirian Family's Yalanchi recipe

3 lbs. onions, chopped, not too big
2 cups oil
1 1/2 cups rice
1 large can tomato paste
Juice of 3 lemons
Salt & pepper to taste
1-2 T. paprika
2 T. all spice
3/4 Cup (approx.-- more or less, to taste) pignolia nuts
few dashes cayenne pepper
1/2 bunch parsley, chopped

Grape leaves: Vivian uses fresh grape leaves from the vines her father planted many years ago.

In a large pot, saute onions and rice in oil over medium heat until very clear. This will take at least one-half hour. Stir occasionally so it won't stick. If you see mixture sticks or seems like it's burning, lower heat.

When onions are limp, add rest of the ingredients - except the grape leaves, of course! Remove from stove and stir until all ingredients are well blended. Cool in pot for about 20 minutes. Tip pot so oil drains from mixture. Set aside for later use.

Fill grape leaves with mixture - about 2 Tbsp., depending on size of leaf. Roll leaves. 

Place rolled grape leaves in large pyrex dish, but not more than 3 layers deep. Drizzle the drained oil from pot over the yalanchi.

Add warm water to fill pyrex 3/4 full. Bake, covered, in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 1 hour or until most liquid is absorbed. Check by tasting to see if rice is cooked. If so, remove from oven.

Vivian’s comment:
This was so difficult (as many Armenian recipes are) to get the specific measurement from my mother. She never owned a cookbook or measuring utensils. Everything was "achkee chap"-- or "eyeballing" it! By watching and trying to get a spoon or measuring cup under her hands, was the way I learned .....truly a challenge! But I do appreciate the compliment about my yalanchi, but, after all, I did learn from the best!:)


Arousiak’s recipe for yalanchi came from her mother-in-law, Alice Avedyan, who lived in Istanbul. Arousiak, who was born in Armenia, confessed she never liked yalanchi, and therefore never learned to make it UNTIL she married her husband, Varoujan, and tasted his mother’s cooking.

Arousiak couldn’t believe how delicious it was, and regretted not eating it all those years. Luckily, Alice stayed with the newly married couple for several months, teaching Arousiak everything she needed to know about cooking.

Arousiak knew she was a success in the kitchen when she received the ultimate compliment from her mother-in-law: “Arousiak, you’re making it better than I do!”

Alice Avedyan’s Yalanchi

10 medium sized onions, chopped
½ cup rice (short grain)
1 bunch dill
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup currants
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp each salt and pepper
1 ½ cup vegetable oil
juice of ½ lemon

1. Saute onion in 1 ½ cup oil until soft. Add rice and all other ingredients. Cook about 20-25 minutes. Cool.
2. Wrap filling in grape leaves. (Note: Watch our video to see how to fold grape leaves.
3. Place tightly together; squeeze lemon juice on top.
4. Place a plate on top of the wrapped grape leaves.
5. Pour some water over the grape leaves, but not enough to cover.
6. Cook about 45 minutes.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Bread From the Past

As you know, was designed to be interactive. By this I mean our readers would have the opportunity to share their family's stories and recipes.
Our thanks to all of you who have contributed! (and please keep them coming!)

If you've been following our blog, you'll know that California resident Leon Kaye (originally Kooyoomjian, he said), has been looking for a reasonable facsimile of his grandmother, Ovsanna Kaye's, much-missed katah recipe.

We posted a katah (ashma, Armenian croissant) recipe provided by cookbook author, Dorothy Arakelian, while the Kaye family went on an all-out hunt for his grandmother's recipe. While Leon agreed that Dorothy's recipe was close, he was still determined to locate his family's version.

GREAT NEWS! One of Leon's relatives found, and sent him Grandmother Ovsanna's recipe. As promised, Leon sent it, and the story behind it, to us to share with you.
Our thanks to the entire Kaye family and Dorothy and their enthusiastic efforts!

Here is Leon's story followed by his grandmother's katah recipe:

"Bread From the Past"
by Leon Kaye
"My grandmother grew up in the Sepastia region of Turkey, outside the city of Sivas. In 1915, at the age of 10, her family was forced out of their home, forced to march through the deserts of Anatolia and Syria until she finally ended up at an orphanage in Beirut. She, her sister, and two brothers were the only ones in their family who survived.

Her long journey took her from Beirut to Cuba, New York, Detroit, and finally, Fresno. In 1946, she and my grandfather opened a grocery store in Calwa, south of Fresno, which they ran for 20 years while raising my father and aunt.

Despite managing and working at the grocery store 7 days a week, she somehow always found the time to cook and bake.

One of my memories was her katah, a slightly sweet roll: crispy and browned on top, with fluffy yet at the same time, dense layers which are revealed underneath. After a weekend in Fresno, our Dodge van would be loaded with bags of food. It’s a wonder that van made its way through Pacheco Pass back to Silicon Valley, where my father eventually settled. All of that loot was delicious: the lahmejoun, kufteh, and even her chocolate chip cookies were phenomenal and dripping with love: but what we all raved about the most, I think, was the katah, which I often took for my lunch as a kid. They were perfect in the morning, with grandma’s homemade jam!

High blood pressure took a toll on her as she reached her late seventies, and she eventually stopped cooking. She passed away in 1990. No one learned how to make the katah, but through the years it would come up in conversations during which we reminisced about her.

Twenty years later, I have decided to stop reminiscing and now I plan on baking. After this Easter in Fresno, my aunt decided to do some investigating and racked her memory. It turned out that a cousin of another aunt spent the day with my grandmother on day in 1965, and she mailed her notes to my aunt. Now I’m sharing it with you. I plan on trying it soon as a labor of love. Of course nothing has been the same as what your grandmother made, but everything she had cooked in some form can be found elsewhere—but not her katah—nothing I have seen or tried compares.

What I love about this recipe is that is summed up the times during which she lived. There are no “organic” or “macrobiotic” ingredients in this recipe. It doesn’t matter: this beats any artisan bread you can find out there. The only challenge is that she used yeast cake, which is a challenge and I’m trying to find a substitute. If you know whether I could use regular dry yeast, please let me know."

**Robyn's note:  one compressed yeast cake is equivalent to 1 package of dry active dry yeast, or one tablespoon (15ml) of  active dry yeast.

Ovsanna Kaye’s Katah Recipe

2 sticks butter
1 sticks margarine (total= 1 ½ cups; reserve ¼ cup)
1 quart milk + (another 1 pint, approximately)
1 yeast cake ** (see Robyn's note above)
3 tablespoons sugar
4 lbs. flour

  • Mix 4 lbs. of flour and 3 tablespoons of sugar in a large mixing bowl.
  • Warm milk* in a pan, add the yeast.
  • *Robyn's note: Milk should reach a temperature of about 105 - 110 degrees F.
  • Melt 2 sticks of butter and 1 stick of margarine in a second pan. Reserve ¼ cup of butter, margarine for later.
  • Combine flour-sugar mixture with 1 ¼ cups of butter and margarine and milk and yeast.
  • Mix until pliable. Knead about 10 minutes (you want to feel a popping in the dough).
  • Add just a bit of the reserve butter/margarine mixture to the pliable dough. Then divide the dough into 10 separate rounds. Cover them with waxed paper.
  • Remove 1 round of dough. With a long narrow stick, roll out the dough using enough flour to prevent sticking to the rolling pin. You should have an 18 inch diameter circle. Add a bit more reserve butter/margarine to the surface of the circle.
  • Place another round of dough on top and continue to roll the two layers together until it is as large as a kitchen table. Spread a bit more reserve butter/margarine on the now very large circle of dough.
  • Fold one side of the circle in and then fold the opposite side over. You will have a rectangular shape and 3 layers.
  • Spread a bit more butter/margarine reserve over the surface of the rectangle.
  • Roll, like a jelly roll this time, from the longest side and shape the coiled dough into a horse-shoe shape. Place on a piece of waxed paper and cover with waxed paper.
  • When you have formed 2 horse-shoe shaped dough strips (by repeating the previous instructions) using a rolling pin, roll out the length and flatten each one.
  • Make a cut every 1 ½ inches along each strip. You’ll have 17 or 18 cuts along each strip.
  • Keep in a warm place with waxed paper under the tray. Let rise for 2 or 3 hours.
  • Repeat directions with the remaining 3 rounds which will give you a total of 5 strips.
  • After 2 or 3 hours when the first strips have risen, brush tops with egg/milk combination (a standard egg wash recipe should do). Cleanly separate cut pieces and bake at 350 degrees on a greased baking sheet for about 20-25 minutes.
Leon Kaye
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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Hye Quality Bakery Opens eStore

I love the internet! Without it, how else would I have learned that the Hye Quality Bakery in Fresno has just started an e-store?

Hye Quality Bakery, which has been in operation since 1957, is owned and operated by the Ganimian family. They specialize in traditional Armenian cracker bread - and more! Now you can order their products - in the U.S. - by just ‘clicking-and-ordering’ from the convenience of - well, anywhere!

The following article explains it all. Read on, and happy shopping!
The Original Sandwich and Wrap Soft Roll-up Bread Now Available Online.
CONTACT: Sammy Ganimian, (877) 445-1778,

FRESNO, CA., April, 2010 — For many years, roll-up pinwheel sandwiches have been a favorite as appetizers, snacks and light meals. In addition, the growing popularity of wrap sandwiches has increased the demand for the soft, pliable cracker bread used in these recipes. To serve this demand, Hye Quality Bakery in Fresno has launched an online eStore to offer their full line of traditional cracker breads and crackers to the entire United States.

Hye Quality Bakery developed America’s first soft cracker bread in 1980, the Hye Rollertm, and today their pliable cracker bread rounds are used in homes and restaurants throughout the country by those who insist on a fresh-baked, soft cracker bread with flavors that will not dominate their sandwiches, appetizers and wraps.

On the bakery's new web site at, you will find a number of recipes available for download to create colorful sandwiches, appetizers and wraps for parties or as an exciting alternative for children's lunches. Favorite recipes on the site are the Mediterranean Hye Roller, which blends several flavors from the home lands where cracker bread was first baked, the Pizza Roll, a heated roll-up full of pizza-style ingredients popular with kids, or the Vegetarian Burrito, a delicious mixture of spanish-themed tastes finished with taco sauce and green chilies. Hye RollersTM can also be coated with olive oil and toasted in the oven to make a natural, wholesome alternative to tortilla chips.

Cracker bread is an Armenian tradition that dates back to biblical times. Also referred to as Lahvash, flat bread, and Parag-Hatz (thin bread), this cracker bread has been available to a limited number of retailers. But with the launch of their new online e-Store, Hye Quality Bakery is now shipping their breads directly into kitchens across the country.

The new online e-Store sells all three of Hye Quality Bakery's main product lines, including the family's traditional recipe Armenian Cracker Bread and Hye DeLitestm Gourmet Crackers, as well as the popular Hye RollersTM Soft Cracker Bread. The Hye DeLites Gourmet Crackers are a low-sodium hexagonal cracker that have become a favorite with wineries, who prefer them as a taste-neutral palette cleanser to compliment their wines in a tasting room environment or at gala wine events.

The methods used to bake Hye Quality's soft cracker breads and other products reflect the bakery's adherence to strict Old World values. Only unbleached flours and natural ingredients are used to produce their dough, which is unaltered with dough conditioners, additives, gums or preservatives. All their cracker breads are low in sodium and certified Kosher Dairy. The bread is still shaped, not dye-cut, and much of the baking process remains “hands-on” to maintain the level of quality the bakery’s reputation demands.

To order Hye Quality Bakery's Armenian cracker breads online, visit Orders from food service customers, distributors and the public can also be made by phone at (877) 445-1778.
*********************** wishes the Ganimian family much success in their new venture!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Introducing an Armenian dish to an otherwise very American picnic

Picnics are a way of life in South Florida from autumn through springtime. Forget the summer - it’s way too hot and rainy to be outside for any length of time.

Jan Norris,(on right in photo; I'm on the left) is a true southern gal with a passion for food. She is the former Food Editor of the Palm Beach Post Newspaper, and Doug's former colleague. In retirement, Jan is busier than ever. In addition to her own blog, Jan Norris: Food and Florida Online, she writes for at least 5 other publications. How does she find the time?

Jan decided to put together an impromptu picnic for retired Post employees and their families. The event was held at a lovely park in the northern part of Palm Beach County, straddling the intracoastal and the ocean. Jan, a grand-organizer, rented a pavilion, arranged to have BBQ chicken and ribs catered, with guests providing side dishes and desserts - a very American get-together.

My contribution -  Sarma Gurgood!
There was an abundance of potato salad, coleslaw, baked beans, pasta salad and then, my contribution - tabbouleh (Sarma Gurgood, made according to my grandmother's recipe). 
It surprised me that some guests didn’t know what it was; others had heard of it, but never tasted it, so this was a good time for them to learn and try. I am happy to report, the reviews were positive. Even the half-Lebanese gentleman and his wife gave it 2 thumbs-up!

We’re looking forward to Jan’s next picnic, where we’ll introduce other Armenian dishes to these very American palates.