Sunday, January 30, 2011

Red Lentil - Apricot Soup

To wrap up National Soup Month, try this earthy-gently sweet recipe.
The photo was taken just before I used the immersion blender. The soup wasn't completely smooth which gave it a nice, rustic texture.

Red Lentil - Apricot Soup
Red Lentil - Apricot Soup
Serves 4 to 6


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small sweet onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
salt, to taste
1 1/2 cups red lentils, rinsed and sorted through
5 (or more) cups water or chicken broth
1/2 cup dried apricots, finely chopped
1 Tbsp lemon juice


1. Heat the oil in a pot over medium heat. Add onion and carrots. Saute for about 10 minutes, or until vegetables begin to soften.
2. Stir in the cumin and coriander. Reduce heat, cover, and cook vegetables another ten minutes.
3. Add the lentils, apricots, salt to taste, and enough water (or broth) to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the lentils, apricots and vegetables are tender. Stir in lemon juice. If soup begins to thicken too much, add a little more liquid.
4. Remove from the heat. Working in small batches, carefully blend the soup in a blender. (Note: an immersion blender can also be used for this step.)
5. Serve immediately.

Delicious served with crusty bread!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A legacy of migration: Armenian food with an Indian twist

A friend recently shared this video from the Web site of IBN, CNN's partner in India. 

It's an extended report on Armenian food in Kolkata (Calcutta to Anglophones), prepared by some members of the city's dwindling Armenian community.

Among the cooks is an Armenian priest who heads a still-thriving school, which was founded to preserve the Armenian culture among children born in India. Now only four Armenian students are locals; the rest come from abroad.

In the video, Father Khoren Hovhannisyan shows a deft hand at making cabbage dolma, although he says he prefers grape leaves but laments the difficulty of finding them locally. His recipe isn't ours -- no tomato, no sumac -- but that's the nature of Armenian food from various regions.

It's also clear that Armenians in India have adapted their cooking to local tastes, just as many of us have. Another Armenian cook on the program surprises the host by adding Indian spices to his kebab mixture, explaining that his family recipe has been "Indianized." 

In all, it's a tasty slice of life in a fascinating place that shows just how much Armenians love our food. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Spinach Bulghour with Basterma

Diane Aginian of MI and FL, has asked for our help in finding a family recipe from long ago. This dish was made (and quite possibly created) by her mother who was originally from Yosgat, but came to the U.S.A. at an early age. Diane describes the dish as stew-like that contains bulgur, spinach, bits of soujuk and chemen or chaiman (saved from basterma) for flavoring. She believes this dish was made on the stovetop rather than the oven, and was good for bread-dunking. Other than that she couldn’t recall anything else about the recipe, not even if this dish has a name.

This was a TALL order, but I couldn’t resist the challenge.

I flipped through all of my Armenian cookbooks looking for any recipe that contained the main ingredients: bulgur, spinach, soujuk and basterma chaiman.

Lo and behold, I found a recipe called “Spinach Bulghour with Basterma” in my cookbook, “Paree Josh - Good Eating: Armenian-American Recipes” submitted by Lita Nersesian.

It contained most of the key ingredients Diane mentioned - with the exception of soujuk. But, Diane is the only one who can say whether or not this recipe hits home.

Diane, It’s up to you… you must try Lita’s recipe and let us know if it reminds you of your mother’s creation.

Spinach Bulghour with Basterma
Serves 6 to 8

3 onions
¼ lb. butter (1 stick)
6 to 12 slices basterma
½ (10 oz.) can whole, peeled tomatoes
2 lbs. washed, stemmed spinach

¼ cup coarse bulghour (#3)
Salt and pepper


1. Saute onions in butter in a large pot. Add basterma and slightly braise.
2. Add tomatoes and simmer 2 minutes. Add spinach, then sprinkle with the bulghour, and salt and pepper to taste. Steam 4 minutes.
3. Stir down spinach and simmer gently 15 to 30 minutes. Vegetables should be juicy.
4. Add water at the end if necessary.

All quantities of ingredients are optional according to your taste. The flavor of this dish is enhanced the next day.

Robyn's Suggestions: Since it wasn't mentioned in the original recipe, I would recommend:
chopping or slicing the onions
cutting the basterma into small pieces
chopping the tomatoes or using canned diced tomatoes

Friday, January 21, 2011

Armenians were toasting history before it was history

    More fascinating discoveries just keep on emerging from caves in Armenia.
    Researchers at UCLA and Oxford have confirmed that what archaeologists suspected of being the world's oldest wine-making operation is, in fact, the world's oldest wine-making operation.
     Casks and vats like the ones in the university photo at left have been carbon-dated back more than 6,000 years. The remains predate all other wine-making discoveries in the region as well as in Egypt and elsewhere.
     This comes on the heels, so to speak, of the discovery of the world's oldest shoe -- along with the discoveries of the world's oldest human brain, the world's oldest dress and the world's oldest mummified animal.
     The mummy, I admit, had me stumped until I read that it was a goat and decided our ancestors were simply trying to preserve leftovers. The wine makes the same sort of sense: a few sips would certainly have helped wash down that goat kebab. However, researchers who may be slightly less familiar with the Armenian taste for the grape, say it was most likely used for strictly ceremonial purposes, possibly at funerals.
     Although no wine remains, scientists say they're sure that's what the operation was about because they found traces of grape residue. There was no way to preserve juice without fermentation.
     We do get a hint about the wine's delicate and uniquely Armenian flavor from a conclusion that the researchers drew after realizing they'd found nothing suitable for smashing the grapes.
      "People obviously were stomping the grapes with their feet," said the excavation's co-director, Gregory Areshian.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Bastegh, Perhaps?

While trying to find a recipe for reader  MHB recently, several suggestions where made via comments.
Grape leather image from Google
Ara K. thought it might be “kaymakh” served with clotted cream, or halva made with semolina drenched in simple syrup made with a touch of lemon.

I wasn’t so sure because MHB made it sound as though the recipe could be picked up and eaten by hand.

Ara’s next suggestion was “atayiff”, a small pancake that can be filled with cream (or whatever you like), and eaten by hand.

I thought Ara had come up with the perfect recipe idea, when I heard from my cousin Doreen. She contacted her mom (my Aunt Zippi), gave her the brief recipe description and asked her to put on her “thinking cap” to see if she knew what this might be.

Here is Aunt Zippi’s thought…

“It just came to me and I remember!!

My father used to make the white, chewy stuff on clean white muslin sheets! It was made out of white grape juice and something else I think to make it jell. After it dried on the cloth, they would peel it off and place nuts, raisins and roll it up and eat them. It was delicious and sometimes my father and mother would definitely make them for Christmas and New Year's!! They used to call it "seejogh" (like sausage). This was a very popular sweet – and - you could buy it in the Armenian grocery stores. Funny how it just rang a bell in my memory!”

This could be it! The “seejogh” recipe my aunt mentioned could very well be “Bastegh” which is spread and dried on a fine cotton cloth. It's chewy, can be made into a pouch, filled with nuts and such, and can be eaten by hand. Unfortunately I don’t have my grandparent’s recipe, but I found one in my copy of Rose Baboian’s “Armenian-American Cookbook”.

(My attempt at making bastegh didn’t work out too well in the past, but I used a different recipe and tried making it during Florida’s humid season!)

Now it's MHB's turn to let us know if this could possibly be the recipe in question.

Basic Basduk (Bastegh)


1 cup cornstarch
11/3 cups flour
2½ cups cold water
4 quarts white grape juice
1 cup corn syrup
4 ½ to 6 cups sugar (depending on the sweetness or tartness of the juice)
2 tsp. finely ground mahlab


1. In a large pot mix together the cornstarch and flour.
2. Gradually stir in the cold water. Mix thoroughly until blended. Pour mixture through a sieve to remove any lumps. Set aside.
3. In another large pot, combine the juice, corn syrup, and sugar. Bring to a boil.
4. Gradually pour juice mixture into cornstarch-flour mixture, stirring constantly.
5. Soak ground mahlab in 2 Tbsp. water for 5 minutes. Drain. Add to bastegh mixture and bring to a boil again.
6. Spread a fine cotton cloth (measuring about 30 inches by 50 inches) on a large flat surface.
7. Pour the hot bastegh gradually over the cloth, leaving about an inch of cloth showing around all edges. Flatten to about 1/8th inch thickness with a spatula.
8. Partially dry on the flat surface ( about 2 to 3 days in the winter; about 1 day in the summer). Hang partially dried bastegh from a clothesline for a day of two.
9. When completely dried, peel bastegh from the cloth. You might have to soak the back of the cloth that’s been soaked in cold water. Let stand a few minutes until the bastegh has soaked in enough water to easily separate from the cloth.
10. Sprinkle a little cornstarch through a piece of cheesecloth over the bastegh to remove any moisture.
11. Cut with kitchen shears (scissors) into 5” x 6” pieces. Fold in half, starched-side inside. Spread on a tray, and allow to dry for a few hours. Then wrap in waxed paper.
12. Cut waxed paper into 5” x 6” pieces. Place each folded piece of bastegh on a piece of waxed paper. Stack on top of each other, making about 12 in each pack. Wrap each pack in a large sheet of waxed paper or in a plastic food storage bag. Bastegh should not stick to each other and should stay soft and fresh for weeks.
13. To serve: create a little pouch with the bastegh and fill with chopped nuts and/or dried fruit pieces.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

January is National Soup Month!

Red Lentil-Vegetable Soup
With mounds of snow blanketing much of the U.S., this is the perfect time to celebrate a food that's both comforting and nourishing. There's nothing better than a bowl of hearty soup to soothe your aching bones after shoveling 2 feet of snow from the driveway. OK, so we don't shovel snow in South Florida, but it does get chilly now and again- plus we had our share of shoveling while growing up in New Jersey.

We’ve offered you some of our favorite soup recipes: red lentil, brown lentil, Armenian chicken soup, cabbage soupyogurt soup, and would like to add another red lentil soup recipe to our repertoire.

We hope you’ll enjoy this.

Red Lentil and Vegetable Soup

1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 carrots, pared and chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
½ tsp. Aleppo red pepper (dash of cayenne pepper can be substituted)
1 – 15 oz. can diced tomatoes (including the liquid)
3 cups water (or vegetable, chicken or beef broth)
1 cup red lentils, picked over and rinsed
Salt and pepper to taste
1 (10-oz.) pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed
Fresh lemon wedges


1. In a 6 quart pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add carrots and onion and cook about 8 minutes or until vegetables begin to soften and turn light brown. Stir in Aleppo red pepper and cook another minute or so.
2. Add tomatoes and their liquid, water (or broth), lentils, salt and pepper to taste. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, tilt the cover, and allow to simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Stir in spinach and continue cooking for 20 minutes or until lentils and spinach are tender. If soup becomes too thick, add some more liquid to thin it out.
4. Just before serving, stir in freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste.

Serve with warm, crusty bread...... Delicious!!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Another Recipe Request…

Reader MHB recently wrote:

Hi! Merry Christmas! I'm looking for a recipe that my Aunt used to make around Christmas time. As far as I remember, it was a very white, soft, chewy dough (if I am not mistaken if was spread over a very large cloth). It had a very light taste of lemon, if I am not mistaken.... and we would cut it into pieces, and make small "pouches" filled with almonds, nuts, raisins, etc, and eat it....

Hmmm, we must admit, this description doesn't ring any bells with us. After searching through our cookbooks, we came up empty. If this sounds remotely familiar to any of you, please email with your suggestion so we can post it.

Many Thanks,

R & D

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Shakarshee - another Armenian Sugar Cookie!

June Hollisian, one of our Armenian Kitchen Facebook readers wrote:

My Grandmother made a cookie she called "shakarshee". Her recipe was 2 c fat melted 2 1/2 c sugar and 3 1/2 or more c flour. She didn't use a traditional measuring cup and her fat was the old time rendered. I tried to make the cookie using butter and my effort tasted yummy but were like an American sugar cookie in texture. Grandma's was soft and melted in your mouth. She was from Dickranagert. Any suggestions?

June came to the right place. First, Doug and I are both part Dickranagertsi (but you already know that). Second, we’ve been on an Armenian sugar cookie kick lately. We’d just posted 2 Kourabia cookie recipes and the Sharkar Loqum cookie recipe for Linda Kevorkian. (Photo is of our Kourabia cookies.)

I emailed June my mother-in-law, Sylvia Kalajian’s recipe for Shakarshee, which she said sounded like her grandmother’s. Then, out of the blue, my cousin Doreen Keil emailed me a Shakarshee cookie recipe from Nartouhe Hourdajian, my brother-in-law’s late mother. (Are you following this?)

My head was spinning from Armenian sugar cookie overload!

The two ladies recipes are quite different, yet delicious. Here are both recipes. Try each, and email (or post a comment) to let us know which is to your liking.

Nartouhe Hourdajian’s Shakarshee

1 lb sweet butter

4 egg yolks
14 oz (out of a 16 oz package) confectioner’s sugar
5 ½ cups flour (or to consistency)

Using a mixer:

Keep butter at room temperature
Cream well in mixer until butter is soft and fluffy
Cream egg yolks into butter
Add gradually confectioner’s sugar until all are thoroughly blended in mixer

By hand:

Add flour little at a time until you feel consistency will hold the cookie shape

Dough should be soft, not hard
Shape dough into small balls or crescent shapes


Bake in pre-heated oven at 250 degrees F – 10 to 15 minutes – until pale, not brown
Sprinkle remaining confectioner’s sugar on top of the cooled cookies
Sylvia Kalajian’s Shakarshee

1 lb. sweet butter, melted and cooled

2 cups super-fine sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups flour
Confectioner’s (powdered) sugar for coating

Using a mixer, beat butter, sugar and vanilla together until smooth.

Add flour and mix by hand until a soft dough is formed.
Pinch pieces of dough the size of walnuts and roll with floured hands to prevent sticking.
Place on an ungreased baking sheet about 1 inch apart. Flatten slightly.
Bake in a preheated 300°F oven about 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack.
When cookies have cooled, sprinkle (lightly or heavily) with confectioner’s sugar.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Merry Armenian Christmas!

From to all of our family, friends and faithful followers, we wish you a very Blessed Christmas!

Krisdos dzunav yev haydnetsav (Christ is born and revealed among us)

Orhnial eh haydnootiunun Krisdosee (Blessed is the revelation of Christ)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Anoush Abour - an Armenian Christmas Pudding

Anoush Abour
To round out the holidays –and- to satisfy your body and soul during this festive season, there is one recipe that cannot be ignored: Anoush Abour. It's a sweet, fruity, nutty delicacy to be savored with loved ones. (Photo courtesy of Google Images.)

The recipe I’m offering comes from Yerchanig Joy Callan, wife of Roy Callan, Executive Director of Camp Haiastan in Franklin, MA. Her recipe is one of the dessert selections in the recently released cookbook, “Armenian Cuisine: Preserving Our Heritage”, from St. John’s Armenian Church, Southfield, Michigan.
Joy suggests cooking the fruit separately from the other ingredients and adding it when cooled to keep the pudding's appearance an appealing pearly white. Joy also confided that the longer the pudding sets, the thicker it becomes. To loosen it up a bit, stir in a little simple syrup (the kind you drizzle on paklava) before serving.

This dish is a MUST-have at any Armenian Christmas (January 6th) celebration.
PS: Don't forget: According to our friend Ara, tonight, Jan. 5th, you should be serving Nevik - Swiss Chard with Chick Peas!

Soorp Dznoont!!

Anoush Abour


1 cup gorgod (skinless whole wheat)
3 ½ quarts water
1 cup sugar
1 cup California apricots, finely chopped
1 cup raisins (currants or yellow)
½ cup pistachios
1/3 cup pine nuts
¼ cup finely chopped filberts (hazelnuts)
½ cup slivered almonds
½ toasted pecans or walnuts
Ground cinnamon, to taste
Pomegranate seeds


1. In a 6-quart pot, combine wheat and water. Bring to a boil for 5 minutes. Cover and let rest overnight.
2. Remove cover. Return to simmer. Simmer gorgod until water begins to thicken. The lower the simmer, the “whiter” the pudding will remain. After about 1 ½ to 2 hours of simmering, add the sugar and continue to simmer. The pudding will begin to take on a thicker consistency.
3. While wheat is simmering, combine fruit, pistachios and pine nuts in a small saucepan with water. Bring to a gentle simmer and allow to cook for about 15 minutes. Thoroughly drain. Add to pudding when pudding is cooled so that fruit will not bleed color into pudding.
4. Pour into serving bowl. Garnish with filberts, slivered almonds, pecans or walnuts and cinnamon.
5. Pomegranate seeds should either be incorporated into pudding uncooked or served separately as a garnish.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Shakar Loqum – Armenian Sugar Cookie

Shakar Loqum
Reader Linda Kevorkian asked me to help locate a cookie recipe (Shakar Loukome) made by her late aunt. Her description was limited, so trying to locate a recipe posed a challenge. I was excited when I found a recipe by that name in one of my Armenian Church Women’s Guild - produced cookbooks, “Paree Josh – Good Eating”, compiled by St. Mary Armenian Apostolic Church, Livingston, NJ. The recipe was submitted by Pamela Matossian.

Linda, I hope this recipe brings back fond memories.

Shakar Loqum


1 ¼ cup clarified butter* (or use a combination of 1/2 margarine and 1/2 butter at room temperature)

1 cup granulated sugar

1 egg yolk

Approx. 2 ½ cups flour (enough flour for consistency of pie dough)
Egg white


1. Cream clarified butter, sugar, and egg yolk until mixture reaches creamy consistency. Add flour a little at a time, and mix with hands until the consistency of pie dough.

2. Lightly press dough into an 11”x 7 - 1/2”x 1 ½” or equivalent size pan. Brush top with egg white, removing excess white. Cut into diamond shapes.

3. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for about 15 minutes. Reduce oven heat to 300°F and continue baking for 30 to 40 minutes more or until golden brown.
4. Remove from oven while still warm, recut diamond shapes. When completely cool, carefully remove from pan. Makes about 2 to 3 dozen cookies.

*To clarify butter: Melt about 1 ½ to 1 ¾ cups butter or butter and margarine over low heat until foam appears. Skim foam and keep on low heat for about 15 minutes or until water has evaporated and salt and solids settle to bottom of pan. Cool about 15 to 20 minutes. Carefully pour clarified butter into container, leaving salt and solids at bottom of the pan. Discard solids.

Robyn's Notes:
1. I used an electric hand mixer to cream together the clarified butter, sugar and yolk.
2. A wooden spoon was used to stir in the flour, then I used my hands to form the dough.
3. After baking the cookies for 15 minutes at 350 degrees, I baked the cookies for an additional 30 minutes at the lower temperature.
WARNING: These cookies are very with caution!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year To All!

For Armenians in America, New Year's Day is a joyously unambiguous holiday.

Most of us celebrated Western Christmas on Dec. 25, but with an asterisk: our Christmas doesn't arrive until Jan. 6.

Even that requires some explanation, which we'll skip for now except to note that Armenian Christmas is more holy day than holiday -- a day for prayer, not presents.

Which brings us back to today, when Armenians the world over share fun and feast -- the latter being of particular interest to us.

The Armenian Web site tells us that the tradition of celebrating the New Year with family and friends is very much alive in the homeland, although many Armenians now take the occasion to travel abroad.

Their report notes that the traditional celebration begins with at least a couple of days of baking pastries. The lucky child is the one who finds a coin baked in his bread, which signals a lucky year to come.

Another report on the Web site tells us that Armenians traditionally begin the New Year by cleaning the house, which makes sense to us if company's coming for dinner. But the common custom of feasting actually contradicts an earlier tradition of fasting. At most, the historic New Year's table was limited to dishes made of grains and fruits.

But although the economic climate in Armenia remains challenging for many, a report on notes that the average family will spend nearly $700 on food for today's gathering. (Yes, that's 700 dollars American!)

That's just the reality of rising prices for fruit, nuts, cheese and meat -- along with drinks and snacks.

The report concludes that "the New Year table will cause a crack in family budget but people do not care. Happy New Year!"

We couldn't have said it better!