Saturday, February 26, 2011

Dawn Aginian – an Armenian Entrepreneur

Dawn Aginian 
Dawn Aginian, of Michigan, is well-educated having earned an MBA degree and CPA status. Yet she has been out of work like so many other folks in these difficult times. Since she loves working with her hands and preparing baked goods, Dawn started a new venture preparing and selling Armenian baked goods, her specialty being *Sou-beoreg. She finds this line of work to be more rewarding than the business world. In her spare time, Dawn volunteers at Church for festivals and other events, and is always experimenting with new Armenian recipes. Needless to say, the ladies at Church are delighted that Dawn, representing the younger Armenian generation, is carrying on the culinary tradition.

Dawn recently obtained her ServSafe Certification (for completing – and- passing - the ServSafe Food Protection Manager Certification examination) so that she may work in a certified kitchen unsupervised. Right now business is word of mouth, with a few advertisements in the Torchbearer, her church’s newsletter.

Dawn doesn’t ship her products – at least at this time, but who knows. Once her business takes off, it could be world-famous. And you can say you learned about Dawn Aginian from, when she was just starting out!

Dawn, We wish you our BEST!

*Here's an outline of Dawn’s Sou Beoreg recipe:

Yield: 1 - 9x12 tray

2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 cup water
approx 1 1/3 cup flour for a stiff not sticky dough

Knead with hands and olive or canola oil
Let rest overnight - divide in 2 or 3 balls
Roll to approx 23"diameter
Open in boiling water for 30 seconds then transfer to ice water to open
Dry dough on bath towel
Place 5 layers in tray, then one lb. Wisconsin brick cheese and five more layers
Butter tray and butter top
Cook at 400°F for 50 minutes

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

How to Make Rosewater

While most of the U.S. is digging out from excessive snowfall, South Florida lawns are green, flowers are blooming, and we’re walking around in shorts. This is why our region is so popular this time of year. Come on down, y’all!
Homemade Rosewater
Florida gardeners are encouraged to start planting rose bushes early in February. Planting in full sun and fertilizing later in the month or in early March will yield a burst of growth in the spring.

My neighbor’s roses seem to bloom year-round, and they’re absolutely lovely. While admiring the blossoms, I think about rose-related recipes.

One important point you must know: When using fresh rose petals in a recipe, NEVER use those which have been sprayed with pesticide. My neighbor sprays her shrubs, otherwise, I would beg her for a bunch of petals.

With rose recipes still on my mind, I bought a bag of dried rose buds (that's all they had) from the Middle Eastern store with the intention of making soup and rosewater. I haven’t found a rose petal soup recipe I like yet, but I do have a recipe for making rosewater.

Whether you use fresh (organic) or dried rose petals, here is a recipe to keep on hand.

How to Make Rosewater:

• Place clean, pesticide-free, fresh rose petals (or dried petals) in a pot.

• Pour enough boiling water to cover the petals. Cover pot with a lid. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

• Place the cooled mixture in a bowl with a tight-fitting lid; refrigerate overnight to allow the flavor to develop.

• Next day, strain and discard petals.

• To store, pour rosewater into a jar with a lid; refrigerate. Leftover rosewater can be poured into ice cube trays and frozen. Once frozen, transfer cubes into a plastic bag.

• When rose water is required for a recipe, simply defrost as many cubes as you’ll need.

Don't know what to do with Rosewater? Here are some ideas:
Add to: beverages, yogurt, pudding, cake batter, French toast batter
Make: locum, jelly, preserves

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Borani, Anyone?

Whenever someone asks me to help find a lost family recipe, I can usually count on Ara Kassabian to post a recipe or an interesting comment which helps in the search.

This time HE wanted a recipe…
Ara wrote:
“My turn to request a recipe. My uncle’s sister (my aunt-in-law?) was from Urfa and made a dish typical of that region. The dish is called “borani” and is basically a meatball/chick pea/green chard soup or stew. I found a recipe for this in the AGBU cookbook, “Tastes with History”. However, my recollection is that there were more ingredients in the borani that I remember than are listed in the cookbook. Can anybody help? I looked through all my other cookbooks (and I have a bunch) and cannot find a recipe. Thanks!”
I took this to task and started looking through my cookbooks. I found two recipes with a similar name, but neither of them came close to his description. Then I found a Borani recipe in Alice Bezjian’s cookbook, "The Complete Armenian Cookbook". I thought this was just what he had ordered and sent it along. If any of you have another "Borani" recipe to submit, I'll gladly post it.

Borani (from Alice Bezjian's cookbook)

1 cup #1
1 cup water
1 lb. lean ground meat
1 Tbsp. onion, minced
Salt, red hot pepper to taste
Oil for frying
2 lbs. Swiss chard, chopped (washed, of course!)
1 lb. lamb shanks, boned
1 lb. canned chick peas, drained and rinsed
2 cups yogurt
2 cloves pressed garlic or garlic powder to taste

1. Soak bulgur in water for about 10 minutes. Add ground meat, onion, salt and red pepper. Moisten your hands with water and knead mixture about 10 minutes to make a soft mass. Divide mixture into marble-sized balls. Fry in hot oil.
2. Chop Swiss chard, boil 5 minutes in water; drain.
3. Place lamb shank into a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Skim foam from the surface. Add salt, reduce heat, cover and cook for 1 hour or until meat is tender. Add Swiss chard, chick peas and meatballs. Cook for 5 minutes more.
4. Transfer Borani to a serving bowl. Serve with yogurt seasoned with garlic.
Ara replied:
“The borani recipe you gave me is essentially the same one published in the AGBU cookbook, with the substitution of swiss chard for spinach. It is in fact the one that I made.”
Ara tweaked the recipe a bit to suit his time schedule, and was basically pleased with the result. He served it with a side dish of shiitake mushrooms sauteed in garlic butter, parsley, and a little shot of cognac (French, not Armenian).
Ara’s special notes:
"Per my uncle, the "secret" of borani is in making the meatballs tiny, the size of chick peas, so it looks uniform. Of course, since they expand in the water, that means you have to form them to be SMALLER than chick peas."
"My mother mentioned the other day that, in Aleppo, they would add "keme" (truffles) to the borani. Keme are "desert truffles".

Thursday, February 17, 2011

What will they think of next? Pomegranate seeds (arils) ready to use!

I saw the craziest convenience food item in my local grocery store today… a container of loose pomegranate seeds (arils), sealed and ready for purchase! The people at POM Wonderful whipped up this idea for the general public. According to their website these arils are available from October to January, but it’s the middle of February and this is my first sighting of these gems in our South Florida market.

I suppose the POM people just don’t understand. By doing the work for the consumer (and charging you a pretty-penny for this convenience), they’re taking away the tactile pleasure of breaking through the pomegranate skin, peeling away the membrane, and separating the ruby-colored nuggets while the juice glides down your fingers.

It’s a nice idea for some folks, but I’ll stick to peeling my own pomegranates.

Thanks anyway, POM.

Monday, February 14, 2011

St. Sarkis Day - Armenian Valentine's Day?

Last February, Debbie Boyadjian wrote to The looking for a recipe for St. Sarkis Halva. After an exhaustive search, I was able to fulfill her request.

St. Sarkis Day is one of those "moveable" celebrations on the Armenian Church calendar - this year falling on Saturday, February 19th.
St. Sarkis

Last year, Armand Sahakian, owner of Nory Locum in California, sent me an article explaining the story of St. Sarkis
It appeared in The Armenian Reporter, Feb. 7, 2009, pg. 17, and was written by Betty Panossian-Ter Sarkissian. I didn't get to post it then, so I've been saving it all year to share with you now. The tale of the "salty cookies" might very well be the Armenian version of Valentine's Day!

In the meantime, Armand was kind enough to send his mother's St. Sarkis Halva recipe and photo of the final product to share with all of us.
Thank you, Armand and Zee, for all of your hard work!

PS: Don't forget to order your Nory Locum delights - a perfect treat, any time!

Mrs. Sahakian's St. Sarkis Halva
Zarmine “Zee” Sahakian's Sourp Sarkis Halva recipe

3 C White granulated sugar
4 T Water
1 T Lemon juice
1 T Flower-water (orange blossom)
1 - 7oz. Jar of marshmallow creme
2 lb. Sesame seeds divided 1/3 and 2/3 (refrigerated)
Filling: walnuts or pistachios as needed.

Prepare a sheet pan with a mound of 2/3 of the sesame seeds.

Bring first four ingredients to a boil until the mixture turns to a golden color.

Mix in marshmallow, remove from heat and pour onto sesame seeds.

Spread the mixture adding more of the cool sesame seeds as needed to keep from adhering to hands or spatula.

Invert the complete sheet of sesame covered mixture onto a flat work surface.

Moving quickly to prevent the sheet from getting hard, add filling (walnuts, pistachios, etc…) and roll. 
Cut 1.5 inches apart and refrigerate.

PS: I received an anonymous tip - Adding a hint of ginger will elevate the halva  to another level.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Chor Mees (Dried Meat)

Recipe requests keep coming in…..
The latest request came from R.J. who wrote,

“Hi Robyn,
My grandmother use to make something called, "Chord-Meese" (phonetic). It was cured meat that she put in cheese cloth and made only in the fall/winter and hung in our cold pantry to cure. It is not Soujook and it is not Basturma....but I can't believe this recipe is a secret to others... Thank you.”

Chor Mees (Google image)
 R.J., I think I have what you’re looking for. It’s “Chor Mees”, dried meat. Our preferred recipe comes from the “Assyrian Cookbook”, as it is the closest to the Dickranagerdtsi –style of cooking. It’s best to make this in cooler weather.

Chor Mees

1 leg or shoulder, lean lamb, (about 3 lbs.) finely ground (beef can also be used – or combine the 2)
ground allspice, to taste
freshly ground coriander seed, to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

Feel free to add any of your favorite spices: cayenne pepper, cumin, cinnamon, etc. according to your taste.
(Note: Since there are no preservatives other than salt, be a bit more generous with the salt measurement.)
Needle and thread
1. Thoroughly mix all of the ingredients together. Suggestion: Cook a small patty of the meat mixture to determine taste. Adjust seasonings, if necessary.
2. Sew 2 or 3 cheesecloth bags measuring about 7-inch by 12-inch bags. Seams should be on the outside of the bags.
3. Fill bags about ¾ full. Leave about 2 “at the opening of the bag. Flatten with your hand to about ½ to ¾ inch thickness. Tie opening securely with a heavy string. Make a double knot, then make a loop about 2 to 3 inches long. This is for hanging while drying.
4. Flatten bags with a rolling pin to remove all air bubbles.
5. Place bags on top of each other on a flat surface with a heavy weight on top in a cool place. Put a board on top and store with a heavy weight on top. Refrigerate overnight. Next day, take a long stick and pass it through the loops of the bags. Hang in a cool, shady place to dry. (Note: chor mees can be hung by an open window, on a screened porch or in a garage.) Pack the bags under a heavy weight for 2 more nights in the refrigerator, hanging them to dry in a cool, shady place during the day. Continue this procedure for 5 to 7 days. Drying time will depend on the weather. The more dampness in the air, the longer it will take to dry.
6. Chor Mees will be ready to serve when the exterior is hardened.
7. Store in the refrigerator if using right away. Otherwise, slice it and wrap in plastic bags, then store in the freezer.
8. To serve: slice in thin pieces, and serve with pita bread, or fry and serve with eggs. Delicious!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Spinach Bulgur with Basterma

Spinach-Bulgur with Basterma
A few weeks ago, Diane Aginian wrote asking for my help in finding a recipe containing spinach, bulgur and chaimen from basterma.

After locating a promising recipe for her to try, I asked Diane for her opinion once she’d made it. She promised she would, but said it might be a while since she had to wait for husband to bring basterma from Detroit to her in Florida.
Diane's photo of the final product looks absolutely delicious!
Here is Diane's evaluation:
“Dear Robyn,
The recipe was very good, only a few changes. I used frozen spinach well drained. Fresh would have been better because it needs more moisture. I did use the juice from the tomatoes but still not enough (liquid). I really cut down the butter (just my way) but next time I would have used olive oil with it. The taste was perfect and like I remembered but not a lot of juice (which would have been from the butter). Therefore the recipe was very good and I can't wait to serve it to my 97 year old Dad. My Mother- in- Law and Armenian girl friend were here and loved it. My husband's aunt use to make it also. Thank you for connecting me to my past. Diane"
We're so pleased whenever we help reconnect our readers with lost family recipes.
Thank you, Diane, for participating in this search!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Gouvedge, Nashmy-Style

John and Pat Nashmy of North Jersey share the same love of Armenian-Assyrian-Middle Eastern food as we do. Pat, who is part German and part Italian, has mastered some of John’s best-loved family recipes. As a matter of fact, John was so delighted with her recent preparation of Gouvedge, he had to share their recipe and photos with us.

John purchased 5 lbs. of lamb neck bones from, as he put it, an outstanding butcher in Wharton, NJ, Sussex Meat Packing. He said, " As the weather has been so miserable with the cold and snow, this was the perfect thing to make. We are again expecting snow and this will be a welcome dish for dinner!"
Pat uses the Gouvedge recipe from the "Assyrian Cookbook", created by the women of the Assyrian Orthodox Church of the Virgin Mary, Paramus, N.J., then takes it up a level or two.

Gouvedge preparation pictures:
Zucchini, string beans and eggplant


Lamb neck bones and onions

The finished product.
Looks delicious, John and Pat; wish we could have joined you!

Pat Nashmy's Gouvedge Recipe

1 Medium Eggplant, peeled & cubed.
1 Large Zucchini, peeled & cubed.
1 16oz Package French Cut String Beans.
1 16oz Package Okra, defrosted and tops trimmed.
1 Large Onion, sliced.
1/2 Cup Minced Flat Leaf Parsley.
2 Cloves ( to taste ) Garlic, peeled & quartered.
Salt & Pepper to taste.
Paprika to taste.
1 Large Can Tomato Paste.
2 lbs Leg of Lamb, sliced 1/2" Thick -or- 4lbs Lamb Neck Bones ( Preferred )
Deep Lasagna Pan or Deep Oven Skillet or Roaster
Cook Meat or Neck Bones in water (just to cover) with Sliced Onion, Salt & Pepper until it comes to a boil.
Remove from heat & cool.
Remove meat from pot and add Tomato Paste to make broth.
Layer Eggplant starting at bottom, then Zucchini.
Season with Salt & Pepper lightly.
Put Garlic and Parsley around
Next layer String Beans & Okra, season again as above.
Cover top with Meat.
Pour Broth over the entire dish.
Season again as above & sprinkle on Paprika & remaining Garlic.
Bake covered @ 375 degees F. for 2 Hrs.
Bake for an additional 1 Hr uncovered.
Baste Meat with Broth during the last 1 Hr.
Serve with Bulgar or Rice & Crusty Bread.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Mint Tea with Arak, and Other Special Teas

During a rare Florida cold spell, Doug and I snuggled each evening with a cup (or 2) of soothing tea. I would vary the tea selection so as not to bore our palates – lemon-honey, apple-cinnamon, lemongrass-ginger.

I came across a superior tea combination on Joumana’s Taste of Beirut website called - you guessed it – Mint Tea with Arak. This is such an obvious combination, I can't believe I didn’t think of it myself,  so I thank Joumana for posting this, and other tasty blends.
Besides mint tea with arak, Joumana offers two others that could certainly pass for Armenian tea favorites - Anise Tea, and Mulberry Leaves Tea (Toot Chai).

So, get the kettle on, brew the tea of your choice, and snuggle with your favorite person!

Mint Tea with Arak

Fresh mint leaves
1. Boil one liter of water (or 4 cups); drop a bunch of fresh mint in the water (use several tablespoons of dried if you don’t have any fresh mint available). Infuse for 5 minutes. Drop one tablespoon of tea of your choice and let it infuse 4 minutes.

2. Pour the strained mint tea in each cup, adding a teaspoon of honey and a tablespoon of arak per cup. Enjoy this beverage warm.