Monday, March 28, 2011

White Fish with Spinach and Lemon-Roasted Potatoes

Land-locked Armenia sits between two seas - the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea. Since Armenia has no access to either, she offers little or no salt water fish to her cuisine. She does, however, provide an array of freshwater fish from her lakes, rivers and streams, allowing Armenians to feast on such recipes as fish kebabs, fish plaki, fish stew, fried fish, and grilled, baked or broiled fish dishes.

Cod with Spinach, Pine Nuts and Currants
If you’re looking for a simple, yet elegant fish recipe to add to your Lenten menu, here is a lovely dish using any firm white fish served atop a bed of sauteed fresh spinach, with currants and pine nuts. Add lemon-roasted potatoes and broiled tomatoes for the perfect accompaniments.

White Fish with Spinach
Yield: 4 servings
½ cup currants (or raisins)
¼ to 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
3 Tbsp. olive oil – plus more for brushing
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1- 1lb. bag baby spinach, washed and lightly dried
4 – 6 oz. pieces white fish, such as cod, skin and bones removed
Kosher salt and freshly-cracked pepper to taste
Freshly squeezed lemon juice
Garnish with Lemon wedges
1. Place currants (or raisins) in a small bowl. Cover with hot water and soak for about 15 minutes; drain and set aside.
2. In a dry, non-stick skillet, toast the pine nuts, tossing gently, until lightly golden. Remove from heat and set aside.
3. Place the oven rack about 4 inches from the heat source. Preheat the broiler to high.
4. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the sliced garlic and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the spinach, cover and cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until wilted. Remove cover, add currants and pine nuts. Cook until all liquid evaporates. Season spinach with salt and pepper to taste; keep warm.
5. Brush fish with additional olive oil; squeeze a little lemon juice on each portion; lightly season with kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper. Place on a lightly oiled broiling pan and broil for 8 to 10 minutes, or until fish is opaque and flakes easily.
To serve: Place a bed of spinach with pine nuts and currants on each plate; top with fish. Serve with lemon-roasted potatoes and grilled tomatoes. Garnish with lemon wedges.

Lemon-Roasted Potatoes

Lemon-Roasted Potatoes
Serves 4 to 6

4 Russet (baking potatoes), scrubbed, unpeeled
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tsp. fresh rosemary, chopped, or ½ tsp. dried rosemary
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. Kosher salt (or to taste)
¼ tsp. pepper
Juice of 1 lemon (or 2, if desired)

Zest of one lemon

1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the olive oil, seasonings, lemon juice and zest. Set aside.
3. Scrub potato skins, but do not peel. Cut each potato into 8 wedges. Place cut potatoes in bowl with oil-lemon juice mixture. Toss to coat.
4. Use a large baking pan with one inch sides. Spread potatoes in a single layer. Roast, uncovered, for about 35 - 40 minutes; turn potatoes occasionally. Potatoes are done when crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.

Lemon-Roasted Potatoes

Friday, March 25, 2011

Kale and White Bean Soup

Kale and White Bean Soup
Here is a hearty, healthy soup we’re sure you’ll want to add to your permanent collection. If time is not an issue, start with our homemade vegetable broth recipe for that extra special touch. Otherwise, commercially prepared vegetable broth will work just as well. If you choose to use all water as the base, you might want to spruce up the flavor with some extra seasonings.

Kale and White Bean Soup
Serves 4 to 5

1 lb. kale*, trimmed and thoroughly washed
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and cut into a small dice
1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped, (or 1 tsp. crushed, dried rosemary)
1 tsp. dried oregano, crushed
2- 15 oz. cans white beans, drained and rinsed (use any white bean such as navy or cannellini)
4 cups of vegetable broth
2 cups water
Salt and pepper to taste

*Note: Spinach or Swiss Chard can be substituted for the kale.


1. Thoroughly wash kale to remove any dirt or grit. Remove stems and thick veins. Tear or cut leaves into ½ inch pieces.
2. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and carrots, rosemary and oregano; cook until softened, about 5 to 7 minutes.
3. Add half of the beans to the pot; mash them with a fork (this will help thicken the soup).
4. Add broth and water; bring to a boil. Add kale, the rest of the beans, salt and pepper. Cover with lid slightly tilted, reduce heat, and simmer until kale is tender, about 25 to 30 minutes. Adjust seasonings if necessary.
5. Serving suggestions: Drizzle a little extra olive oil after ladling the soup. Serve with toasted slices of a hearty bread, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Eggplant Spread

Gina Skillings
Similar to our typical Armenian eggplant spread recipes, this one comes from my dear friend, Gina Skillings, a true vegetarian. I hope you’ll enjoy this as much as I do. It'll be a great addition to your lenten recipe collection!

Eggplant Spread

1 eggplant
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
2 Tbsp. olive oil
½ tsp. salt
¾ tsp. lemon-pepper
½ tsp. dried basil
1½ tsp. dried oregano


1. Slice eggplant, sprinkle liberally with salt. Wrap in kitchen towel and let sit for half an hour. Rinse eggplant slices and pat dry.
2. Grill eggplant on an oiled stovetop grill pan (or outdoor grill) until golden on both sides. Cool slightly and chop coarsely.
3. Sautė onions and garlic in olive oil until onion is transparent.
4. Add tomato and eggplant to onion mixture. Cook until tomato and eggplant are very soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in spices.
5. Transfer to food processor and blend well. Adjust seasonings.
6. Serve with crackers, bread or vegetables dippers.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A fun Armenian sing-along!

What could be more fun than singing about fruit and vegetables?

OK, we don't do that very often -- but the fruit and vegetables at our local stores and stands don't look nearly so delicious as the bounty on view in this video from Armenia.

It's the work of actor-singer and all-around creative genius Michael Poghosian.

Our thanks to friend Ara Kulhanjian for passing this along!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Yellow Split Pea Soup

If you were wondering what to make with the Basic Vegetable Broth recipe I gave in the previous post, try this wonderful Yellow Split Pea soup recipe. Yellow split peas can be found in most regular grocery stores as well as Middle Eastern or Indian markets.

Yellow Split Pea Soup

Yield: approx. 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients for Soup:

Yellow Split Pea Soup
2 cups dried split yellow peas, picked over and rinsed
6 cups water or basic vegetable broth
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 carrot, peeled, thinly sliced
1 stalk celery, washed, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
extra water or broth, if needed

Directions for Soup:

1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Saute onions, carrot, celery, and a dash of salt for 2 to 3 minutes. Cover and cook another 5 to 7 minutes - or until vegetables are tender, stirring from time to time. 2. Add 6 cups of water or vegetable broth and the yellow split peas to the pot. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and cook gently for 40 to 45 minutes, or until peas are tender. Stir occasionally. Add more liquid if soup becomes too thick. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Using a ladle, place small batches of soup in a blender. Carefully puree each batch then place in a bowl. Continue until all of the soup has been pureed. Adjust seasonings if necessary. (Note: If you prefer soup with more texture, puree only half of the soup.)

While the soup is cooking, prepare the yogurt garnish, if using.

Ingredients for Optional Garnish:

1 cup plain Greek-style yogurt
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped or 2 tsp. dried mint, crushed
dash of salt

Yogurt Garnish Directions (optional):
Mix together the yogurt, garlic, mint, and salt. Set aside.

Additional Topping Suggestions:
Chopped, pitted Kalamata olives
Olive oil for drizzling

To serve:
Ladle soup into bowls, top with a dollop of the prepared yogurt. Add a drizzle of olive oil and/or some chopped Kalamata olives.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Basic Vegetable Broth

Vegetable broth ingredients
Now that Lent has begun, you’re probably looking for recipes that will satisfy the dietary requirements of the season. You might even decide this recipe is perfect for year-round use. For those of you who live by the vegetarian/vegan code, you’ll appreciate this simple, satisfying recipe which can be used as a base for soups, stews, sauces, etc.

Feel free to add any other vegetables and/or fresh herbs to suit your taste.
Finished Product

Basic Vegetable Broth


1 onion, skin on, cut into chunks
2 carrots, rinsed, cut into chunks
2 stalks celery, rinsed, cut into chunks
1 large potato, scrubbed, skin on, cut into chunks
1 cup mushrooms, (any kind), wiped clean, cut in half
3 whole garlic cloves, peeled and slightly smashed
½ bunch Italian parsley, thoroughly washed, roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp. soy sauce, optional
8 cups water
salt and pepper to taste


1. Place all ingredients in a large pot; bring to a boil.
2. Reduce heat and simmer for at least an hour.
3. Strain the solid ingredients and discard. Allow to cool a bit.
4. Place in a bowl with a tight-fitting lid. Refrigerate until ready to use up to 3 days. To freeze for later use, place broth in several small containers with tight-fitting lids. Label and date each container.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Vegetarian or Vegan?

Vegan Food Guide Pyramid
Today is the first day of Lent. It's time to dust off your Lenten recipes.

Vegetarian Food Guide Pyramid
Believe it or not, the Armenian diet is conducive to vegetarianism and perhaps, during Lent, even veganism. In some Armenian recipes it’s easy to eliminate meat altogether without sacrificing taste or nutrition. With the inclusion of so many vegetables, whole grains and legumes, the Armenian diet really is pretty healthy.
Reader Angeline Ohanesian, who truly appreciates the naturally healthy vegetarian and vegan dishes of our Armenian culture, offers two websites which touch upon this topic. The first is about a vegan guide to Armenian lent; the second talks about treasured Armenian recipes and kindly refers to our very own website.

Don't know the difference between a vegetarian and a vegan? Simply put...
Vegetarian: one who does not eat meat, fish, or poultry. In some cases, they exclude any food derived from animals, including dairy products and eggs. They subsist on fruit, vegetables, nuts, grain, legumes.
Vegan: excludes ALL animal products from their diet, including honey and gelatin.

Unbeknownst to my mother, she grew up in an almost vegetarian household. Money was tight, so meat was rarely served. Her family’s diet consisted mainly of bulgur, rice, potatoes, fresh vegetables, legumes and olive oil. My grandmother never used butter (she said it made her sick), so olive oil was used for everything. Fish was part of their meal only if, on Saturday when the fish was a day-old, my grandfather was able to purchase it at a very reduced price. Lamb or chicken was served sparingly, and only on rare occasions. Perhaps this is why my mom is still in pretty good health at her age, with the exception of using a walker.

Between now and Easter (April 24th, coinciding with Armenian Martyr’s Day), I’ll be sharing some meatless recipes with you.

I’ll be happy to post any of your family-favorite Lenten recipes, too. Just email them to me:
PS: A photo to accompany the recipe would be a lovely addition!

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Greedy Sparrow

We're excited to share the news about a new book by our gifted correspondent and friend, Lucine Kasbarian. It's called The Greedy Sparrow: An Armenian Tale

It's billed as a children's book for ages 4 to 8, but the enchanting story is suitable for readers of any age.

It's also timeless, and there's no telling how old it is. Lucine remembers it as a bed-time story told to her by her father, who had learned it from his grandmother. Generations of Armenians had passed the tale along in this way until it was put to paper by poet Hovhannes Toumanian a century ago.

Now Lucine has lovingly  presented and preserved an English-language version for generations to come -- and it is a tale well worth preserving.

And yes, there is even a food angle to this story of a sparrow with a thorn in its foot: the bird is rescued by a baker, who rather than being thanked is forced to give the greedy bird her bread.

The sparrow's encounters with a series of similarly hoodwinked souls takes the reader on a tour of Historic Armenia, lushly illustrated by Moscow-based artist Maria Zaikina.

The Greedy Sparrow is available in bookstores and from online sellers such as Scroll down to our link to "Our Favorites from", then order your copy today. It will become a treasured book in your family's library. 

Congratulations to Lucine on a wonderful accomplishment!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

In Search of Tvorog (Tutvaser)

The Aperyans
Kimberly and Slav Aperyan recently moved to Cocoa Beach, FL from San Antonio, TX. They belonged to the Armenian community in TX and are hoping to do the same in Cocoa. Not knowing where to turn, Kimberly wrote to TheArmenianKitchen in search of Armenian families in her area. I was able to provide them with the name of a newly built Armenian church in Orlando, about an hour away, so with luck, they might find families living closer by.

Recipe-wise, Kimberly said she wished to learn how to make basterma (no problem) and tvorog (a new one on me!). I sent her our link for making basterma, but had to research “tvorog”, basically a farmer's cheese. Thank goodness for Google!
I wondered if there was an Armenian word for tvorog, so I contacted Tom Merjanian to ask if he knew.

Here’s what he and his family came up with:

Tut – is the compound form of tutu – SOUR
VA – makes it a conjunctive for the compound word.
Ser – is either Love – improbable – or CREAM – which makes sense.

Ergo, this may be a word referring to a cream that is soured. As for Farmer’s cheese, this is similar to cottage cheese. Cottage cheese is made by taking soured milk and pouring fresh milk over it through cheesecloth. This process enabled farmers not to lose milk that had soured. They could eat or sell the product as a form of cheese.”

A blog called “Yolinka Cooks” proved most helpful. Yolinka defined “Tvorog” as ”a Russian dairy product, known as farmer's cheese or curd cheese in the U.S. It's a cross between ricotta and cottage cheese, but doesn't really taste like either. Tvorog is immensely popular in Russia. It's eaten with jam and sour cream for breakfast, as a snack or as a light dinner, and is used in all sorts of sweet and savory baking. In America, you can sometimes buy tvorog in upscale or Eastern-European grocery stores, but it tends to be expensive.”

Yolinka's blog offers step-by-step photos in the preparation of tvorog.

What recipes can be made with Tvorog? Yolinka says, "It's eaten with jam and sour cream for breakfast, as a snack or as a light dinner, and is used in all sorts of sweet and savory baking."
Tvorog Update: Kimberly tried the tvorog recipe and sent me this comment:

“I made the tvorog and it was amazing! You can use it as a spread, mix it with fruit to make a flavored yogurt, fill pastries, and many other various uses (sandwiches, salads, cheesecake). You can even enjoy it alone! “

Ah, another satisfied customer; I rest easy!