Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Request for a Stuffed, Braided Bread

Another request has come my way. This one is for a braided bread stuffed with either sweet cheese or cream.

Here’s the request:
“I've just stumbled onto your blog, and I'll definitely be trying out some of the recipes! Looking through the ones listed, however, I don't see one that my Armenian babysitter used to make -- at least, I'm not sure what it was called, but it doesn't LOOK like it's listed. It's this braided bread stuffed with sweet cheese or cream, and it was absolutely the most delicious thing I've ever eaten. Any ideas for what it's called or how to make it?”

I definitely don't have this bread recipe in my collection, so if this sounds familiar to any of you, please contact me: robyn@thearmeniankitchen.com.

Your assistance and participation is always appreciated. Thank you!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Spiced Labne Balls (Yogurt Cheese)

Recently, we became the recipients of an incredible assortment of Armenian-made products from Karoun Dairies. You’ll read more about this in a future post. Doug and I have been doing our best to use their products in recipes, or simply eat them as they are. It’s not easy consuming all of the products, but we’re happily doing our best with the help of some friends.
One product we received is labne, a most luscious, creamy, thick yogurt that makes Greek-style yogurt look thin! No kidding; this stuff is unbelievable!

Here’s a great way to serve labne as an appetizer.

Spiced Labne Balls
Spiced Labne Balls (Yogurt Cheese)
16 oz. container labne
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. dried mint, crushed
1/2 tsp. Aleppo red pepper or ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
olive oil

Garnish: crushed dried mint, coarsely chopped parsley or cilantro, optional
1. Place the labne in a mixing bowl. Stir in the cumin, mint, pepper and salt.
2. Fill a shallow serving bowl or plate with about 1/8" of olive oil.
3. Use a small ice cream scoop to scoop out even portions of labne – or – lightly grease your hands to form balls about the size of walnuts. Arrange the scoops of labne in the dish on top of the oil. If desired, garnish with crushed mint, coarsely chopped parsley or cilantro.

To serve: spread on crackers or pita triangles.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Our 15 Minutes of Fame!

September 2011 issue
In July, while I was visiting family in NJ, I received an email from a representative for the ‘Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine. The rep. said she was looking for an online photo of Beeshee (Bishi) to use for a spread they were doing about the Kardashians' favorite meal for their September issue.

In her search, she came across TheArmenianKitchen.com and our bishi item. She asked if I had a better resolution of the photo that  she might be able to use. Bad news: since the photo came from a reader, I did not. Good news: I was about to make bishi that weekend for my family. The rep. said she needed the photo ASAP, so I went into high-gear, and got my brother-in-law in on the act. He’s a darn good photographer, so I knew he’d have an appropriate camera to make this project work.
The bishi photo which appears in the Sept. 2011 issue of the Every Day with Rachel Ray magazine. Recipe by me (Robyn); Photo by Ara Hourdajian.
Mind you, I wasn’t in my own kitchen, so I had to quickly find and gather what I needed, including a frying vessel. Digging deep into the cupboard, I found my sister’s electric skillet that she received as a bridal shower gift in 1970! But, hey, it worked!

After making the recipe and taking numerous shots of the final product, my brother-in-law emailed them to the rep. She indicated which shot they’d be using, thanked us, and told us to be on the look-out for the release of the September issue.

Now, for our 15 minutes of fame… Drum roll, please!

The September issue of ‘Every Day with Rachael Ray’  has finally hit the newsstands! As you pick up a copy, turn to the very last page. At the bottom of the page you’ll see (if you squint) a thumbnail sized-photo of the bishi (beeshee) I made. If you flatten the fold of the magazine where the credits are listed, you’ll see the word “Beeshee”, the name Ara Hourdajian, for photo credit, and TheArmenianKitchen.com!

We’re super-excited to have been included in this popular, nationally- recognized magazine, no matter how small the photo - after all, size really doesn't matter.

Our sincere thanks to Rachael Ray and her magazine staff, for giving us this incredible opportunity!

Life couldn’t be any sweeter.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Florida Pomegranate?

Everyone associates Florida with citrus groves – the state's oranges and grapefruit are famous nationwide, maybe even world-wide. 
Our license plates read “Sunshine State” and depict the ever-famous orange. But pomegranates?
The Florida Pomegranate

According to the July 2011 issue of “Florida Agriculture” magazine, William Castle, professor emeritus at University of Florida whose specialty is horticulture science, is studying the possibility of pomegranate production in the Sunshine State as an alternative to citrus.

Pomegranate trees are a common sight in California. The small trees produce an apple-sized, red fruit with juicy, ruby-like arils with a tart-sweet taste. TheArmenianKitchen.com has praised the health aspects of the pomegranate – full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and shared some recipes using this fruit’s arils and tasty juice. (See our recipes for homemade pomegranate jelly, and shish kebab marinade, too!)

Castle began his study two years ago with Jim Baldwin, a senior biologist at the Citrus Research and Education Center. Together they are examining every aspect associated with pomegranate-growing with the help of over 30 growers around the state.

If the study proves positive, there could be numerous small-scale pomegranate groves popping up in Central Florida. Castle is convinced that pomegranate groves are a real possibility, and interest among growers is on the rise.

Pomegranates are used as a fruit, for their juice, and can be used as an ‘edible ornament for home and business landscapes’.

Castle said that if pomegranate production takes off, consumers will see Florida-grown pomegranates next to California pomegranates in our stores – plus locally produced pomegranate juice and juice blends.

Watch out POM Wonderful!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Grape-Orzo-Pistachio Salad

Is it just me? Or are there others who don’t like to eat grapes before they’ve been blessed? Somehow it just seems wrong to consume grapes before then. After they’re blessed, grapes seem sweeter than anything on earth!

If you’re unfamiliar with the Blessing of the Grapes, it is a holy celebration of the Armenian Church, which takes place after the Divine Liturgy on the feast of the Assumption of the Holy Mother of God. Since the celebration took place yesterday, August 14th, I feel free to offer you a refreshing side dish which includes this juicy-sweet fruit. (See recipe below.)

Growing up, we enjoyed grapes right from Nanny’s grape arbor, (along with the leaves that wrapped her delicious yalanchi), as bastegh (grape leather), or the commercially prepared Welch’s grape jelly and juice.

Today, grapes have become a sophisticated player in the culinary world and are, thankfully, mainstreamed into recipes from appetizers to desserts.
Grape-Orzo-Pistachio Salad
Grape-Orzo-Pistachio Salad
Serves 6-8
1 cup pistachios, shelled, *skins removed, and *toasted
1 lb. orzo pasta, cooked according to package directions
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups red and/or green grapes, whole, or sliced in half, if large
1 cup basil, sliced into ribbons

NOTE: The following procedure of removing skins from pistachios is a bit tedious. If you choose to skip these steps, use pistachios as they are, but  you might want to rub off some of the excess salt, or use **toasted pine nuts instead. Chopped walnuts or pecans can be substituted for the pistachios as well - and it's a lot easier!

1. *To remove pistachio skins: Remove shells. Place pistachios in a small bowl. 

Pistachios soaking
Pour some boiling water over the nuts, let sit until water has cooled; drain water, pat pistachios with paper towels. Rub with your fingers; the skin should come off easily. 

Skinned Pistachios
Completely dry the nuts. Be warned: The pistachios will lose their crunch after soaking.

2. *To regain the crunch in the pistachios: Place the shelled, peeled pistachios on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 350-375 degree (F.) oven for about 7 to 10 minutes. Stir half-way through. Remove from oven and cool completely. Set aside until ready to use.

3. Prepare orzo according to package instructions. Drain; set aside.

4. While orzo is cooking, prepare the dressing. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper to taste.

5. Pour most of the dressing over the cooked orzo, reserving the rest to add to the salad just before serving; stir to coat. At this point, cover and refrigerate the orzo for several hours or overnight. Refrigerate the reserved dressing, too.

6. Just before serving, toss in the grapes, pistachios (or pine nuts, walnuts or pecans), and basil. Add reserved dressing and adjust seasonings, if necessary.

**How to Toast Pine Nuts:

Place the pine nuts in a dry, non-stick pan. (Do not use oil.)
Turn the heat to medium.
Shake the pan every 30 seconds, tossing the pine nuts.
When they are lightly golden brown, remove from heat. Cool.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Lamb and Feta Burgers

Summertime is burger time. But if you're tired of that same-old 'Heinz-57 Sauce' flavored patty, try this tasty burger with an Armenian- Middle Eastern flare. Serve it with Armenian chopped saladNanny's potato salad, or both!

Ready to eat!
Lamb and Feta Burgers

Yield: about 8 patties (depending on size, of course!)

2 lbs. lean ground lamb (ground beef or turkey can be substituted)
½ medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup minced flat leaf parsley
1 egg, beaten
1 Tbsp. tomato paste diluted in 1/3 cup water (red pepper paste can be substituted for the tomato paste)
2 Tbsp. plain bread crumbs
2/3 c. crumbled feta
1 tsp. ground coriander seed
Salt and Aleppo red pepper to taste (black pepper can be substituted)

1. Mix well. Shape into patties.

Burgers ready to cook
2. Cook in a skillet on the stovetop or grill as you would any hamburger. Be sure to cook thoroughly!

3. Serve in a bun or a pita, topped with a *yogurt-garlic sauce or hummus. If you prefer, serve with a chopped salad or a side of bulgur or rice pilaf.
For the record: I used ground turkey (7%fat) for the recipe.

*Yogurt-Garlic Sauce
16 oz. plain yogurt
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt to taste

1. In a small mixing bowl, combine yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, and salt. Mix well.
2. Chill until ready to serve, allowing flavors to blend. Can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Make Cherry Liqueur before it's too late!

An interesting recipe for Cherry Liqueur just came my way via Annie Samuelian Alexanian. I’m in a hurry to post this because the cherry's peak season is just about over. So rush to the market while fresh cherries are still available!

Photo from stumptownsavoury.com

In order to make cherry liqueur, start with the best cherries you can find, add the necessary ingredients, and let it ferment so that it will be ready to serve by Christmas.
Annie says:
“For one kilogram( 2.2 lbs.) of cherries, (I use the) same amount of sugar. I use whole cherries stems removed. I add half bottle of gin and half bottle of arak (it's like vodka with anise flavor) adding whole cloves and cinnamon sticks. I keep the jar for several months,@ xmas time it's ready to be served after being chilled in the fridge."

Clarification: When Annie says she keeps the cherry mixture in the jar for several months, the jar is kept at room temperature. Once opened, keep the jar in the refrigerator.

While you're at it, look for sour cherries and try the recipe for sour cherry preserves, too.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Dog-Days of Summer Delightful Dessert

Boy is it HOT outside! No baking for me, that’s for sure.
Instead, I’m concocting a cool, smooth, refreshing dessert with a few simple ingredients.

Ingredients used
Yogurt-Lemon 'Pudding' ready to enjoy!
Yogurt-Lemon “Pudding”
Serves 2 - 3
1/3 of a 10-oz. jar of lemon curd
12 oz. thick, plain yogurt
Dash of cinnamon
Garnish: fresh berries
Whisk together the lemon curd, yogurt and cinnamon. Blend well.
(Note: Lime curd can be used instead of the lemon.)
To serve: spoon some of the mixture into individual serving bowls. Top with your favorite berries, and enjoy!

FYI: Lemon curd is usually stocked in the jelly aisle of the grocery store.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tahini in cookies? You bet!

If you or someone you know is allergic to peanuts, or peanut butter, yet craves a really good cookie, I have a perfect - super-easy - recipe... Tahini cookies. That's right. Tahini (sesame seed paste), the same ingredient used in making hummus, is the key ingredient in this delicious cookie providing a crispy, somewhat chewy texture. And, no flour is required!
Tahini Cookies ready to serve!

Tahini Cookies
Yield: about 2 dozen


1 cup tahini, very well-stirred
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. cinnamon, or to taste
Dash salt
Note: For a firmer cookie, add about 1/4 cup flour to the mixture
toasted sesame seeds for sprinkling, optional

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Mix together the tahini, sugar, and egg in a mixing bowl. Sift-in the baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and flour, if using. Blend well.
3. Roll dough into walnut-sized balls with slightly dampened hands. (This helps to prevent sticking.) Place each ball on an ungreased baking sheet about 1 ½ inches apart. 

Rolled cookie dough spaced far-enough apart to allow for spreading
4. Using the tines of a fork, press down to slightly flatten each cookie and create a criss-cross design. 
5. Sprinkle tops with toasted sesame seeds, if desired.
Criss-cross design made with the tines of a fork

6. Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes. Cookie bottoms should be golden and centers slightly soft.
7. Cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then cool completely on wire racks.

Cookie Baking Tip:
Roll the balls of dough the same size to ensure even baking and uniformly-sized cookies.