Saturday, October 29, 2011

Bulgur Pilaf with Onions and Tomato Juice

Christine Datian loves to share her Armenian recipes. In fact, we posted her Spicy Southwestern Tabbouleh recipe in September. This, and a number of her other recipes, were also featured in ‘Sunset’ and ‘Cooking Light’.

We promised to post another of Christine’s family-favorites, ‘Bulgur Pilaf with Onions and Tomato Juice’. She noted that her mother always adds about a 1/2 teaspoon dried basil and a dash of cayenne pepper to her bulgur pilaf for extra pizazz. 
The dish can be made with either beef or chicken broth, but Christine prefers beef broth because it imparts a richer flavor. If adding a medium diced tomato, Christine suggests removing seeds first, as her grandfather from Lowell, MA used to do.  “Adding the diced tomato and onions makes all the difference in the world - sautė them in the butter with the sharayea (fine noodles) first”, Christine said.
Christine Datian's Bulgur Pilaf with Onions and Tomato Juice, as made by The Armenian Kitchen

Bulgur Pilaf with Onions and Tomato Juice
  "This side is a savory complement to lamb, beef, or chicken. The ample yield allows for good leftovers." --Christine Datian, Las Vegas
Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 1 cup)

5 tablespoons butter
½ medium onion, finely chopped
3/4 cup crushed uncooked vermicelli
2 cups uncooked bulgur
2 cups hot fat-free, less-sodium beef broth
1 cup water
1 cup tomato juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon dried basil

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish
Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion to pan, and sauté for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Add vermicelli to pan; cook for 2 minutes. Add bulgur to pan, and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in broth and next 6 ingredients (through basil), and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Stir in parsley.

A special reminder: let the bulgur sit a few minutes after cooking for fluffier results.

From: Christine Datian, Las Vegas, Nevada, Cooking Light DECEMBER 2007

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Khavourma and Union City, New Jersey are a perfect match!

After 30-plus years in Florida, we're used to feeling a little off-base when we get news of a fun event Up North.

But this is too much: We're missing the khavourma dinner at Holy Cross Amenian Church in Union City, New Jersey!

We're talking about incredibly tender chunks of salted lamb cooked and preserved in rendered fat. If that sounds somehow unhealthy, so what? It's not the sort of thing you eat every day.

Although, when I was a kid I ate it pretty much every day. At least, I like to remember it that way.

There are other versions of khavourma that take less time to make and involve fewer lipids—probably as many variations as there are ways to spell the English transliteration—but the venue in this case offers a big hint that this is the khavourma we both remember from our childhoods.

Holy Cross is one of the old churches that dates to the great wave of Armenian immigration to the industrial North early in the last century. It was the church for the Armenians of Hudson County, and the congregation was heavily Dikranagertsi.

My parents and Robyn's parents were married there weeks apart from each other in 1942. I was baptized there 10 years later. 

The Armenian community grew and spread out to the suburbs in the 1950s, and so did we. Visits to Union City mostly involved shopping and family
get-togethers—and the occasional church bazaar. Mom always insisted the food there was better than at other churches, not only because many of the people who made it were her cousins but because they were Dikranagertsi.

Seeing the flyer for this dinner evoked a wave of mouth-watering nostalgia. It's nice to think some worthy traditions continue, no matter who's cooking these days.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Douzma Season is Here! (And so is our VIDEO)

It’s nearing the end of October, hurricane season is almost over, the temperature in South Florida has dropped into the low 80’s, and the humidity has finally reached a comfortable level.
What does this mean? It’s DOUZMA season!
Douzma, a Dikranagerdtsi favorite, means “lined up” or “alternating”, which indicates how the ingredients are assembled in the baking pan. To us, it means delicious!
We posted this recipe 2 years ago, but felt it worthy of another mention—just in case you missed it the last time.

And to make it worth your while, click here to see a video of us making it!

There’s one point I must stress: Be sure to use a starchy potato (such as a baking potato), rather than a waxy variety for best results. Trust me, I speak from experience!

Serves 5 to 6
  • 1 lb. ground lamb, beef or turkey - not too fatty (we used ground turkey)
  • 2 medium zucchinis, cut into 1/4 inch circles - or - 1 medium eggplant, sliced in half lengthwise, then into 1/4 in. slices - or- both!
  • 2 medium (starchy variety) potatoes, partially cooked, peeled and sliced into about 1/4 in. slices
  • Sliced tomatoes - as many as will fit in between above ingredients (about 2 medium)
  • Salt, pepper, and allspice
  • 1- 6 oz. can tomato paste, diluted in about 1 to 1-1/2 cups water; seasoned with additional salt, pepper and allspice to taste
Cutting the vegetables to the same thickness and similar size, plus partially cooking the potatoes in advance, assures even baking and helps decrease the baking time. 
1.    Preheat oven to 350°F.
2.    Mix meat with salt, pepper, allspice, and a little tomato paste, until well-combined. Form meat into 12 patties, about ½ inch thick.
3.  Dilute remaining tomato paste with 1 to 1-1/2 cups water, season with additional salt, pepper, and allspice, if desired. Pour a little sauce onto the bottom of the baking pan and spread to cover.
4.     Arrange all of the above vegetables, and meat patties alternately, in a standing position in a large roasting pan (approx. 9“x 13“), until all of the ingredients are used.
5. Pour the remaining sauce over the meat and vegetables.
6. Bake, uncovered for about 1 to 1-1/2 hours, or until vegetables are tender and top is lightly browned.

Serve with a chopped salad and bread for dipping for an extra-hearty meal!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

10-Minute Pumpkin Seed Brittle

With an abundance of pumpkin seeds (pepitas) left over from the pumpkin soup recipe I made, I wanted to find a quick and easy way to use them up.

As a kid, I always enjoyed a good peanut brittle, so I figured why not make a brittle with pumpkin seeds instead? Here is a really easy, 10-minute recipe you might like. Have your oven mitts (or Ov-Gloves!) handy because you won’t want to splash the hot sugary syrup on yourself as it comes out of the microwave!
Pumpkin seeds (pepitas) and rose water
Pumpkin seed brittle

10 Minute Pumpkin Seed Brittle
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup toasted unsalted hulled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1/2 tsp. rose water

To toast hulled pumpkin seeds: Place the seeds in a non-stick skillet in a single layer over medium-high heat. Toss or stir for about 3 minutes, or until the seeds begin to turn a light brown and become fragrant.

1. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil; grease well with vegetable spray or oil.
2. Place sugar and water in a medium sized glass microwave safe bowl. Heat, uncovered, for about 5 1/2 to 6 minutes on HIGH power. Start checking at 5 minutes. The mixture should have a medium amber color. Do NOT burn. If mixture is too pale, sugar tends to crystallize (as mine did :( - but it still tasted great!)
3. Using oven mitts, carefully remove the bowl from the microwave. Working quickly, stir in seeds and rose water.
4. Quickly pour and spread mixture out on to the prepared cookie sheet. Allow mixture to dry, then break into pieces. Make sure there is no foil stuck to the  bottom of the brittle!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Salmon Mousse

On a recent Saturday evening, friends Hap and Elaine joined us for dinner. The dinner menu started with Elaine’s special appetizer, salmon mousse. 

Elaine Oksner and Hap Erstein

For the main course we dined on pumpkin soup, apricot-glazed chicken, roasted asparagus, and light brown rice. For dessert, spicy yogurt cake. A most satisfying meal!

While not an Armenian recipe, I thought it fitting to post Elaine’s salmon mousse because it contains yogurt, one of our favorite ingredients - and - it was delicious, as well as attractive.
Salmon Mousse
Elaine Oksner’s Salmon Mousse

1 - 15 oz. can of salmon, drained (save the liquid!)
1 cup nonfat plain yogurt
1 cup fat-free cottage cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1 packet unflavored gelatin
black pepper to taste
thin slices of cucumber, optional

1. Pour salmon in a bowl, remove skin and mash it. Reserve liquid from salmon and set aside.
2. Combine yogurt and cheese in a blender, add salmon. Stir in dill.
3. Dissolve gelatin in salmon liquid over low heat, add to mixture. Blend well. 
4. Put mixture into a mold or bowl. Chill 2-3 hours.
5. Carefully unmold onto a serving plate before serving.

NOTE: Elaine used thin slices of cucumber to give the mousse a festive flair.
Serve with crackers, vegetable dippers, and mustard dill sauce.

Mustard Dill Sauce
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup Grey Poupon (Dijon) mustard
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon dried dill, adjusted to taste.

Mix together until well blended.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Pumpkin Soup

If you live in the northeast and are thinking about buying a pumpkin this season, you may have to shop around.
In some areas of upstate New York, Tropical Storm Irene destroyed about one third of the pumpkin crop. Other farms, however, were left with a bumper crop where pumpkins are quickly selling out.
But don’t delay! 
With Halloween and Thanksgiving around the corner, folks will be snatching up pumpkins for decorations, pies, soups, breads, and of course, our favorites … rachal and roasted pumpkin seeds.  In case you aren’t fortunate enough to find fresh pumpkin for your autumn recipes, you’ll be happy to know that canned pumpkin is still readily available.
Pumpkin Soup

Here’s a delicate, yet satisfying pumpkin soup recipe using canned pumpkin puree.
 Pumpkin Soup  Serves 4
 1/4 cup water
 1 small onion, finely chopped
 1 cup pumpkin puree
 1 1/2 cup unsalted vegetable or chicken broth
 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
 1/2 cup half-and-half*
 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, optional
Toasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas) for garnish

To toast hulled pumpkin seeds: Place the seeds in a non-stick skillet in a single layer over medium-high heat. Toss or stir for about 3 minutes, or until the seeds begin to turn a light brown and become fragrant.
1. In a microwave-safe bowl, add 1/4 cup water and the chopped onion. Cover, and cook on high power for 2 to 3 minutes, or until onions are soft.
2. In a medium-sized pot add the onion, pumpkin, broth, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Adjust seasonings, if necessary. Stir in the milk and cook until hot. Don't boil.
3. Ladle into individual bowls and garnish with freshly ground black pepper, if using, and a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds (pepitas). Serve immediately.
*You may substitute the half and half with skim or low-fat milk.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Chicken with Farina Recipe Request

I’m on a recipe hunt again, this time for Grace Timberlake who is looking for a dish which includes chicken and farina.

Here’s what Grace wrote:
“Many years ago an Armenian neighbor served a chicken dish that was very delicious.  I believe it was served in a casserole dish.  It was unlike any such dish I'd had before because it included farina.  I've always hoped to run across such a recipe but have never had any luck when searching for it.  Any help you can provide will be greatly appreciated.”

I asked Grace to elaborate on the dish, if she could.
She wrote:

“I had this dish before we moved from Chicago which was in 1976 so it does test my memory, but it also tells you how much I liked it to remember it after all these years.  I believe it was a casserole with slices or chunks of chicken on farina and possibly other ingredients.  Sorry but that's the best I can do.”
The closest recipe I could think of was herriseh (keshkeg) – chicken with whole wheat kernels, so I sent that along to Grace. She replied, “I've checked (your) recipe and it was definitely farina, not whole wheat kernels.” 

I’ve exhausted my resources, therefore, I’m turning this search over to you, dear readers. If anyone reading this knows of an Armenian chicken and farina recipe, please email it to:
Thank you!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Cheese Boregs ala Nina Yousefian

History buff Paul Sookiasian took it upon himself to contact TheArmenianKitchen to let us know about his aunt Nina (Hacobian) Yousefian who has made several YouTube videos of her favorite recipes. The link he sent showed how she makes cheese boregs using puff pastry dough filled with her unique blend of cheeses. Nina’s other videos, Yogurt-Cucumber Salad, Tabouleh, Baklava, Greek Helva, and others, can be viewed on under ‘hyelady47’.
Nina Yousefian (seated, lower left) with 4 generations of her family
Wanting to know more, I asked Paul for some family information. He told me that Nina’s mother’s side of the family came from Sepastia/Sivas, while her father’s side was Persian-Armenian. (He actually told me much more, but this will suffice for our purpose.)

After acquiring Nina’s permission to write about her, she shared this with me:

“The cheese combination (for the boreg filling) is really my own.  I started to use the combination some 3-4 years ago when our Sunday School would have its Christmas decorating party and the Sunday School kids would make them.  The combination was yummy, and it made some 80 boregs so I stuck with it.
Also, I entered a cheese boreg and another (recipe) for the Orange County Fair (CA) and I took first place and ‘best in show’ ". 

Nina's Background and Inspiration:
Nina was born in Iran and came to America at age 4 with her family. They settled in Philadelphia where she lived until getting married in 1991. She’s been baking since she was about 12years old, with an emphasis on sweets.  Her mother was quite the cookie expert as well as a great cook. Her real inspiration came from her grandmother who was an expert baker, making the best choregs, lavash,yalanchi, payleh boreg (or "paklaov buerag"  that’s filled with potatoes, fava beans and onions), monte, and her own yogurt.

Unfortunately, both her mother and grandmother passed away when Nina was 19. She was lucky in the sense that all of her aunts were either great cooks and/or bakers.
Since Nina’s husband is Persian-Armenian, she still makes his favorite Persian inspired dishes.  From Philadelphia, she and her husband moved to Oklahoma, where they raised 3 sons. After moving with her family to California in 2004, Nina continued to learn more cooking techniques from the Ladies Society of St. Mary, in Costa Mesa, CA where she is an active member, as well as from the women from Forty Martyrs Armenian Church in nearby Santa Ana.

Here is Nina’s Cheese Boreg recipe which yields approximately 80 pieces:
Filling Ingredients:
1 x 15 oz. tub of ricotta cheese
1 lb. muenster cheese, cut into small cubes
1 lb. shredded mozzarella
1/2 lb. shredded cheddar cheese (use the type that is a blend)
5 eggs
1/2 to 1 bunch of chopped, fresh parsley, preferably flat Italian with the stems removed.
3 pkgs. of 15 - 9" puff pastry squares (this should make close to 80 boregs)

· mix the above ingredients together
· cut the puff pastry dough into 5”x5”squares
· place a heaping Tbsp. near one corner of each square.
. fold the dough over the filling to create a triangle
· pinch edges together or close with a fork.
· brush with an egg wash
· sprinkle with sesame seeds (optional)
· bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes, or until golden brown.

 Nina’s Notes:
1. before or after the egg wash step, the boregs can be frozen.
2. leftover puff pastry dough can be frozen.
3. leftover filling makes a great omelet, so nothing goes to waste.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Labne Bread Pudding

By now you should have noticed numerous posts using Karoun dairy products. Here’s another sent in by Bonnie Gross, my assistant on this project.
Bonnie's Labne Bread Pudding
Bonnie wrote:
“In my continuing effort to make good use of the labne I still had, I made a bread pudding with it.
I had 3/4 loaf of good Italian bread that had become stale and more than a cup of leftover labne, so I decided to experiment with them both.
This turned out quite well: I made (a Cream Cheese Bread Pudding) recipe, but substituted labne for the cream cheese.”

Labne (Cream Cheese) Bread Pudding
8 oz. labne (to replace the 8-oz cream cheese)
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2 1/2 cups milk
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
10-11 cups white bread, cubed

1. Preheat oven to 350F and lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking pan.
2. In a large bowl, cream together labne and sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs, mixing at medium speed until very smooth, then slowly blend in milk and vanilla extract. Dump all bread cubes into the bowl and press with a spatula to soak up the liquid. Pour into prepared pan and gently smooth into an even layer.
3. Bake for 30 minutes, until pudding springs back slightly when you touch the top and the edges begin to turn golden.
4. Cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.
*Serve with vanilla ice cream or custard sauce.

Bonnie added:
"I also added about 3/4 cup raisins, because I like bread pudding with raisins.
For the sauce, I made this bourbon sauce instead (oh my, so good, but, of course, what wouldn't be good with all that butter plus bourbon?)"

Bourbon Sauce:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup Kentucky bourbon whiskey

In a saucepan, melt butter; add sugar and egg, whisking to blend well. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. (Do not allow to simmer, or it may curdle.) Whisk in bourbon to taste. Remove from heat. Whisk before serving. The sauce should be soft, creamy, and smooth.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Apricot-Glazed Chicken

Apricot-Glazed Chicken Breast
Wanting to be creative with the dinner ingredients that were on hand, I whipped up an apricot glaze that would coat the four plump chicken breasts that sat in the refrigerator. A side dish of rice cooked in chicken broth was enhanced with peas and finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes. A tossed salad completed the meal. Simple and delicious!

Apricot-Glazed Chicken
Serves 4
1 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. apricot preserves/jam
¾ tsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce
3 Tbsp. panko bread crumbs
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, about 1 lb. total (rinse chicken and pat dry)

1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
2. In a small bowl, mix together the honey, mustard, apricot preserves, and soy sauce, blending well.
3. Place the bread crumbs in a separate small bowl.
4. Coat a baking pan (the kind with sides) with vegetable spray. Arrange the chicken breasts in the pan.
5. Spread the apricot-honey mixture on the top of each chicken breast. Pat the bread crumbs onto the glaze mixture.
6. Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, making sure the chicken is cooked through, and a golden crust has formed on top. This recipe creates its own sauce, so spoon some on the top of each portion for extra flavor and moisture.

Serve with your favorite pilaf (or starch of your choice), vegetable and/or salad.