Monday, November 28, 2011

Nut-filled Kadaif (Kinaffeh)

Doug and I did not host this year's Thanksgiving gathering. For the first time in  many years, we were someone else's guests. It was quite a welcome change. The only thing we were asked to bring was a dessert of our choice. Figuring there would be an overload of pies, I opted to make nut-filled kadaif.
Nut-filled Kadaif
When we arrived at the host's home, Paula, another guest, glanced at my tray of kadaif, then went back studied it very carefully. She turned to me and said that our dessert reminded her of a North African dessert she had eaten in the early 1970's - something called "kunafeh". She asked if I'd ever heard of it. The word "kineffeh" was no stranger to me, but I was a bit surprised to hear of this sweet as being from Africa. I told her that the dessert I brought went by two names, as far as I knew, kadaif - and - kinaffeh. She was thrilled at the prospect of eating this dessert again. I told Paula she was in luck because I was going to post the recipe on the website, and as long as she could find shredded phyllo dough, she would be able to make kineffeh whenever the mood struck.

Nut-filled Kadaif
A 9"x 13" pan yielded about 24 pieces 

1 pkg. kadaif (shredded phyllo dough), defrosted and at room temperature
¾ lb. (3 sticks) unsalted, *clarified*, melted butter
3 cups chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, or pistachios)
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon

**Simple Syrup** (recipe below)


 1. In a large bowl, separate the shreds of dough, fluffing it with your fingers.
 2. Pour the melted butter over the dough, tossing with 2 forks to distribute butter throughout.
 3. In a medium bowl stir together the nuts, sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.
 4. Distribute half of the dough in a 9” x13” inch baking pan. Gently press down dough.
 5. Sprinkle the nut-cinnamon mixture over the layer of shredded dough to cover.
 6. Top the nut mixture with the remaining dough, distributing it evenly.
 7. Bake in a preheated 375°F oven, uncovered, for 45 minutes, or until golden brown.
 8. Cut into serving pieces.
 9. While still hot, pour some simple syrup over each piece. Let guests add more syrup, if desired.

 NOTE: Can be served warm or at room temperature.
* How to clarify butter: Slowly melt unsalted butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Let butter rest 5 minutes. Skim foam from the surface and discard. Ladle clarified (clear) butter into a bowl being careful not to scoop up any milk solids and water which have sunk to bottom of saucepan.

 **Simple Syrup:
 2 cups sugar
 1 cup water
 A squeeze of fresh lemon juice

 ·         Heat sugar and water in a saucepan until sugar is dissolved, stirring from time to time.
·         Add lemon juice.
·         Cool until ready to use.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Recipes Showcase our Armenian Heritage

Thanksgiving is a decidedly American holiday highlighted by the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and football games. Golden, overstuffed turkeys, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and green bean casseroles will be prominently displayed on festively set tables across this great land.

Then there’s the Armenian-American version of Thanksgiving. We celebrate for exactly the same reasons as our American brothers and sisters: our gratitude for good health, food, shelter, family, friends, and freedom.
But we celebrate with a twist.
An Armenian holiday table would be incomplete without at least a few of our treasured favorites - yalanchi, boregs, basterma, hummus, midia dolma, nuts, dried apricots, kufteh, paklava, well you get the idea!

We wish you ALL, a very HAPPY THANKSGIVING from our Armenian Kitchen to yours!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Not to brag, but . . . Tom Vartabedian says we're doing OK!

Tom Vartabedian is one of the good guys in the fast-shrinking world of old-fashioned newspaper reporting.

I'm talking about the kind of reporting that depends on actually knowing the people of your community and celebrating the ones who make it special.

Tom, bless him,  has covered two communities with distinction and passion for a long time: the local community in Haverhill, Massachusetts, and the Armenian community across the United States.

His energy is as remarkable as his dedication. 

For years now, I've marveled at Tom's ability to turn out a touching or funny or just-plain interesting column each week while also writing about and shooting photos for multiple feature stories on special events and fascinating people.

So, needless to say, we're both humbled and proud that Tom has chosen to write about us.

Click here for the Armenian Weekly's version. You'll also see us in the Armenian Reporter and other Armenian-American papers in the weeks to come. (Tom knows how to get mileage out of an assignment!)

As rewarding as it is to read Tom's kind words, the real satisfaction is knowing that more and more people are learning about our efforts to preserve and perpetuate the recipes and tastes that all of us grew up with and love. 

The data showed a definite up-tick in readership almost as soon as Tom's story went online. Here's hoping the trend continues. 

All we can say is, "Thanks, Tom!"

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

St. David Women's Guild members get a taste of Musa Dagh

When I was asked to do a presentation for the Women’s Guild of St. David Armenian Church in Boca Raton, FL, I was honored. The ladies were interested in having me present some appetizer recipes from my website.
Yeranuhe Nanny

From the many recipes we’ve posted in the past
2 ½ years, I didn’t hesitate to select two dishes that were distinctive reminders of my maternal grandmother, Yeranuhe Vartanesian. 

Her Banerov Hatz, or as she called it, Banderoom Hootz, and Sarma Gurgood- the Musa Daghtsi version of Tabbouleh were always a huge hit. The secret ingredient that makes these recipes so unique is red pepper paste. You can generally purchase this in Middle Eastern stores, but it’s often mixed with tomato paste.

So what’s a cook to do? The answer: make red pepper paste yourself! Nanny and her lady friends from Haji Habibli all made it from scratch, chopping, grinding and mixing everything by hand – home-style food processors didn’t exist in her day. It was an exhaustive process, but that was their only option.

Fortunately, we have time-saving devices to speed things along in the kitchen these days.

St. David Women's Guild
Robyn, the guest speaker
Banerov Hatz and Sarma Gurgood
In preparation for my presentation, I made red pepper paste in advance using, forgive me Nanny, a jar of roasted red peppers. Instead of cooking and sun-drying the red peppers, I cooked the peppers on the stovetop until they turned into a paste. I have to say, it came out pretty good, with very little fuss!
Homemade Red Pepper Paste
Here are the recipes I prepared and shared with St. David Women’s Guild members:

Homemade Red Pepper Paste
Yield: about ½ cup

1 (24 oz.) jar roasted red peppers, drained
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (add more if you like more heat, but be careful!)
Dash of paprika
Olive oil, for later use

1. After draining the peppers, cut them into smaller pieces.
2. Grind in a food processor, using the metal S-blade. Place ground peppers in a colander and squeeze out any excess liquid.
3.Place the ground peppers in a bowl.  Stir in the salt, cayenne pepper, and paprika.
4. Spread the mixture in a large, non-stick skillet; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cook, stirring periodically for about 45 minutes, or until the pepper mixture begins to resemble a thick paste. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
5. Spoon the red pepper paste into a container that has a lid. Pour a little olive oil over the top of the paste. Cover tightly, and refrigerate. This should keep for about one week.

NOTE: At this point you can freeze the red pepper paste. The trick is to use a plastic ice cube tray. Place about a tablespoonful of paste in each ice cube compartment. Freeze. When solid, place individual pepper paste cubes in a plastic freezer bag. When ready to use, remove the number of red pepper paste cubes you need and defrost in the refrigerator. Keep the other cubes frozen until needed.
Sarma Gurgood

Sarma Gurgood  (Tabbouleh)
Yield: 8 servings
2 cups Bulgur (#2 or #3) 
Hot tap water (see directions for amount)                                  
Cumin, to taste                                                  
Paprika, to taste
Allspice, to taste
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper, optional
Dash salt
3 scallions, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
¼ cup fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped (2 tsp. dried mint can be used)
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, stems removed, thoroughly washed and roughly chopped
4 oz. red pepper paste, diluted in 2 to 3 tablespoons of water (tomato paste or a combination of the two can be substituted)
Juice of one lemon
Approx. ½ cup olive oil

1. Place bulgur in a large mixing bowl.
2. Add enough hot tap water to just cover the bulgur. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Allow the bulgur to soak up the water, about 20 to 30 minutes, or until it is soft and still a bit chewy. Strain any excess water, if any.
3. Stir in all of the spices, onions, scallions, mint, parsley, diluted red pepper paste, lemon juice to the bulgur. Add the oil a little at a time.
4. Adjust the seasonings according to your taste.
5. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. (NOTE: This recipe is best when made ahead of time so the flavors can blend.)

Banerov Hatz
3. Banerov Hatz
 (Yield: 2 loaves)

1 pkg. active dry yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
½ tsp. sugar
2 ½ cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil                                                       
Cheese-Onion Topping Ingredients:
3/4 lb. to 1 lb. cottage cheese
3 cups finely chopped onions
2 oz. blue cheese, crumbled
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
½ tsp. cumin
½ tsp. allspice
½ tsp. paprika
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
1 Tbsp. red pepper paste (Red pepper paste can be purchased in Middle Eastern stores. You can  make your own or substitute tomato paste with the a dash of cayenne pepper.)
1/4 cup olive oil

Dough preparation: NOTE: To save time, pizza dough (available in most grocery stores) can be used.
1. Sprinkle yeast in ¼ cup lukewarm water; add sugar. Stir to dissolve; set aside to proof.
2. In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Stir in the dissolved yeast, 2 Tbsp. olive oil, and remaining water.
3. Turn dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead until dough becomes smooth and elastic.
4. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover completely, placing bowl in a draft-free area. Allow dough to rise for about 2 hours or until doubled in size.

Topping preparation:
1. In a skillet, warm the oil over medium heat. SautÄ— the onions until soft, but not brown. Remove from heat to cool.
2. Mix cooled onions with remaining topping ingredients and set aside.

Assembling and baking:
1. After dough has risen, punch it down and divide the dough into 2 equal balls. Roll each on a lightly floured surface in a rectangular shape to about ¼-inch thickness.
2. Lightly grease 2 baking sheets. Place rolled dough onto pan, stretching it a bit.
3. Lightly oil the surface of the rolled dough. Spoon and spread half of the topping on each section of dough.
4. Bake each tray separately in a preheated 375° oven for about 20-25 minutes or until topping is bubbly and the edges and  bottom of the dough are lightly golden.
5. Remove from oven and cool. To serve, cut into squares.

NOTE: Banerov hatz freezes well. Defrost in the refrigerator, heat in the oven at 350 degrees F. for a few minutes to warm it up.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Farro - An Ancient Grain Making a Come-back

I was excited to find farro in one of my favorite Italian markets recently. Never heard of farro? Don’t feel badly, you’re not the only one. It isn’t new; in fact, it’s as old as the hills. One source states that farro was extremely popular in the Middle East during biblical times.

Farro became a less popular choice for farmers because it's a low-yielding grain.

Despite this, it's still grown in the wild, as well as in a cultivated manner. Today, farro is  popular in Italy, Asia, and in some areas of Europe and the Middle East.

According to Wikipedia, farro is “a food product consisting of the grains of certain wheat species in whole form. The exact definition is debated. It is sold dried and is prepared by cooking in water until soft, but still crunchy (many recommend first soaking overnight). It may be eaten plain, though it is often used as an ingredient in dishes such as salads and soups. It is sometimes ground into flour and used to make pasta or bread.”

There are three grades of farro, long, medium and cracked, with a grain that resembles barley. Nutritionally, farro is a great source of complex carbohydrates, with twice the fiber and protein found in wheat that’s harvested today.

Farro isn’t sold everywhere, but you should be able to find it in well-stocked Italian markets or specialty stores. To make things a bit confusing, farro goes by different names according to geographic location. In Italy, farro is also known as emmer, spelt, and einkorn. In Germany and Switzerland spelt is more commonly grown, but since it’s used in much the same way, it is considered farro.

If you can’t find farro in your area, you’ll be happy to know that barley, quinoa, spelt, and wheat berries can be used in its place.

Here is a tasty, satisfying soup starring farro and assorted vegetables.
Farro and Vegetable Soup

Farro and Vegetable Soup
Yield: about 6 servings
Ingredients used
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 tsp. dried crushed rosemary
1 bay leaf
½ to 1 cup tomato puree
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
3 cups water
1 (16 oz.) bag frozen whole leaf or chopped spinach, defrosted

(NOTE: 1 small bunch of well-washed, chopped kale or Swiss chard can be used in place of spinach)
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. Aleppo red pepper, or to taste
1 cup farro, rinsed and drained
1 can small white beans, rinsed and drained (optional)
¼ cup flat leaf parsley and/or basil, chopped – for garnish

1. In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the carrots, celery, onion, garlic, rosemary and bay leaf. SautÄ— until vegetables begin to soften, about 7 minutes.

2. Add tomato puree, broth, water, spinach, salt and pepper; bring to a boil.

3. Stir in farro, and the white beans, if using. Bring to a second boil, partially cover pot; reduce heat to medium-low.

4. Simmer for about 40 minutes until farro is tender but not mushy. Add more water, if necessary. Discard bay leaf. Let stand for about 5 minutes before serving.

5. Ladle soup into serving bowls and garnish with parsley and/or basil.

Robyn's Note: At the last minute, I decided not to use the beans.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

It's Gouvedge Time!

What do you prepare when you have one pound of cooked lamb in the refrigerator, plus fresh zucchini, frozen Italian pole beans (wide, flat green beans), onions, and garlic?
Gouvedge, of course!
Baked Gouvedge 
A few weeks ago I declared it was douzma season, meaning the outside temperature dropped to a comfortable level, allowing us to finally turn on the oven.
Douzma season means that it’s also gouvedge – baking time. 
Gouvedge, another one of our favorites is an Armenian-style meat and veggie casserole which, when served with our pilaf of choice, is simply divine!

Here’s what I did:
  • Preheated the oven to 350°F.
  • Coated a rectangular baking pan with a spritz of vegetable spray. Placed about 1 lb. of cooked lamb on the bottom of the pan.
  • Topped the meat with ½ lb. of frozen (not thawed) Italian green beans, 1 large zucchini cut in half length-wise, then cut into ½-inch half circles, 1 sliced onion, and 2 garlic cloves cut into thin slivers.
  • Mixed 1 cup of broth (lamb, chicken, beef, or vegetable) with 1 cup of crushed, canned tomatoes with salt, pepper, ground coriander to taste.
  • Poured the sauce over the meat and vegetables.
  • Covered the pan with foil and baked for 1 hour. Then removed the foil and baked for 1 more hour.
  • While the gouvedge baked, I made bulgur pilaf.
Yield: about 4 servings

1. You don’t have to start with cooked lamb, I just happened to have some. Raw stewing lamb or lamb neck bones with meat attached work really well in this dish. Since gouvedge cooks for 2 hours, the meat should be tender when done. If you use meat on the bone, be very careful while eating this. You don’t want to chomp on any bone bits!

2. Okra, green peppers, and parsley are traditionally added to gouvedge, but I had none on hand. Despite that, it came out pretty darn good!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Searching for Buska – or something like that!

As we’ve mentioned many-a-time, Armenian recipes using the same ingredients go by different names or spellings, depending on the region from which our ancestors came. For instance, fried dough sprinkled with powdered sugar or dunked in simple syrup can go by a number of names or spellings – bishi/beeshee, zing-a-ling/znglig, or even lokma.

So when Judi Brogioli’s request  for “buska” came my way, I started  hunting. No recipes turned up with the spelling she provided, and nothing else came close.

Here’s  Judi’s request:
“How wonderful to read your Armenian Kitchen web page.  It brings wonderful memories to me of my recently deceased 104 year old friend, Rose Vartanian, of Hopkinton, MA and the absolutely fabulous recipe she made which she called (spelling?) Buska.  I have written the name the way it sounds.  It consisted of roasting lamb shanks with various vegetables to include eggplant, zucchini squash, lemon, tomatoes, rice, summer (yellow) squash, spices unknown, and either roasted with rice or served over separately cooked rice.
I am wondering if you have heard of this recipe or a similar one.  Eating her wonderful Armenian food was a childhood treat that I shall never forget.”

Since Judi listed the ingredients she recalled in buska, it narrowed down my search. In fact, it sounded very much like our gouvedge recipe which I sent to her. If Judi makes it with the lamb shanks and vegetable selection she mentioned, it might just work.

In the meantime, if any of you are familiar with buska, or a recipe with those ingredients under a different name, please email it to:
Thank you!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Baba Ghanoush

Numerous Armenian recipes contain eggplant in one way or another. Naturally, reader Eric Ruttum figured our website was the place to go to find a baba ghanoush recipe, but was surprised when he couldn’t find one.

So, Eric emailed me:
“I love looking at your website for new Armenian recipes.  Never do the recipes fail me.  My grandpa was Armenian.  He was born in Aintab, Turkey, but fled to Aleppo, Syria with his family during the genocide.  I grew up with my mom making yalanci dolma as a special dish a few times a year.  I absolutely loved when she made it and then ordered lamajoun from Boston.  What great dinners those were.

As I have grown older, I have started cooking Armenian food as well.  My mom is coming this weekend and I would like to make her some baba ghanoush from the eggplants in my garden.  Unfortunately, I could not find a recipe on your website.  I have found others on the web, but was wondering if there were any special Armenian versions of it.”
I had to explain to Eric that eggplant recipes were lacking due to my husband’s allergic reaction to it. I can post eggplant recipes, but I don’t cook with eggplant at home.

I sent Eric the following recipe for him to try, and asked that he send me a photo of the finished product, if he didn’t mind.

Baba Ghanoush made by Eric Ruttum

Baba Ghanoush
1 large eggplant (about 1 to 1 ½ lbs.)
2 to 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
¼ cup lemon juice, or to taste
3 Tbsp. olive oil
Cumin, salt and pepper, to taste

Note from my Aunt Arpie: She said her mother used to stir in a few drops of milk to the mashed eggplant to provide a creamy texture. But if you use milk, don’t add lemon juice!
1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Cover a baking pan with aluminum foil and lightly coat with oil.
2. Wash the outside of the eggplant and pierce the skin all around with a sharp knife. Place the eggplant on the prepared pan and bake for about 45-50 minutes, turning half-way through. The eggplant skin should be wrinkled and the pulp soft.
(Even better: Charring the eggplant over an open flame or under a broiler will produce a naturally smoky flavor which truly enhances the dish.)
3. Remove eggplant from oven, slit it lengthwise and place in a colander (in the sink, please!) to drain for about 15 minutes.
4. Scoop the pulp out of the skin, slightly mashing it. Place pulp into the bowl of a food processor. Add the chopped garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and seasonings; blend until smooth. (If you don’t have a food processor, mash eggplant with a wooden spoon – or whatever mashing tool you have - and beat in the remaining ingredients until well-blended.)
5. Allow flavors to combine for at least 30 minutes before serving. This tastes best at room temperature. Refrigerated leftovers – if you have any - should keep for about 3 days.

Variation: Add 1/3 cup tahini (sesame seed paste) and omit the olive oil. The rest of the procedure remains the same.
Serve with pita bread or sesame crackers.
Eric not only came through with his photo, but included an evaluation as well.
“Well, I made the baba ghanoush from your recipe today.  I used tahini instead of the olive oil and milk.  My Mom always used tahini, so that’s what I used.  We are eating it right now and enjoying it immensely.  I used white eggplants from my garden and blackened them on the grill to cook them instead of cooking in the oven.  They had a really nice char on them and lent a smoky flavor just like you said in your recipe.”

Thank you, Eric, for your interest and participation.
Keep those requests coming!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pumpkin Rice - Stuffed Lamb Roast

Two weeks ago, Pam Aghababian, fellow Armenian and food blogger (Cave Cibum) informed me that The American Lamb Board asked her to participate in a lamb recipe contest, which she did. Her entry, Pumpkin Rice - Stuffed Lamb Roast was inspired by her grandmother’s pumpkin-rice recipe. She asked if I would be interested in sharing her recipe with you.
My response: Of course!
Cave Cibum's Lamb Roast stuffed with Pumpkin Rice

Click here to read Pam’s full post which includes her lamb and pumpkin-rice recipe. Once you stop drooling, you'll want to try making this recipe yourself!