Monday, June 25, 2012

Grilling Safety Tips

It’s summertime in our part of the hemisphere, which means it’s Barbecue Season!
To get you started, I’m re-posting this list of Grilling Safety Tips because it’s really important to repeat – and - because we value each and every one of our readers.
Grilling Safety image

Grilling Safety Tips:

1. Make sure the grill is at least 10 feet away from other objects -- that includes the house, shrubs, trees, etc.
2. If using a charcoal grill, only use a starter fluid made for that type of grill.

3. Never leave a lit grill unattended. 
4. If using a gas grill, check the connection between the propane tank and the fuel line to be sure there is no leak. DO NOT use a match to check for leaks!!!

5. If you find a leak, immediately turn off the gas. Fix the leak before turning on the grill.
6. Don’t ever bring a barbecue grill into your home or garage. You’ll be at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning and fire.

7. Keep children and pets away from the grilling area.
8. Have a bucket of water handy - just in case!

SUPER-IMPORTANT: NEVER pour water on a grease fire.
If the fire is outside, throw dirt on it. If the fire is inside your kitchen, try to smother the
flames with a pot lid, or use salt, baking soda, or a fire extinguisher.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Goat Cheese with Fig Preserves - a perfect match!

If you can't find  certain Armenian food products in a Middle Eastern store, your best-bet is to attend a food festival at the nearest Armenian church - seriously!  That's how I discovered the Noyan brand of preserves made in Armenia. I was compelled to purchase a jar of fig preserves – an act in which I am not ashamed.

The figs, left whole, were swimming in very sweet (not in a bad way, mind you!) syrup flavored with vanilla. Our first sampling included one fig, cut into thin strips, served with a cup of Armenian coffee. WOW! That’s all I can say.

This past weekend, I wanted to share the fig preserves with guests in such a way that the sweetness wasn’t going to be completely over-powering. What came to mind was to serve it as an appetizer paired with tangy goat cheese. It was a no-brainer, really!
Goat Chesse and Fig Preserves with Ak-mak crackers
Here’s the very simple recipe for Goat Cheese with (Noyan) Fig Preserves:
Serves 4-6

4- oz. good quality goat cheese in a log-shape
2 sweetened figs from the jar, finely chopped

Place the goat cheese on a serving plate. Top with the chopped figs; drizzle with some if the syrup from the jar.

Spread onto Ak-Mak wheat crackers.

NOTE: If you’re planning on a larger crowd, use a bigger log of goat cheese, and add more of the preserves.
Now, that's easy entertaining!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Purslane a.k.a. Per-Per

The first time my mother mentioned ‘per- per’ to me, I had no idea what she was talking about. She explained that it was a type of green that grew wild, and that her mother (my Nanny – and Nanny’s Armenian lady friends) would gather as much per - per as possible when it was in season. Per-per is a low-trailing plant with yellow flowers that grows with reckless abandon. These women, with their radar-like senses, knew just where to find it.
(Image from

Mom said per - per was mostly prepared as a salad or quickly sautéed it in olive oil with garlic, but warned that overcooking made it somewhat slimy.
What does purslane taste like? Mom said its taste is similar to spinach, with an herbal, lemony tang.  Personally, I wouldn’t know.

What Mom didn’t tell me was that purslane contains Omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and is a good source of Vitamins A and C – plus a bunch of other nutrients. Who knew?
Don’t rush to your local grocery store to find purslane. You’re better off going to a farmer's market or looking in a garden center where they sell potted flowers, herbs and vegetables - or if you find a packet of seeds (available on the internet), you can grow your own. It needs full sun, is generally drought tolerant and isn’t fussy about the soil’s condition.

Here’s a simple salad using purslane.
Purslane (Per - Per) Salad

1 medium tomato, chopped
1 medium seedless cucumber, peeled, chopped
2 cups purslane leaves, gently, but thoroughly, washed; pat dry
2 cups lettuce (your choice), washed, cut into bit-sized pieces
½ cup Italian parsley, chopped
3 scallions, chopped

Place all of the salad ingredients in a large bowl.
Juice of one lemon
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. ground sumac, optional
Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk all of the dressing ingredients together. Toss with the salad. Serve with pita chips, if desired.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

"Worldy Rise" – a new website about breads, meals and customs from around the world

Did you ever wonder how websites are born? The Armenian Kitchen came about in 2009 when newly retired couple, Robyn and Doug (that’s us!), combined their talents and skills of culinary and journalism, with their Armenian heritage – the rest is history.

Food-related websites are popping up like mushrooms after a very rainy season- some more meaningful and interesting than others.
Beth Adams, creator of Worldy Rise website
A new website, designed to be both meaningful and interesting, was brought to my attention when Beth Adams, the creator, sent me the following email:

“A few months ago, I was lamenting to my husband how I wished there was a bakery that sold bread from every country in the world, and he told me to blog about it, and thus was born my blog, Worldly Rise. I expanded it to include a meal from that country as well. And then I realized it's not really enough to just eat a meal and not know anything about where it came from: so there are also posts about holidays/celebrations (what makes people happy there), and an overview of their arts (stemmed from having a bachelor's degree in music and a minor in English and linguistics). It's aimed at teaching my kids about other cultures.
So, since I started in alphabetical order (so I can jump around the world), I finally made it to Armenia, a country I didn't have very much pre-knowledge about. But now, I am truly fascinated.  And ironically, I was making Armenian food on the Indy 500 day, so I posted a link to your article about Armenian drivers. I've lived in central Indiana my entire life, and I learned something new!
I just wanted to let you know before I moved on to Australia that I thoroughly enjoyed your site, and the recipes I used from your site were absolutely wonderful! Thank you so much!”

Doug and I were delighted that Beth not only found our website, but that she prepared some of our recipes, and liked them well-enough to share with her own readers. We truly appreciate that!

Beth's inspiration is her children. As she put it, (this is) 'a blog inspired to teach my children about other countries and cultures through their food. It also includes music, arts, and literature from those countries as well.'

It looks as though Beth is really doing her homework before posting her stories; what I've seen so far is impressive.
We wish Beth a ‘world’ of excitement as she explores each country. We'll be following her cultural ‘travels’, and hope you will, too!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Ridgewood (NJ) Coffee Company serves up some pretty snazzy Choreg

While visiting family in New Jersey a few weeks ago, my daughter Mandy and I were searching for a place to relax over a cup of coffee –after some serious shopping - in the quaint, all- American, downtown in the Village of Ridgewood.

As we approached the Ridgewood Coffee Company, we noticed a chalkboard perched outside the front door listing their daily specials. We did a double-take when we saw ‘choreg’ as one of the choices!
Granted, there are Armenians in Ridgewood (including my sister and her family), and the Armenian church I grew up in is the next town over, but seeing choreg on a menu in Ridgewood came as a pleasant surprise!

As Mandy and I strolled in we noticed another, more detailed menu hanging on the wall which listed not only plain choreg, but a unique variety of choreg options – gouda, olive and date, Nutella, goat cheese and honey, and prosciutto and fig. The menu touted that the choregs are made locally (in nearby Hawthorne) using local ingredients.
Naturally, Mandy and I decided to share one of the exotic choregs only to discover none were left. (They must be popular with the residents!)  

Our disappointment aside, we were thrilled to see choreg as a mainstreamed menu item in a down-to-earth coffee shop, in a very upscale neighborhood.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Lule Kebab ala Father Vartan Joulfayan

When my husband Doug, friends Bonnie and David, and I attended St. Mary Armenian Church Food and Music Fest in April, we feasted on some pretty tasty food. One of the highlights of our meal was the lule kebab – tender, juicy, and delicious.

We heard through the grapevine that the recipe prepared for the festival was a specialty of St. Mary parish priest, Father Vartan Joulfayan. Impressive, I must say!

If you’ve been following our website, you know that we’re fans of lule kebab, especially if it’s made with good quality ground lamb- and - just as there are numerous recipes (and spellings) for other Armenian foods, lule kebab is no exception. See our own recipe for lule kebab.
Since I’m always searching for recipes – new and old – I asked Father Vartan if he would share his lule kebab recipe with The Armenian Kitchen. Happily, and without hesitation, he did so. Thank you, Father Vartan!

As soon as I received his version, it was clear that I had to make it. My dinner guests would certainly include Bonnie and David, who eagerly accepted our invitation for a very special Memorial Day meal.
(Please read our comments and end result which follow Father Vartan’s recipe.)
Father Vartan's lule kebab recipe as prepared by The Armenian Kitchen.

Father Vartan Joulfayan’s Lule Kebab                              
Makes about 12 lule kebabs

Lule Kebab Ingredients


1 medium size onion, cut into quarters
2 garlic cloves
2 lb. of lean ground beef 
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
5 tablespoon of tomato sauce
1/2 cup of plain bread crumb
1 teaspoon of Cumin
1 teaspoon of Paprika
1 teaspoon of red Aleppo pepper (if available)
1 1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of black pepper
One half teaspoon of dried Oregano
1 bunch of finely chopped Parsley
Juice of One half of fresh lemon
1 raw egg


Finely ground onions and garlic
1. Place the cut onion and 2 cloves of garlic in a food processor. Process until onion and garlic are very finely chopped. Special Note: DO NOT discard the juice extracted from the onion and garlic; it will be added to the meat mixture.
2. Place the meat into a large mixing bowl. Add the processed onion and garlic – along with their liquid - to the meat.

3. Add the remaining ingredients to the meat, mixing well by hand.
Measured Lule kebab portions
4. Using a ½ cup measure, make 12 balls.

Lule Kebab - shaped, uncooked

5. Roll them into the traditional Lule (sausage-like) shape and grill.

NOTE from Father Vartan: It can be accompanied by the "Lion's Milk/Raky." 

Comments from The Armenian Kitchen and guests:

We intended to grill our lule kebabs on our outdoor electric George Foreman grill - unfortunately, we don't own a gas grill - until a thunder and lightning, rain-filled mini storm raged through the area. 
It only lasted about 20 minutes, but it was enough to prevent us from cooking outside. Thankfully, we didn't lose electricity, and decided oven-baking was the way to go.

I placed the kebabs on a roasting rack which sat over a foil-lined baking pan, and baked the lule kebabs at 375°F for about 35 minutes, turning them after about 20 minutes.

Our End Result:
Our kebabs turned out just as plump, tender, and juicy as we remembered them at the Food Fest. Our guests – and we - enjoyed the flavor and texture as well. The addition of bread crumbs, egg, tomato sauce, and liquidy onions accounted for the tender consistency of the kebabs. The accompaniments – fresh parsley and onions, along with roasted peppers and tomatoes (the oven was already on, so I roasted the veggies in there, too), Armenian-style potato and egg salad, and locally grown corn- on- the- cob elevated the meal into a holiday feast.
Grilling would have enhanced the taste even more, but safety first!

For dessert: watermelon and Armenian coffee.............. delicious!