Monday, July 30, 2012

Tabbouleh vs. Eech: Is there a Difference?

Here's where the debate begins. Is there a difference between tabbouleh and eech? Some say there is a difference; others say they are one-in-the-same.
Ask a connoisseur, and they’ll tell you that tabbouleh uses uncooked ingredients, whereas eech ingredients are cooked.
Frankly, it doesn't matter to me one way or the other; they use similar ingredients and taste great. What else do you need to know?
(For the record, I grew up eating the uncooked -sarma gurgood- version.)

Nanny's Banerov Hatz
Nanny's Sarma Gurgood

When I spoke at St. David Women’s Guild last November, I served the members my maternal grandmother’s sarma gurgood and banerov hatz recipes. A few days later, guild member Lucy Hamalian, emailed me two recipes from her friend Helen Der Aprahamian – tabbouleh and eech. Helen is originally from Syria, as were my maternal grandparents – even so, their tabbouleh recipes are different.
Since my grandmother never made eech, I wanted to test Helen’s recipe, which was modified by Lucy.
(See my notes and evaluation at the end.)

Helen Der Aprahamian's (Modified) Eech Recipe                              
Serves  4
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, chopped (cook half of it in oil and save the other half to mix with parsley for topping)
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1/2 bunch parsley, chopped (use 3/4 of it in mixture and save 1/4 to mix with onion for topping)

Eech Ingredients
1 - 8 oz. can tomato sauce
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed dried mint
1/2 teaspoon crushed dried basil
Pepper to taste
1 cup fine (#1) bulgur

Step 1-sautéed veggies
1. Sauté onion and pepper in olive oil until soft. Add tomato sauce, water, lemon juice and seasonings. Stir well, bring to a boil and let simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
2. Add bulgur, stirring well. Stir in 3/4 of the parsley.

Step 2-Sauce with bulgur

Parsley added

3. When cool enough to handle, scoop up a handful and shape into oval rolls until mixture is all used up (or- I like to use a 1/3 cup measuring cup for a uniform shape and look when it is inverted. Sprinkle the top with reserved mixture of onion and parsley mixture.

(Makes 8 rolls for entree size, or 16 rolls for appetizers.)
Robyn’s Notes:
1. I used:
  a mixture of miniature red, yellow and orange peppers instead of green peppers.
  red pepper paste in addition to tomato paste to create the 8 oz. of sauce.

2. The bulgur softens nicely in the hot mixture, and holds its shape well for the presentation.

3. Since I used the 1/3 cup measure as Lucy suggested for equal portions, my recipe yielded 10 (1/3 cup) servings.
4. You can add seasonings of your choice including salt, which Helene’s recipe does not mention.

Needless to say, we enjoyed it very much, but I’ll stick to my grandmother's uncooked tabbouleh (sarma gurgood) rather than  cooked eech; there are fewer things to wash at the end!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Chicken Charlie, the King of Deep-Fried Food

You’ve never heard of Chicken Charlie? Allow me to introduce you…
"Chicken Charlie" Boghosian

Charlie Boghosian was born in Syria to Armenian parents. His family came to America when he was 11, eventually settling in San Diego, CA. The summer he was 14, Charlie worked at the local county fair where he sold charbroiled corn for one of the vendors. Charlie enjoyed cooking, selling, and working with people- and knew this was the life for him.
Charlie spent summer after summer working his way through high school and college selling fried food. He eventually teamed-up with the vendor he worked with for so many summers, and together they bought a trailer specializing in pressure-fried (broasted) chicken. The name “Chicken Charlie” was selected, and the rest is history.

Today Charlie runs the business with his family – his wife, two brothers, and several other family members.
Charlie’s passion and vision to fry different foods continues to grow. He experiments with different batters based on the type of food that is to be fried.

A partial list of Charlie’s fried food menu includes: Oreo cookies, avocados, cheesecake, cheese balls, Twinkies, hot dogs, frog’s legs, Kool-aid, and cereal - a new item on this summer’s menu. OK, so it’s not diet food, but when you’re at a fair or carnival, who’s thinking about calories or healthy eating?
For the record, Charlie does have grilled chicken and beef kebab, grilled chicken sandwiches, tabbouleh, and hummus on the menu for the less adventurous palette.

The Zucchini-Weenie
My favorite creation of Charlie’s has to be thezucchini-weenie’. I’m not saying I would actually eat this, but I love how the idea came to him. As Charlie watched his mother scoop out zucchini to make dolma, Charlie wondered if he could stuff a hot dog in the scooped out portion, coat it in batter, and deep-fry it? The answer was….of course! Thus was born the zucchini-weenie.

Charlie takes his truck – and crew- on the road for five months each summer, traveling to county and state fairs throughout California. So, if you’re in his neck of the woods, be sure stop by his truck and give “Chicken Charlie’s” a try.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Red Jajik

The summer heat wave across America has been insane!  With 100 – plus degree temperatures  hovering over much of the country, who wants to cook or bake?

If you’re looking for a cool, refreshing dish, here’s a unique yogurt recipe sent to me by Sonia Tashjian, who said this is a specialty of Van. Very little cooking is involved – just one hard-cooked egg, and one boiled beet.
Robyn’s Note: If you’re too hot to boil either of those, you might cheat a little and purchase already cooked eggs, such as Eggland’s Best, and use canned or jarred beets that aren’t marinated. (Don’t tell Sonia I mentioned the short-cut; she would strongly disapprove of this suggestion!)

Red Jajik
Red Jajik

1 cup of matsuni (plain yogurt)
1 cup of sour cream
1 hard-boiled egg
1 boiled red beet, peeled
1 cucumber, cut into chunks
1 onion, peeled, cut into quarters
1 garlic clove, peeled
small bunch of greens* (see Sonia’s notes below)
Serve with lavash or bread

In a food processor mash the vegetables with the egg, then add the matsuni, sour cream & the salt. 
Serve with dried or fried lavash or bread.

Sonia’s Notes:
1.* It doesn’t matter what greens you use. I use dill & coriander (cilantro) in jajik. I haven't ever used canned beets. If it's difficult to cook the beet root, as it will takes time, sometimes I dice it or slice it, then cook.

2.  Musa Daghian jajekh is with cucumber & lebneh  (thick matsuni).
3. The Armenians from Iran used to prepare jajik with garlic, dry mint, a lot of different greens & raisins in it.

4. Here (Yerevan) the people prepare jajik with a lot of water & serve in cups.
5. In Artsakh its name is "matsnaprtosh" & prepared with greens, garlic & green onion.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

An Armenian Bread Recipe Request

Calling all bakers of Armenian bread…
Debbie Graves is looking for a recipe for an Armenian sweet bread - it is a flat (2-3 inches high) and about 10-12 inches diameter. She said it seems to have a filling or a softer sweeter layer - similar to the gata that’s rolled up and cut in sections.
I requested more information; Debbie complied:
 “The bread was given to me as a gift, from an Indian (India) friend. She was given the recipe by an Armenian friend of hers. Her friend was from Armenia; they met in Dubai.  It goes great with hot tea or coffee. The center is sort of sweet; the bread is not really sweet, it’s just a wonderful bread!”

That’s all I have for you. If anyone reading this has a recipe suggestion for Debbie, please email:
Many Thanks!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Apples in Port

As Doug and I prepare for vacation, we stop buying groceries one week ahead of time and use up whatever ingredients we have in the freezer and refrigerator.
This year we were down to our last few apples and a half-full container of plain yogurt. Wondering what to make, Arto der Haroutunyan’s “The Yogurt Cookbook” came to my rescue.

There was a recipe for Apples in Port that sounded appealing. The closest we had to port was Harvey’s Bristol Cream, and the only nuts I had remaining were pecans, so I took a few liberties with this preparation. One thing I strongly recommend: If using sweet apples, reduce the amount of sugar.
With a slight adjustment of the recipe, you’d have a pretty good pie filling, too …… just a thought!

Apples in Harvey's Bristol Cream
Here’s Arto’s recipe for…
Apples in Port
Serves 4

1 lb. cooking apples
2 Tbsp. butter
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
A few drops of rose water
2 ½ fl. oz. port (a bit more than ¼ cup)
½ cup plain yogurt

Garnish: 1 Tbsp. pistachio nuts, finely chopped
1. Wash and peel the apples. Cut apples in half, remove seeds, and cut into thick slices.
Apples cooking
2. Melt butter in a skillet; add apple slices and cook, stirring often, until they become soft and lightly browned, about 8 to 10 minutes.
3. To the skillet, add brown sugar, cinnamon, rose water, and port. Cook another 5 minutes. Adjust ingredients according to your taste.
4. Use a slotted spoon to remove the apples into serving individual bowls.  Strain the sauce and pour over the apples.
5. Top each serving with a dollop of yogurt. Sprinkle tops with chopped nuts. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Happy 90th Birthday, Mom!

Mary, circa 1940
Not everyone lives long enough to celebrate their 90th birthday, so I’m thrilled to report that my mother, Mary Vartanesian - Dabbakian, is marking this momentous occasion today!
Mom's had her medical ups-and-downs, but is fortunate to be in relatively good health and of sound mind.

We’ll party in style a little after-the-fact, but it will be grand, just the same.


Mary, 2012

In the meantime...
Happy 90th Birthday, Mom; we love you!!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Tigran Shahverdyan, Scientist, Entrepreneur, and BBQ master!

Tigran Shahverdyan
It always starts with a simple request. This one came on June 27th from Tigran Shahverdyan,  a scientist/entrepreneur from Moscow, Russia, who is currently participating in the International Space University's (ISU) Space Studies Program at Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne, FL. He’s active in the Armenian community in Moscow, and is interested in meeting Armenians in the Melbourne area even though he’ll only be here through August 4.   

Another part of his request was related to the International Space University’s ideology which is based on three “I” s - : international, intercultural, interdisciplinary, and a mandatory cultural night presentation.
Tigran wrote:
“A lot of cultures and nations are represented by participants (in ISU). Every culture must make a cultural night presentation and prepare some dishes from national cuisine. I'm the only participant in Armenian team and Armenian cultural night is this Friday (June 29th). Not much time left. I would be very thankful if you could recommend any store with Armenian products - or at least a place where I can find Armenian lavash. I'm thinking about making barbecue.”

This didn’t leave me a lot of time, so I got right down to work. Since I live about 3 hours from Melbourne, Google came to my rescue. It produced the names of a couple of Middle Eastern stores in Tigran’s area, which I sent to him directly. I also put him in touch with a young Armenian couple in his area, who are looking forward to meeting him as well.

Tigran replied:
“Thank you! It would be great to meet (the couple). I found lavash in the store that is just near me. So tomorrow I'm going to make barbecue.”
Tigran, the Armenian 'chef' 

His BBQ'd pork and chicken

Tigran kept his promise, and sent me a series of photos of his cultural night preparation. His menu included approx. 4 kg (about 9 lbs.) of pork and 1 kg (a little over 2 lbs.) of chicken. He also had 25 year old Armenian brandy- not a bad meal! He served approx. 50 people from all over the world, who enjoyed both the barbecue and brandy very much.
Tigran stuffing the lavash

By the looks of the food on the grill, Armenian tri-colored leis, and traditional Armenian vest and head-wear, Tigran presented quite a meal and show!
We hope Tigran will always remember his Florida experience – and Armenian Kitchen  encounter. Much success to you, Tigran, and thanks!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

White Bean and Artichoke Salad

It’s time for America to celebrate her Independence once again!

As in the past, Doug and I have been invited to celebrate with friends, Hap and Elaine, who throw a July 4th bash every other year. Their theme this time around is ‘multi-ethnicity’ to honor the throngs of people who have entered the United States, the melting-pot nation, for a better way of life.
Each guest was asked to bring an ethnic side dish to complement their meal. I decided to make a white bean-artichoke salad – not an Armenian dish, but one from a Williams-Sonoma hand out that sounded sort-of Armenian and really tasty. I altered it a wee-bit to suit my taste preferences.
White Bean and Artichoke Salad

White Bean and Artichoke Salad                                                         Serves 6-8
Ingredients for the dressing:
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
½ tsp. Aleppo red pepper (a dash of cayenne pepper can be substituted)
1 tsp. ground fennel seed, optional
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions for the dressing:
Combine the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and set aside for at least 30 minutes before using.
 NOTE:  If you prefer, you can used a commercially prepared vinaigrette dressing of your choice.

Ingredients for the salad:
1 10-oz. pkg. frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted, and oven-roasted, if desired (see directions)
2 (15 oz.) cans white beans, drained and rinsed
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 small red onion, diced
3 celery stalks, thinly sliced
Garnish: 3 Tbsp. fresh mint or basil, cut into thin strips, or chopped parsley

Directions for the salad:
1. For a more intense artichoke flavor, coat the artichoke hearts with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast on a foil-lined baking sheet for 15 minutes at 375°F. Otherwise, simply use the thawed artichoke hearts as-is.

2. In a large bowl, combine the artichokes, beans, shallots, onion, and celery.
3. Toss the dressing into the bean mixture, coating evenly. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
4. Remove from refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving. Just before serving garnish the top with strips of fresh mint or basil, or parsley.

1. This recipe can be made a day ahead.
2. Canned/jarred artichokes may be used instead of frozen. If you select marinated artichokes, the marinade can act as the dressing.