Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Armenian Kitchen pays tribute to Anne Marootian, one of the best Armenian cooks there ever was.

The Marootian family and my family (the Dabbakians) go way back – I’m talking decades. We were neighbors in Clifton, NJ for approximately 40 years, and attended every church event together for years beyond that. Whenever the Marootians invited us for an impromptu get-together, Anne was sure to serve a tableful of delicious nibbles that she quickly whipped-up. Not only was Anne a terrific cook, she told some pretty funny jokes, too!
Anne Marootian in the kitchen at St. Leon Armenian Church, smiling and cooking - as always!
With my mother’s recent passing, I’ve been dwelling on family memories more than ever. When I heard the news that our dear friend, Anne, passed away just 2 weeks after my mother, I was heartbroken. (You might recall two of Anne’s recipes that have been featured on our website, chorag and tourshi. I’m hoping her family will send a few more of her treasured recipes our way.)
I would like to share a slightly edited portion of Anne’s obituary with you:

“Anne, born in New York City on July 9, 1915 to Armenian immigrant parents, passed away on November 20, 2012 at the age of 97. She married Zaven Marootian in 1938 and together raised 3 wonderful sons.  Anne and Zaven owned and operated  Zaven's Luncheonette in Paterson, NJ, where she was the chief cook and bookkeeper, and later was bookkeeper in Marootian Trading Corporation. The family moved to Clifton in 1959. Anne and Zaven were both very active parishioners in St. Leon Armenian Church in Fair Lawn, where Anne was a noted cook of Armenian cuisine. She headed up the Food Committee for many Food Festivals and social functions. Anne was well known for her wonderful hospitality, joyful spirit and sense of humor.”
Anne was a very special woman who will truly be missed. We extend our heartfelt sympathy to the entire Marootian family.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Introducing the '60-Second Pomegranate Deseeder'

I confess, I’m an occasional impulse-buyer. I try not to be, but on rare occasions, I’ve been lured into buying a specialty kitchen tool or two at Bed Bath and Beyond, Williams-Sonoma or Sur La Table. (By the way, I’m STILL trying to find the mantimatic, so if any of you can offer me a purchasing source in the USA, I would be forever grateful!)

As Doug and I entered The Fresh Market recently, we were greeted by a beautiful display of bright, plump pomegranates. Perched next to the fruit was a stack of green plastic things called the ‘60-Second Pomegranate De-seeder’. The cost - $3.99.  In the cart it went, along with one of those fabulous-looking  pomegranates.
(FYI: I noticed Amazon.com is offering the same de-seeder for $14.99, so $3.99 is a real bargain!)

The makers of the de-seeder provide ordering information as well as a how-to video on their website. It’s no surprise that there are already a number of independent online videos showing the de-seeding technique. Check it out- It’s a bit messy (wear an apron or an old shirt), but, it’s easy and so much fun!
Follow these simple steps:
Wash the pomegranate
Trim away the small crown 
Cut the pomegranate in half
Make 4 to 5 slits around the pomegranate
Place the deseeder on a large plate
Place the pomegranate, cut-side down, onto the deseeder
Using the back of a large spoon, give the fruit several good smacks to dislodge the seeds onto the plate
Separate and discard any pieces of membrane from the seeds

2. Cut in half
1. Trim the crown

3. Score with knife
                                 4. Tap firmly all around

5. Remove deseeder and discard membrane bits

6. End up with beautiful pomegranate arils

Saturday, November 10, 2012

With Deep Sorrow

It is with deep sorrow that The Armenian Kitchen announces the passing of Robyn’s mother, Mary. Our kitchen will be closed during our period of mourning, however, we will return.
Mary and Robyn (2009)
With Thanksgiving right around the corner, we urge you to share your joy, count your blessings, and most of all, cherish your loved ones.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone - near and far.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Mushroom Nuts - or - Almond Mushroom Pâté

This past summer, Stacey P., a former resident of Ohio, wrote asking if I’d ever heard of a recipe called “Mushroom-Nuts”, an appetizer she’d sampled at a Mediterranean restaurant. She described it as a mixture of crushed mushrooms, nuts, garlic, herbs and mayonnaise. Stacey was hoping for the recipe because, as she put it, “This stuff is addicting and I am moving out of the Cincinnati area, so I will not be able to get it.”
Since this sounded like a desperately urgent request and I was away from home, I suggested she ask the folks at the restaurant, Mirage Mediterranean, to share their recipe with her. If that didn't work, I promised I'd look for a recipe on her behalf when I returned to The Armenian Kitchen. (By the way, the Mirage Mediterranean restaurant is owned by 2 Armenian- American brothers in Cincinnati, Ohio!)

Stacey did inquire, however, she asked the waitresses who didn’t speak much English, so no luck there. She planned to ask again at her Going Away Party.
In the meantime, Stacey combed the internet and found a recipe for Mushroom Almond Pâté which she planned to try once she moved and had her kitchen organized.

Time passed…
I came across Stacey’s original request recently, realizing it had fallen by the wayside.

Wanting to make good on my original promise, I altered the recipe Stacey found using some of the ingredients she mentioned then adding a few of my own, and omitting others.
(When Stacey can, she’ll make the recipe she found and report back.)  

Almond and Mushroom Pâté
Yields about 1 1/2 cups

1 cup sliced almonds (or your favorite type of nut)
1/2 lb. sliced mushrooms (use your favorite kind of mushroom or a combination)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon *Herbes de Provence – a blend of thyme, basil, savory, fennel, and lavender (dried thyme, oregano, basil may be used)
freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons oil
1 Tbsp. lemon juice

Step #1
1. Pan-toast the almonds in an ungreased non-stick skillet over medium heat until lightly browned and fragrant. Remove from skillet and set aside.

Steps 2 and 3
2. Heat olive oil in the same skillet on medium heat. Add onions, garlic, mushrooms, herbs, salt  and pepper.
3. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft and most of the liquid has evaporated.

4. Place toasted almonds and 2 Tbsp. olive oil in the bowl of a food processor. Process them forming a paste.

Steps 4 and 5
5.  Add mushroom mixture and process until smooth. Adjust seasonings, if necessary. Add lemon juice and process another moment.
6. Place in a bowl, cover and refrigerate. Remove from refrigerator about 20 minutes before serving. (Allow flavors to blend at least an hour before serving.) Best served warm or at room temperature with your favorite crackers or crudité (cut raw vegetables, such as carrot and celery sticks and pepper strips).

*Note: to give this spread a more Middle Eastern flair, use za’atar instead of Herbes de Provence, and Aleppo red pepper.

Our Evaluation: We enjoyed the earthiness of the mushrooms, the subtle crunch from the nuts, and the hint of brightness from the lemon juice. It tastes better the next day. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

American Skewer Company - for a gift that will last a lifetime

It’s never too early to think about Christmas gift ideas, and the internet has made shopping a wonderful convenience for consumers.

I heard about a family business called American Skewer Company  from Karen Laszlo. She is half Armenian and half Italian and grew up eating and making a variety of foods from both nationalities. Karen is closest to her Armenian heritage and recently created a business and website selling skewers hand-crafted just as her grandfather did.
American Skewers
When you visit the website, you'll learn that Karen's Armenian side of the family emigrated to America, as did so many of our ancestors, and settled in the Detroit, Michigan area.

Karen's background struck a chord with me. If you’ll recall, my father built shish kebab machines and skewers for home and church picnic use. My father is no longer with us, so, I was excited to hear of another Armenian family making skewers for the next generation of shish kebab cooks!
Karen invites you to visit her family’s website and order gifts of skewers for Christmas, weddings, graduations – or any occasion.
And while you're at it, why not purchase a few skewers for yourself? Happy shopping!