Tuesday, January 29, 2013


The choir at St. David Armenian Church, Boca Raton, FL recently hosted their annual Armenian Christmas brunch after services. One of the featured menu items was Basimet – a cross between simit and chorag, according to my friend (and choir member) Louise Apoian, who was kind enough to share her family’s recipe. (Spellings vary, so one might find the recipe listed as ‘basimit’ or ‘Bah Simit’.) Louise's recipe was handed down from her aunt, Voco Kalafian, originally from Marsivan
Apoian family's Basimet
Baskets of basimet and platters of Armenian string cheese kept eager parishioners' hunger at bay until the brunch was actually served. Somewhat sweeter than chorag, the basimet, along with the slightly salty shreds of cheese, were a welcome treat for our taste buds and tummies!  

Here is the Apoian family’s recipe for Basimet:

1 cup melted margarine or butter
1 ¼ c. sugar
1 cup milk
3 eggs
About 6 to 7 cups flour, sifted (Louise uses pre-sifted flour to save time!)
2 Tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)
Sesame seeds to sprinkle on top of egg wash, optional

1. Melt butter (or margarine); allow to cool a bit.

2. Add sugar and milk to the melted butter; stir until sugar is dissolved. Pour mixture into a large bowl; beat in eggs.

3. In a separate bowl, add 5 cups of the sifted flour and the rest of the dry ingredients.

4. Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the bowl of wet ingredients, adding more of the flour as needed to create a dough that is not sticky and easy to handle.

5. Pinch off walnut-sized pieces of dough, roll into ropes, and twist. NOTE: The basimet can also be braided, made into S-shapes, circles, etc.

6. Place basimet pieces onto parchment-lined or lightly greased baking sheets. Brush tops with egg wash; sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired.

7. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until lightly golden brown.

Friday, January 25, 2013

St. Sarkis Day, January 26th, 2013

Thank goodness for email! My dear friend Sonia Tashjian reminded me that tomorrow is St. Sarkis Day. If you haven't baked kumba cake or made St. Sarkis Halva yet, you'd better drop everything and get busy!

Kumba cake photo courtesy of Sonia Tashjian
If you don't know what I'm talking about, just click on the  recipe names above to return to the previously-posted stories and recipes related to the celebration of St. Sarkis and the Armenian version (well, almost) of Valentine’s Day!
St. Sarkis Halva photo courtesy of Armand Sahakian, owner of Nory Locum

Monday, January 21, 2013

Dolma Soup!

Doug and I were in the mood for dolma but neither of us felt energetic enough to make it the traditional way.

Instead, Doug made meats balls with ground lamb and bulgur which he cooked in a skillet to brown, pouring-off any excess fat. We had tomatoes, zucchini and onion on hand, so he cut those into large pieces, threw them in a pot with canned tomato puree, seasonings, and the lamb meatballs. This was simmered for about 30 to 40 minutes, until everything was cooked just right. Naturally, this was served with plain thick yogurt. 

Dolma Soup
Since there were only the two of us dining, we had enough for 2 complete meals and then some. 
With the meatballs devoured, we still had a sufficient amount of veggies and tomato base.

Being the creative sort, Doug transformed what was left into what we named “Dolma Soup”. 
He added quick-cooking barley, some Aleppo red pepper, a smidge more water and tomato paste, simmered the new creation for about 20 minutes – or until the barley was tender, and voila… Dolma Soup!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Armenians satisfy Beirut's thirst for sweetness

The Badguer, from the Lebanon Star
It's hard to imagine, but Armenians have come up with a new contribution to tastes of Lebanon: pomegranate wine.

The fruit itself is popular throughout the Near and Middle East, but it holds a special place in Armenian culture and lore—and, apparently, in our wine vats.

The Daily Star of Lebanon reports that the sweetly tart and distinctly Armenian drink made a debut splash at the Beirut Cooking Festival in November.

The wine was introduced at the festival by the Badguer Restaurant and Heritage Center, where pomegranate images adorn the dining room. Badguer founder Arpi Mangassarian explained the Armenian affinity for pomegranates by saying the fruit's presence "makes us feel there is balance and joy and prosperity."

The wine has since spread beyond the city's Armenian community, as others are drawn to its unique flavor. There aren't enough pomegranates grown locally to support wine making, so merchants are making overtures to importers.

Oddly, one likely source is America, where pomegranates have gained popularity along with a health-boosting reputation in recent years.

While Lebanese are clearly drawn to the taste of pomegranate wine by itself, there's still a question of how well its distinctly sweet flavor complements dishes in the country's varied cuisine.

 “I think it will catch on in Lebanon, but the question is what can you consume it with?" said local wine expert Elie Maamari.  "Maybe cheese or dessert."

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Carmantyuc or Kndzmdzuk: Does anybody know what this is???

Catherine, a new reader of The Armenian Kitchen wrote asking for a common name  of a specialty herb she came across. 

Here’s her request:

“While searching for Armenian Herbed Flatbread information I found your site and also a reference to a "specialty" herb used.  Can you give me the English or Latin name of this herb.  The special herb is called either [sic] carmantyuc  or kndzmdzuk.”

So, I did some hunting, came up empty-handed, and suggested to Catherine that I’d put this request on the website.

Catherine thought that was a great idea, and added:

“I am always interested in new-to-me culinary herbs and spices.  I live in the Phoenix, AZ area and because of that I can grow just about any herb or spice (with rare exceptions) here.  Regarding the herb in question, it may be a regional variety of a common family, like oregano, thyme or mint, so a 'hint' may help find it :-)”

There you have it, folks.

If anyone reading this knows an English or Latin name for carmantyuc or kndzmdzuk, please leave a comment, or email robyn@thearmeniankitchen.com.

Once we have an answer, I’ll post it for all to see. Thanks a bunch!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Red Quinoa Tabbouleh

Doug, Mandy and I were invited to a pot-luck party during the holidays. My natural instinct was to make tabbouleh, but after having had a conversation about benefits of quinoa with a foodie friend, I decided to make a quinoa tabbouleh salad instead of the usual bulgur.

Red Quinoa Tabbouleh
Here's some background information on quinoa from the book 'Food Lover's Companion':
Quinoa was known as 'the mother grain' to the ancient Incas of South America. Containing the eight essential amino acids, quinoa is considered a complete protein. It's higher in unsaturated fats and lower in carbohydrates than most grains, and provides a balanced source of vital nutrients. 

Quinoa cooks in the same manner as rice, and expands to four times its original volume. It's very light and the flavor has been compared to couscous, meaning it's delicate - almost bland. Quinoa's uses are many - it can be served as a side dish, part of a main dish, in soups, salads, and even puddings.   

I adapted a recipe from Epicureous.com using red quinoa which really made an impressive-looking, festive dish, if I do say so myself! 

Red Quinoa Tabbouleh 
Serves about 6


2 cups red quinoa, cooked according to package directions
(Use 4 cups broth or water to 2 cups quinoa; add a little salt. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer until all liquid is absorbed. The box said to cook for 15 minutes, however, I had to cook it for almost 30 minutes.)
4 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
¼ cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
Black pepper, to taste
Salt, to taste
2 Persian cucumbers, or ½ seedless English cucumber, cut into small dice
2 plum tomatoes, cut into small dice
½ cup flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped
2 scallions, finely chopped
¼ cup crumbled feta cheese, optional
1 cup canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed, optional

1. In a saucepan, cook quinoa according to package directions. Remove saucepan from heat; let stand covered for 5 minutes. Fluff with fork.

2. Dressing preparation: While quinoa is cooking, whisk together the lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. 

3. Spread out quinoa on a large rimmed baking pan; let cool. Transfer to a large bowl; mix in 1/4 cup dressing. (Can be made 1 day ahead up to this point.) Cover remaining dressing and quinoa separately; chill.

4. Add cucumber, tomatoes, herbs, scallions, feta cheese and/or chick peas to bowl with quinoa; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Drizzle with remaining dressing; mix gently. Add more lemon juice, if desired.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

A Traditional Recipe for Armenian Christmas Eve - Nevik

It never hurts to re-post a timely recipe, so in case you missed Ara Kassabian’s recipe for Swiss Chard with Chick Peas (Neeveeg, Nevik) from a few years ago, here it is again – and just (barely) in time for Armenian Christmas Eve, January 5th.
Nevik, Neeveeg
Swiss Chard with Chick Peas (Neeveeg, Nevik)

1 bunch swiss chard (green or mixed), thoroughly washed to remove grit and sand
1 (15-oz.) can chick peas, drained and rinsed
2-3 tablespoons of tomato sauce
1-2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Salt (very little),
black pepper, Aleppo red pepper or equivalent (cayenne, chili Colorado, etc.), to taste


1.    Wash and coarsely chop the chard. Make sure you get all the dirt out.
2.    Heat the oil over medium-high heat and saute the chard until it is limp. Add the chick peas, tomato sauce, salt and peppers.
3.    Cover and simmer on low heat until the chard is soft, about 20-30 minutes.

Ara’s Notes:
As a variant, you can substitute some ready-made ajika (Georgian tomato-pepper paste) for part of the tomato sauce. In which case, you can omit the Aleppo red pepper.

Swiss chard tends to be high in sodium, and of course canned chick peas also have sodium, so go easy on the salt.

Nevik is traditionally eaten on Christmas Eve (January 5th), along with rice, fish, and yogurt soup (madzoonaboor).

From our Armenian Kitchen to yours…

Shnorhavor Nor Dari yev Soorp Dznount

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A visit with the spirit of Christmas past

Dinner with family is always important, but it takes on special meaning during this time of year.

Barbara, Robyn and Aunt Arpie
Like many folks our age, however, we're sad to find that our families on both sides are dwindling and scattered. So any gathering that reflects even a glimmer of holidays past is precious.

To our delight, Aunt Arpie Vartanesian was determined to provide that opportunity this holiday season and, in the spirit that she has always shown, she overcame one obstacle after another to make it special.

Arpie is technically Robyn's aunt but we share her without distinction. She's fun to talk with any time about anything, but our Dikranagertsi roots always give us plenty of food memories to share. For years, we shared them while eating the food we loved. 

She retired from cooking several years ago, however, when she moved from her condo into a senior living complex that features an attractive dining room with an impressively varied menu.

Nowadays, she isn't getting out as much and we live just far enough away to make a dinner get-together a challenge. Arpie's solution was to invite us for Thanksgiving dinner at her complex's dining room. Also invited were her niece Barbara Dorian and husband Ed along with some close friends.

Due to a mix-up, however, no family-size table was available so we were broken up into small groups. It didn't bring to mind the old family warmth we'd expected.

Rather than wait to try again next year, however, Aunt Arpie made her displeasure known to the “head honcho,” who invited us all back for a pre-Christmas dinner at one big table in a private dining room. Best of all, he offered to let our aunt set the menu.

He undoubtedly expected her to request a traditional holiday favorite – perhaps turkey or baked ham – but she stuck with our own holiday tradition by ordering shish kebab. Of course, she insisted on lamb.

“And I told him it has to have coriander,” she assured us. “It just won't taste right without kinz.”

The honcho passed the request along to the dining manager, an enthusiastic young man named Roderick. He had to work around a few of his own obstacles, such as not being able to build a fire pit in the kitchen, but he cleverly evoked the spirit of Aunt Arpie's request by seasoning and carving juicy kebab-size chunks of lamb loin that were served over tabouleh. 

Bravo Roderick!

The Armenian theme carried through from the cheese boreg appetizers - that our aunt generously shared with the dining room staff - to the paklava dessert.

It turned out to be a very special evening, thanks not only to Aunt Arpie's perseverance but to her extraordinary spirit and love.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Start the New Year with Basturma and Eggs!

Question: How does one start off the new year on the right foot?
Answer: With a hearty breakfast of basturma and eggs, of course!

Basturma and Eggs
Basturma and Eggs
Serves 2
  • Start with good quality, lean, thinly sliced basturma. Cut the slices into small strips, and sauté lightly in a skillet with a wee-bit of olive oil.
  • Beat 4 eggs and pour them into the skillet right on top of the basturma. Scramble the eggs along with the basturma – no salt or pepper required as the basturma provides all of the necessary flavor.
  • Cook until eggs are set.
  • Serve with pita bread, lavash or Darehats.

We wish everyone a Happy, Healthy, Peaceful 2013.