Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Navy Bean and Beet Salad

You might have noticed that I’ve been keeping my Lenten recipe selections on the easy-to-prepare side. There's no law that requires Lenten dishes to have complicated procedures requiring hours to prepare, as some do - TOPIG, for example.
Today’s recipe falls into the quick-and-easy category, plus it's nutritious, tasty and colorful. You just can't beat that!
Navy Bean and Beet Salad
Navy Bean and Beet Salad
Serves 6

Salad Ingredients:
2 (15 oz.) cans Navy beans, drained and rinsed
2 (15 oz.) cans beets, drained and diced
1 small onion, cut into thin crescent shapes
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped

Dressing Ingredients:
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Juice of 2 small lemons

1. In a mixing bowl, combine the drained beans and diced beets. Toss in the onion slices and parsley.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the salt, pepper, oil and lemon juice.
3. Pour dressing over the bean-beet mixture; toss to coat.
4. Cover and chill about 1 hour. Adjust seasonings, if necessary, before serving.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Roasted Red Peppers with Currants and Nuts

Try this for a Lenten side dish. Serve with your favorite Lenten fish recipe.
Roasted Red Peppers with Currants and Nuts
Roasted Red Peppers with Currants and Nuts
Serves about 4 

¼ cup currants or chopped raisins
6 to 8 large red peppers, if in season, - OR – 1 (32-oz.) jar of roasted red peppers, drained
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup olive oil
2 Tbsp. lemon juice or red wine vinegar
½ tsp. Kosher salt
Ground black pepper, to taste
½ tsp. paprika
¼ cup chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, or pine nuts)

1. Place currants (or raisins) in a small bowl. Pour hot water over them just to cover. Allow to soften for a few minutes, then drain. Set aside until ready to serve.

2. To roast and prepare fresh red peppers:
  •          Place oven rack a few inches from the broiling unit.
  •          Preheat oven to broil.
  •          Wash peppers, leaving them whole.
  •          Place peppers on a foil-lined, lightly oiled baking pan.
  •          Turn peppers every 5 to 7 minutes, as they start to blacken and blister. Be sure all sides have been cooked.
  •          Remove pan from oven, covering peppers with aluminum foil for about 10 minutes. This will help loosen the charred skin.
  •          When slightly cooled, rinse the skins under running water.
  •          Remove and discard stems and seeds. Rinse peppers. Pat dry with paper towels.

3. If you use jarred peppers, drain and rinse them well. Pat dry.
4. Cut peppers into ¼-inch strips and place in large a bowl.
5. In a small mixing bowl, place garlic, olive oil, lemon juice (or vinegar, if using), salt, pepper, and paprika. Mix well. Pour dressing over the red pepper strip, coating gently.
6. Cover and allow to sit at room temperature for about one hour before serving time.
7. To serve: Garnish with currants and nuts.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Grilled Zucchini with Kalamata vinaigrette

Our local South Florida farmer's markets are currently featuring homegrown produce - zucchini, green beans, Swiss chard, tomatoes to name a few. It's also prime time for picking tomatoes and strawberries. Not a bad deal, really - especially since folks in other parts of the US are still shoveling snow.

I bought all of the above in an effort to make and share some recipes suitable for Lent. I've already posted the Swiss chard and white bean soup recipe, so today I've got a grilled zucchini recipe.  This recipe is adapted from one I found in the Whole Foods recipe collection. It's not necessarily Armenian, but it definitely qualifies to serve during Lenten - or - whenever.
Grilled Zucchini with Kalamata vinaigrette
Grilled Zucchini with Kalamata vinaigrette
Serves 4

½ cup pitted kalamata olives, drained and rinsed
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
½ tsp. black pepper
¼ cup water
3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
4 medium zucchini, washed, and cut lengthwise into  ½” thick slices
Juice of ½ lemon
2 garlic cloves, minced
Dash of salt and pepper
Garnish: 1 small tomato, diced

Step #1
1. In a blender or food processor, process olives, vinegar, pepper, water, and 1 Tbsp. of the olive oil. Blend until smooth.  Add more water if mixture is too thick. Set aside.
Step #2
2. Place zucchini slices in a large bowl; toss with lemon juice, the remaining 2 Tbsp. olive oil, and a dash of salt and pepper until well-coated.
(Note: After cutting the zucchini lengthwise, I cut the pieces in half  crosswise so it would fit in my George Foreman counter top grill.)
The zucchini can be grilled on a stove-top grill pan, in a counter-top grill, or on an outdoor gas or electric grill. Set grill on a medium-high setting.
Step #3
3. Cook until grill marks appear on zucchini, and zucchini becomes tender – about 3 to 4 minutes on each side.

4. Layer zucchini slices on platter; drizzle each layer with Kalamata vinaigrette, and garnish with chopped tomatoes.
Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Lenten Swiss Chard and White Bean Soup

The Lenten season is here, so I’m offering a vegetarian version of one of my favorite soups. Hope you’ll like it!

Swiss chard and white bean soup
Lenten Swiss Chard and White Bean Soup
Serves 6

1 large bunch Swiss chard, thoroughly washed
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp. Aleppo red pepper (NOTE:  ½ tsp. paprika with a dash of cayenne pepper may be substituted)
½ tsp. kosher salt, or to taste
¼ tsp. black pepper, or to taste
1 tsp. dried basil leaves, crushed, or to taste
2 Tbsp. tomato paste (or red pepper paste)
1- 16 oz. can diced tomatoes - including the liquid
4 cups water
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
1. To prepare the Swiss chard:
        ~Trim the stems from the leaves and wash well. Chop stems into small pieces.
        ~Thoroughly wash each leaf of the chard to remove every particle of grit and sand. Remove thick ribs from leaves. Cut leaves into bite-sized pieces. Set aside until ready to use.

Step 2
2. In an 8 quart pot, heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil. SautÄ— onions, garlic, and Swiss chard stems until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Season with Aleppo red pepper, salt, pepper, and basil leaves. Stir in tomato paste, diced tomatoes with their liquid, and 4 cups water. Cook about 10 minutes, stirring on occasion.

Step 3
3. Add the Swiss chard leaves, white beans and lemon juice; continue cooking for about 20 minutes, or until chard leaves have wilted and softened. Adjust seasonings according to your taste preference.
NOTE: The soup tastes better the next day, after flavors have blended.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Chaimen Dip

I know you’re familiar with basturma – the dried, spice-covered meat cut paper thin, and served with pita bread or lavash as an appetizer. But, did you know the basturma spice mix can be used to create an unusually tasty dip? Well, it can, and I’ll tell you how.

Chaimen Dip
I found a brochure called “Basturma Made Easy” in my collection of recipes that was dated 1976. I don’t know if this came from a company or an individual, but an address indicated it was from Cold Spring Harbor, NY. I’m guessing my late mother-in-law, Sylvia Kalajian, sent away for it. How she found out about it, I’ll never know.

The brochure explains how to make basturma in the refrigerator (perhaps an item for another time). In addition, there are several recipes including one for Chaimen Dip.

Since I wasn’t about to make basturma, I chose to make the spice mix and try the Chaimen Dip recipe.
The original spice mix recipe yields a lot as it’s supposed to cover a two pound cut of meat. Since I was only making dip, I cut the ingredient amounts by one fourth, but I’ll provide both recipes.

The original Chaimen recipe from the brochure:
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
½ cup paprika
¼ cup chaimen (ground fenugreek)
4 tsp. allspice
2 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. cumin
½ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. ground cloves
1 Tbsp. salt
1 tsp. garlic powder, optional
1. Sift the ingredients together into a bowl. Stir until well blended.
2. To make a paste for basturma, gradually blend 1 cup of water into the spice mix. Stir well adding more water, one tablespoon at a time, until a loose paste is formed that will spread easily on the meat.

Chaimen spice mix
Chaimen Dip ingredient proportions, my version:                      
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
2 Tbsp. paprika
1 Tbsp. chaimen (ground fenugreek)
1 tsp. allspice
1/2  tsp. black pepper
1/2  tsp. cumin
1/8 tsp. nutmeg (I used freshly ground nutmeg)
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
¾ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. garlic powder

Spice Mix Directions:
Sift the ingredients together into a bowl. Stir until well blended. Store in a tightly covered container, but use within one month or else the flavors won’t be as bold.

To make the Chaimen Dip:
2 Tbsp. chaimen spice mix (add more if you dare!)
½ cup plain yogurt
½ cup light sour cream

In a mixing bowl, blend together the yogurt, sour cream, and spice mix. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour before serving. NOTE: You can use all yogurt or all sour cream, if you prefer.
Serve with cut vegetables, your favorite chips, pita bread or lavash.

Our Verdict: The dip tasted just like basturma - without the meat!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Request for Chiltik – an eggplant, tomato and garlic dish

Can anyone help? Beth Lewis is looking for a specific dish called Chiltik. 

Here’s her request:
“Years ago, my husband had a dish in Germany made by an Armenian man who was from Turkey.  It was called "chiltik" and consisted of layers of eggplant and tomatoes with garlic.  I have searched for years to find a recipe with no success.  Do you know a recipe for this dish or where I can find a recipe?”
Photo via Inspired Taste
After sending her a recipe I found on the internet for  sauteed eggplant with tomato-garlic sauce (see below), she said that wasn’t it, and offered a better description.

Beth wrote:
“The man who made it said that first the eggplant was sliced very thin (like with a mandolin slicer), brushed with olive oil and then slightly baked. Then the tomatoes and garlic are sliced just as thin and all 3 are layered in a pan like you would cook scalloped potatoes.  I don't know if it was cooked or marinated after that.  There also may have been vinegar in the dish.  All the vegetables were firm and the dish seemed simple but very tasty.”

Dear readers, I’m asking for assistance once again. If this recipe is familiar to you, please email me:, or leave a comment with your recipe or suggestion.

Depending on the complete ingredient list, this could be a perfect Lenten recipe, so the sooner we hear from you, the better.  (FYI: This year Lent begins on Monday, February 11.)  

Here's the recipe I sent Beth:

From   Ayla Esen Algar
Yield: 4 servings
       1 Eggplant
       Extra virgin olive oil
      10 oz. Can tomatoes with liquid
       1 Chopped tomato
       1 tbsp. Tomato paste
       2 tbsp. Water
       2 tsp. Mashed garlic
       2 tsp. Vinegar
   1. Cut stem off eggplant.  Remove strips of skin with a vegetable peeler.  Cut lengthwise in half, then crosswise into 1/4″ thick slices.  Spread on a cookie sheet & sprinkle with lots of salt.  Put in a colander   & set aside for 4 hours.
   2.  Rinse well & drain.  Heat oil in skillet & fry eggplant slices over a high heat till they are golden brown on all sides.  Drain.
   3.  Pour off all but 1 tbsp. olive oil.  Mash tomatoes with a fork & put into skillet.  Simmer, stirring often, 5 to 10 minutes, until they form a thin sauce. Blend in tomato paste & water. Cook 1 minute. Stir in garlic & vinegar & remove from heat.
   4.  Arrange eggplant slices on a serving dish & pour over sauce.  Serve warm.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Meat and Bulgur- Stuffed Grape Leaves (Sarma)

In the past we've posted recipes for meatless stuffed grape leaves (yalanchi), which make terrific appetizers, but if you're looking a a heartier meal, the addition of meat is the way to go. Traditionally, ground lamb or beef are the meats of choice, but to lighten-up the dish, our recipe  uses ground turkey, making it lighter, but just as tasty and satisfying.
Meat and Bulgur Stuffed Grape Leaves
Meat and Bulgur- Stuffed Grape Leaves (Sarma)
Yield: approximately 30 pieces

Sauce Ingredients:
1 (28 oz.) can of diced tomatoes
1 can water (same can from tomatoes)
 2/3 of 6-oz. can of tomato paste (reserve the rest for the filling)
juice of 1/2 lemon (reserve the juice from the other ½ lemon for the filling)
½ tsp. allspice
Salt and pepper to taste
1 packet no sodium beef bouillon

Sauce Directions: Mix all of the above ingredients in a bowl. Set aside until ready to cook.

Meat-Bulgur Filling:
1 (1 ¼ lb.) package ground turkey (93% lean / 7% fat) NOTE: Beef and/or lamb are traditionally used.
1/2 cup #2 bulgur (½ cup rice may be substituted)
½ cup of chopped parsley
1 packet no-sodium beef bouillon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
the remaining tomato paste
salt, pepper and allspice to taste

Grape leaves from a jar: Rinse leaves, pat dry. Remove and discard thick stem ends.

Directions for folding and cooking the grape leaves:
1. Lay one grape leaf at a time on a flat work surface, shiny side down.

2. Place enough filling at the stem-end of the leaf, and spread it about three-quarters across the width of the leaf. (The amount of filling will be determined by the size of the leaf.) Start rolling the leaf from the stem end upward (away from you), then fold each side of the leaf over the filling, and continue to roll upward. Fold firmly so the leaf won’t unravel during cooking. (NOTE: Don’t roll too tightly, however, because the bulgur or rice will expand and the leaves could burst during cooking.)

3. Place the sauce in a large pot. Place the rolled leaves right in the sauce.

4. Add enough hot water to cover the rolled leaves. Place an inverted dish on top of the grape leaves to keep them in place.
NOTE: You might want to add another weight, such as a small pot half-filled with water to place on top of the dish. This keeps the grape leaves submerged for even cooking.

5. Bring to a boil; place a lid and tilt it (it won’t fit snugly due to the small pot), then reduce heat to low. Cook for 30-40 minutes until the bulgur or rice and grape leaves are tender.

To serve: Spoon some sauce over the top of the cooked grape leaves, along with plain, thick yogurt.