Thursday, June 27, 2013

A request for Makdous – Preserved Stuffed Baby Eggplant

Sarah Barooshian Parisi asked The Armenian Kitchen for a very special, although not quite Armenian, recipe:

“Dear Armenian friend, I live in upstate New York and cook half as well as my grandmother, Shamiram Basmadjian Barooshian.  She taught me great things, though, and I make excellent Tourshi, Basterma, Choereg, Sojouk, Dolma, Lule Kebabs and many other wonderful delights. We have limited access to Armenian or Middle Eastern foods, so when I go to visit my family in the Watertown, MA area, I always go to the Armenian grocery stores.  Arax’s Market makes their own Makdous, more of a Syrian treat.  I wonder if you can drum up a good recipe for it.  I’ve tried making it but it doesn’t have the tangy flavor of Arax’s and of course they won’t share the recipe.  I’m 400 miles away – what can I do?  Please let me know if you have any success.  Thank you so much."
Bethany Kehdy's Makdous from

Funny she should ask … Doug and I recently stopped for lunch at a little Greek-Middle Eastern eatery in a nearby strip plaza. (Sometimes the best food is found in these tucked-away places.) Lo-and-behold, what did I see in their refrigerated display case? Makdous! I spoke with the owner regarding its preparation, and all he would tell me was that, “it’s a lengthy process”. 

So, I did a ‘Google’ search and came up with a few recipe options to send Sarah. 
The makdous preparation which really caught my eye came from Bethany Kehdy at Dirty Kitchen Secrets, a Lebanese food blog. Bethany kindly permitted me to link to her recipe and website for all of you to enjoy. Click here to see Bethany’s step-by-step directions for making makdous – and so much more.

Robyn’s note: If you’ll recall, I don’t cook with eggplant or walnuts at home due to Doug’s allergies, so Bethany’s recipe has not been tested in The Armenian Kitchen. However, I can tell  just by looking at the the photo that her recipe is a winner!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sheel Abour - how recipes make the rounds

Doug and I were invited to dinner at the home of Araksi and Onnik Dinkjian a few weeks ago. Their world-class musician son, Ara, and his daughter, Arev were in town for a brief visit, so this provided us with the perfect opportunity to catch-up on family news.
(Click here to preview some of Ara's incredible music.) 

Araksi served a table full of scrumptious mezza items before dinner, including ‘sheel abour’. As we slathered the sheel abour onto pita wedges, Araksi asked if I knew where she had gotten the recipe. I truly had no idea. She said, “I got this recipe at your house from Betty Kabobjian** when we were together for Mandy’s high school graduation party – in 1999.” 

It’s interesting to see how recipes make the rounds!

**A little family background: Dick Kabobjian, Betty’s husband, and my dad were cousins, so we’ve known the two of them forever. Betty was always the hostess-with-the-mostess and all around incredible cook. Dick, like all of the other Dikranagerdsis I know, loved to party.  Whenever Dick and my dad got together, you’d never know what juicy dialog would pop out of their mouths. Women blushed in their presence – and - everyone who understood their dialect, had a good belly- laugh.

I digress… back to the recipe.

 I posted a similar recipe - ‘Sour Spinach and Rice’ - from the “Assyrian Cookbook”, sent in by John and Pat Nashmy, but didn’t have the Kabobjian version. Arkasi kindly provided me with a copy, which I will now share with you.

Sheel Abour ala Araksi Dinkjian
Sheel Abour

2 – 10 oz. packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and excess liquid drained
½ cup rice (short grain works well)
½ cup fine (#1) bulgur
Salt and pepper to taste
2-8 oz. cans tomato sauce
½ cup fresh lemon juice (or more)
2 cups water
2 large onions, finely chopped
½ cup canola oil

1. In a large saucepan, cook together the spinach, rice, bulgur, salt and pepper, tomato sauce, lemon juice and water  - first bringing the liquid to a boil, then reducing the heat to medium-low and covering the pot - until rice and bulgur are soft – about 25 minutes.
2. While the spinach-rice mixture is cooking, heat the oil and sauté the onions until soft but not burned.
3. When the spinach-rice mixture is done, add the sautéed onion.
NOTE: Serve as an appetizer with pita chips or wedges of pita bread, or as a side dish. This can be served hot or cold.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Over 1 Million Pageviews, and Counting…

In the four years The Armenian Kitchen has existed, we have reached 300,000 readers - in 200 countries and territories - who have clicked our pages over 1 million times. That’s a lot of numbers!                                     
The Kalajians in The Armenian Kitchen
 (photo credit: Linda Aginian)
When Tom Vartabedian, retired journalist, and columnist for 'The Armenian Weekly', offered to write an updated story of our accomplishments, we were honored.
Doug and I humbly thank Tom, and every one of our readers and contributors who continue to share an interest, and support our goal of preserving the recipes and stories of our ancestors. 
Keep on clicking!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Jack Hachigian - Farewell to a Family Friend

Now that my mother is gone, there’s no one to spread news about family and friends. My mother was the ‘grape vine’ of Armenian activities, spreading any news from east to west, and north to south. 

Having lived in Paterson, NJ for much of her youth, Mom wove close ties to the Armenians-from-Paterson crowd. She kept in touch with them all, no matter where they ended up as adults.
Jack Hachigian
Mom’s side of the family was particularly close with the Hachigian family – Moses, Elizabeth, and their sons Paul and Jack. The elders all came from Musa Dagh and lived near each other in Paterson. We all attended St. Leon Armenian Church in that same town.

Mom and Jack stayed in touch until her passing just a few months ago. I’m the one who called him to break the news. Jack talked about his fond memories of Mom and their parents – the good times and their times of struggle.

Jack was quite a guy – athlete, scholar, artist, and cookbook author. He mastered his mother’s recipes from Musa Dagh to create a very special cookbook, ‘Secrets from an Armenian Kitchen’ which I wrote about a few years ago.

You can imagine my shock and sadness, when I saw an obituary for Jack in the ‘The Armenian Weekly’! He passed away in San Diego, CA last month.You can read about his accomplishments in the obit, but you had to know Jack to fully appreciate the wonderful human being that he was.

In my mind, I know that Mom and Jack are together catching up on the good-old days, and that makes me smile.

Rest in Peace, Jack.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Food in the News: Chickpeas

How cool is this? In order to keep up with America’s love affair with hummus, former tobacco fields in the state of Virginia are being plowed under to make way for chickpea farming.  
Fresh chickpeas at my local market 

Having grown up around smokers, I was taught never to start the ‘nasty’ habit, therefore, I don’t smoke - never did, never will. Farewell, tobacco fields!

But, eating chickpeas … well, that’s another story. Just think of all of the chickpea recipe possibilities!

With chickpeas being so versatile and nutritious, I can’t think of a better way to recycle the land.

Friday, June 7, 2013

AGAHAMAGH (Dried Eggplant Salad) - from Sonia Tashjian's new cookbook

Do you recall my request for a volunteer to help translate into English some of Sonia Tashjian’s recipes from her new cookbook, “HAYGAGAN AVANTAGAN KHOHANOTS” - “Armenian Traditional Cuisine”?
Sonia Tashjian's cookbook: HAYGAGAN AVANTAGAN KHOHANOTS” - “Armenian Traditional Cuisine”
I’ll bet you thought no one responded, right?

An avid reader of The Armenian Kitchen, Ara Kassabian, spoke up immediately, and has already translated, prepared, and photographed the first recipe. Sonia and I couldn’t be more thrilled with Ara’s willingness and great effort in this collaboration. We thank Ara – humbly and profusely. 

FYI: This project is a global effort – I live in South Florida, Ara is from California, and Sonia resides in Yerevan. Even though the three of us have never met face-to-face, we've developed a strong bond through this website.

Here is the first recipe translation from Sonia’s new Armenian cookbook. We hope you’ll like it.
Agahamagh - Dried Eggplant Salad (Recipe prepared and photgraphed by Ara Kassabian)
AGAHAMAGH (Dried Eggplant Salad) 
Province: Marash         Preparation time: 1 hour               Number of servings: 4 persons

A brief explanation from Sonia:
(translation by Ara Kassabian)

"Aghamagh" belongs to the rich culinary tradition of Marash. In the summer, when people used to core eggplants and dry them in preparation for usage in "dolmas" (stuffed vegetables) during the winter, they would dry the removed cores separately by threading them with a needle and hanging them to dry. They would then use the reconstituted dried cores to make this unique salad, particularly during the Lenten season. To reconstitute the eggplant, they would soak it in water for 24 hours, then, having changed the water, they would boil it. After draining the water and letting the pulp cool down to room temperature, they would add the sauce, along with the other ingredients.
To dry eggplant in your kitchen, peel it, cut it into cubes (about 3/4 inch), salt it, and put it in a large sieve to dry in the sun. You can then store the dried eggplant in a cloth bag, with an added handful of coarse salt.
 It is possible to approximate the taste of dried eggplant by cubing or slicing a peeled eggplant, sprinkling it with salt, and placing it in a colander to drain. After a few hours, the eggplant is squeezed by hand, then sautéed with a bit of water or oil.

AGAHAMAGH (Dried Eggplant Salad)
2 lb. eggplants (Italian or otherwise)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cup sesame seed paste (tahini)
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 Tbsp. pepper paste
1/2 cup water
1 tsp. red pepper (Aleppo or cayenne)
1 tsp. powdered sumac
Coarsely chopped parsley (about 1/2 cup)

1. Prepare the eggplant by cubing, salting, draining, and sautéing, as indicated above (or use reconstituted dry eggplant). Let it cool to room temperature. Arrange on a flat serving dish.
2. Dilute the tahini, tomato paste, and pepper paste with the 1/2 cup water. Add the remaining ingredients to the mixture and spread over the eggplant.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Deviled Eggs

Deviled eggs are not an Armenian recipe, but that doesn’t mean we don’t like them. My Aunt Arpie, a terrific Armenian cook, often surprised us at family gatherings by bringing an American recipe to add to our otherwise Armenian menu. Sometimes she’d make macaroni salad bursting with tuna fish, or, on occasion, deviled eggs. Both were tasty novelties!

With Memorial Day behind us and the 4th of July on the horizon, I’ll share the deviled egg recipe I recently served guests.

Deviled Eggs

Deviled Eggs
6 large eggs, hard-cooked in the shell

Cooking directions:
Place the eggs in a medium saucepan with water to cover and bring to a boil. Remove saucepan from the heat, cover the pan, and let stand for 20 minutes. Pour off the hot water. Have a bowl of ice water ready. Place eggs in the water and let them sit in there for about 5 minutes. Gently crack eggs and remove the shells**, cover and chill for at least 1 hour.

** To remove the egg shells from hard-cooked eggs:
Gently roll eggs between your hands to loosen the shell, then peel. If the shell is too hard to peel, hold the egg under cold water while peeling.

Deviled Egg Filling ingredients and directions for 6 eggs:
In a bowl, mash together until smooth:
Yolks from 6 eggs
¼ cup mayonnaise
2 or 3 Tbsp. plain yogurt
1 tsp. prepared mustard (or 2 tsp. Dijon-style mustard)
½ tsp. salt
Dash Aleppo red pepper or black pepper

NOTE: The options for the egg filling are endless. You can add chopped olives, pickle relish, parsley, flaked seafood, chopped basturma, chormees, chopped onions, etc.

To assemble:
Cut shelled eggs in half lengthwise; remove yolks.
Prepare filling as described above.
Spoon filling evenly among the 12 egg halves.
Sprinkle tops with paprika.