Friday, November 29, 2013

Don't know what to do with your leftover turkey? Make Keshkeg!

It's the day after Thanksgiving, and you're probably wondering what to do with that mound of leftover turkey. Never fear, keshkeg is here!
Keshkeg (aka Herriseh)

I posted a Chicken Herriseh (Keshkeg) recipe a while ago, but leftover turkey can easily be substituted.

Turkey Herriseh (Keshkeg)

4 cups leftover cooked turkey,shredded

8 cups water (turkey or chicken broth can be substituted)
2 cups whole wheat kernels, rinsed in cold water and drained
2 tsp. salt, or to taste
paprika, optional
butter, optional

1. Place broth in large pot. Add wheat, shredded turkey, and salt if necessary. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low. Remove any foam which rises to the surface.
2. Simmer on a very low heat, covered, for about 4 hours -- without stirring! -- until almost all liquid is absorbed.
3. Beat vigorously with a sturdy, long-handled, wooden spoon, mashing the wheat and turkey until they resemble thick oatmeal. Adjust salt, if needed.
4. To serve: place in bowls. Add a pat of butter, if desired. Sprinkle with a dash of cumin or paprika.

Robyn's Notes:
A.) Time-saving hints:
1. Commercially prepared chicken or turkey broth may be used.

2.  Using an immersion or stick blender, instead of beating with a wooden spoon  in step #3, will save you a lot of time and energy!
B.) Leftover Herriseh freezes well. Just defrost, and reheat with a little extra liquid.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

HAPPY THANKSGIVING to One and All! (Apple Pie recipe included!)

What are your plans for Thanksgiving? Cooking for a crowd? dining out? visiting someone else’s home?

I know this greeting is 2 days early, but I wanted to give you time in case you were looking for a pie crust - or apple pie - recipe to serve your guests.

For years Doug and I hosted Thanksgiving to a cast of many, now it’s a quiet affair since everyone is scattered. 

My homemade Apple Pie
Good friends have invited us to share Thanksgiving at their home, an offer we couldn’t refuse. My only obligation …. bring an apple pie.

The pie crust recipe I’m making was handed down to me from a former Home Economics colleague back in the early 1970’s. Its name, ‘ Never-Fail Pie Crust’ suggests a successful outcome. Vegetable shortening, despite its bad reputation, really does make for a flaky crust. Remember, you’re only eating a sliver, not the entire pie, right??

Making pastry dough is easy. Just be cautious - don’t over-work the dough, and it will be light and flaky. (This isn’t yeast bread – no heavy-duty kneading necessary!)

Never-Fail Pie Crust:
(My recommendation: Make this in advance.)

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 ¼ cup vegetable shortening (such as Crisco)
1 tsp. salt
1 egg, well beaten
5 Tbsp. ice-cold water, divided (NOTE: The amount of water may vary depending on the type/brand of flour you use and the amount of humidity that’s in the air – no joke!)
1 Tbsp. white vinegar

1. Place flour and salt in a large mixing bowl; blend well.
2. Using a pastry blender, combine the shortening into the flour-salt until mixture resembles small peas.
3. In a separate bowl, combine the beaten egg, 1 Tbsp. of the water, and vinegar. Pour into the flour mixture. Stir in the remaining cold water, 1 Tbsp. at a time, until a workable dough is achieved. (See note above about the amount of water.)
4. Divide dough into 2 even balls, then flatten using the palm of your hand. Tightly wrap each portion with plastic wrap, and refrigerate up to 1 week. (The dough will keep in the freezer for up to 3 months when placed in an additional freezer bag. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator before using.)

Apple Pie Filling Ingredients:
6 cups thinly sliced, peeled, and cored apples (about 6 medium) NOTE: I use a combination of Granny Smith and Fuji apples
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup brown sugar, lightly packed
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (add more if apples are very juicy)
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, optional
1 tablespoon lemon juice 

Filling Directions:
In large bowl, gently mix filling ingredients. 

Egg wash for top crust: 1 egg, beaten

Directions for assembling and baking:
1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
2. Roll out both of the dough balls on a lightly floured work surface so that they are larger than the size of an inverted pie pan. Place one ‘crust’ in an ungreased 9-inch glass pie plate. Press firmly against side and bottom. Trim excess dough so that there is no more than 1-inch overhang.
3. Spoon the filling into the bottom crust, without flattening the apples.
4. Place second crust on top. Gently fold excess top crust under the bottom crust edge. Do NOT press the folded crust onto the pie pan rim! Press edges of the top and bottom dough together to seal; flute or crimp the edges.
5. Brush egg wash over the top and edges of the pie crust. Cut slits in several places in top crust to allow steam to escape while baking.
6. Before baking loosely cover edge of crust with strips of foil cut 2- to 3-inch wide. This will form a collar, preventing excessive browning.
7. Bake for 30 minutes; remove foil collar. Bake another 10 to 15, or until apples are tender and crust is golden brown. Cool on wire rack at least 2 hours before serving.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Kufteh prepared “Ravioli style”

Last week I heard from Ron Takakjian, one of my Dikranagerdtsi cousins. He wanted to share a kufteh preparation method he’d never tried, and wanted my opinion about it before he gave it a go.

An Italian friend of his suggested he make kufteh like one would make ravioli. What Ron’s friend said was this, “Instead of cupping the outer shell in your hand and forming it around the stuffing , try rolling the outer shell till it is paper thin, and with a cookie cutter, cut into circles, add filling, then top with a larger circle.

I told Ron it sounded reasonable, and to go for it. I also asked him to send me photos and the recipe he was going to use. (You can never have too many kufteh recipes!)

Ron said he’d try the technique over the weekend and let me know how it turned out.

Here’s Ron's report:
“I did it and they turned out great!! It worked so well I made the entire batch this way. Rolled out the meat and with my hands spread it out (like my Mom used to do making lavash). The outer shell was just thin enough to hold the filling and gave a great balance between meechoog and the kufteh. I don't make this too often and have never mastered the art of making really thin outer shell. This was a breeze.”

Ron used his maternal grandmother's (Aroosiag Najarian) recipe that his mom jotted down over 50 years ago.
Ron’s updated technique follows his grandmother’s recipe.

Grandma Aroosiag’s Meechoog Kufteh
(Written down by Elizabeth Takakjian, circa 1960)

Filling (meechoog) Ingredients: Prepare a day in advance
2 1/2 lbs. diced onions (on the large side)
2 lbs. ground lamb
Salt and Aleppo pepper to taste
1 Tbsp. allspice
5 Tbsp. freshly ground coriander
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1 Tbsp. paprika
2 Tbsp. Crisco, or lard (Ron uses butter)

Sauté meat in skillet with butter and ¼ cup water until it simmers and becomes tender. (Water should evaporate; only fat should remain).
In another skillet add 4 to 5 Tbsp. of fat from the (cooked) lamb and sauté onions until they are limp. (DO NOT OVERCOOK) Add lamb, parsley, coriander, allspice, paprika, salt and Aleppo pepper. (Cayenne can be used if you don’t have Aleppo pepper.)
Cover and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, for 30 to 45 minutes.
NOTE: Aroosiag said “make sure the onions don’t disappear while cooking.”
Cool and refrigerate until ready to use.

Outer Shell Ingredients:
2 lbs. lean ground beef (or lamb if you prefer)
3 cups #1 (fine) bulgur
Salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbsp. freshly ground coriander
1 egg
Water as needed

Mix ingredients – add a little water and knead until it is a smooth mixture.
Make a small ball and hold in palm of hand. Cup it and start to make a hole in the middle of the ball for the filling. (Thinning the walls the way a potter makes a vase.)
Add a tablespoon of filling; bring edges together to close. Seal top completely and pat with both hands. The kufteh should be flat on the bottom and round on the top. Keep water handy – you have to work with dampened hands.
Place kufteh on wax paper.

To Cook:
Drop kuftehs in boiling salted water without overcrowding the pot. When they float to the top, they’re done.
Ron's kufteh meechoog  (filling)

Here’s Ron’s updated ‘ravioli-style’ method:
Using a rolling pin, he rolled out half of the outer shell’s meat-bulgur mixture on a wooden cutting board and with his hands flattened the mixture until it was very thin. With a large, round cookie cutter, Ron cut the outer shell mixture into circles.
Rolled outer shell in background
With one thin patty in his hand, he added one heaping tablespoon of filling in the center of the circle, and placed a second circle of the outer shell mixture on top. Ron wet his hands and pinched the edges together to seal shut. He repeated this procedure with the remaining ingredients. Ron found that the outer shell was not as dense using the “ravioli’ method.
Almost done!
Ron’s final comment: “I’m sure my grandmother wouldn’t have approved of this method, but these were the best (kuftehs) I’ve ever made!”

Many thanks to Ron for doing the work and sharing this experience - and to his Italian friend for offering the wonderful suggestion!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Pagharch, bagharj, baghaj, nazook, katah (gata) - are they the same? Please help us decide!

According to Irina Petrosian’s definition in her book “Armenian Food: Fact, Fiction and Folklore”, bagharj is an unleavened flatbread made without salt.

As this recipe’s spelling varies, so do the recipes themselves. Some refer to this as pagharch, others baghaj. Some say it’s nazook, others katah (gata). It’s enough to make one’s head spin!

If any culinary experts can clarify the pagharch, bagharj, baghaj, nazook, katah (gata) confusion, please contact me: I would like to get this straight!

A very reliable source links pagharch with the Badarak:
Noted author, CK Garabed, wrote a piece linking pagharch with the Armenian Church service. (After clicking on the linked phrase, scroll down to 'An Unusual Look at Biblical Subjects".)

In addition, CK sent me a pagharch recipe from his friend Takouhi (Queenie) Tashjian. Another version, baghaj, from my long-time friend Barbara Hovsepian follows.

I offer you these two recipes.

Takouhi (Queenie) Tashjian’s Pagharch
1 lb. shortening (2 sticks butter and 1 cup Crisco vegetable shortening)
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 cups milk, warmed
2 pkgs. Dry yeast dissolved in 1 cup lukewarm water
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 ½ or 3 Tbsp. salt
6 to 8 eggs (six will do)
4 ½ to 5 lbs. flour (about 14 coffee cups)
1. In a large mixing bowl, combine together all of the ingredients, except for the flour.
2. Sprinkle some black seeds into the mixture.
3. Add the flour last to desired consistency to form a very soft dough.
4. Let rise (cover well and place in a very warm spot for 2 hours).
5. Divide dough into 3 or 4 rounds.
6. Let rise again.
7. Shape into long loaves and cut into 2” width pieces.
8. Brush with egg and sprinkle sesame and black seeds.
9. Bake 30-40 minutes at 375°F.

Barbara’s recipe is a smaller version of Takouhi’s, yielding two balls of dough. Unlike Takouhi’s , Barbara’s has a filling and can be made in a food processor. 
Barbara's Baghaj

Barbara Hovsepian’s  BAGHAJ

3/4 cup butter (1 ½ sticks)
3/4 cup milk
scant 1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg
1 pkg. dry yeast - proof in 1/2 cup warm water and 1 teaspoon sugar
4 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 egg
black seed or sesame seed
NOTE: If you prefer a more abundant filling, the amounts can be doubled.

1. Put 2 cups flour in the food processor.
Melt butter in a pot. Remove from heat and add milk. Pour in processor.
Add salt and pulse a bit.  Add 1 egg and proofed yeast. Process a second to mix. Add flour and process to mix well.
If mixture is not balling up and is straining processor, add more flour a heaping tablespoon at a time until it balls up and doesn't stick to sides.
2. Put in large pot.  Cover and let rise until double in bulk at least 2 hours.
3. Melt butter in frying pan. Add flour and blend with back of wooden spoon. Remove from heat. Add sugar and mix
well. This should be a fine crumbly mixture. Add chopped walnuts.
4. Turn out dough and separate into two parts. Roll one part into a
large rectangle. Spread with filling. Roll one long side to the other
ending with the edge down. Do the same with the other half of the
dough. Brush with egg and sprinkle on black seed or sesame seed.
Let sit and rise a while - do not rush.
5. Cut rolls with diagonal slices to achieve diamond shape portions.
6. Place on ungreased baking sheet lined with parchment paper for convenience and bake** at 350°F until golden brown, switching trays on oven racks to prevent bottoms burning and help tops brown.

Barbara’s Notes:

**Baking time depends on size of the piece.  It takes about half an hour in the convection oven to make the small ones, longer for the bigger ones.  A regular oven takes longer.  I give an estimate of time and tell people when it smells great and looks golden, it's done.  Some people prefer it well done and almost brown while others like it pale.

Barbara's sister puts cinnamon in it.  My mother didn't but aunt did sometimes.  So cinnamon is an option.

Also, her sister's recipe comes out soft while Barbara's is firm.