Monday, January 27, 2014

Baked Kale Chips with Za’atar

Kale, considered to be one of the healthiest vegetables around, is gaining popularity on the culinary scene. More people are realizing the tremendous health benefits in this nutrient-dense, flavor-packed food.

Fresh Kale

That said, baked kale chips seem to be one of the hottest food items these days. Every time I pick up a food magazine or browse the internet, I’m noticing a variety of kale chip recipes from plain to fancy. The beauty of kale chips is that they provide flavor, crunch, and nutrients – without the guilt of, say, a bag of greasy potato chips. I’m all for a healthy snack so here’s my version of Baked Kale Chips with Za’atar.
Baked Kale Chips
Baked Kale Chips with Za’atar

1 bunch fresh kale leaves, washed and thoroughly dried (NOTE: A salad spinner works really well for this very important step!)
Olive oil nonstick spray

1. Preheat oven to 275° to 300°F. (Oven temperatures often vary.)
2. Tear leaves into bite-sized pieces, discarding any thick ribs.
3. Place kale leaves in a single layer on a baking sheet sprayed with olive oil nonstick spray. Spritz leaves with the nonstick spray, then sprinkle with za’atar and a little Kosher salt, if desired.
4. Bake in the oven until crispy, 20 minutes, turning the leaves after about 10 minutes. 

Serve immediately.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Christine Datian’s Armenian Lentil Soup with Bulgur

Christine Datian and I have been email-buddies for several years, sharing family recipes and kitchen secrets with one another.
Armenian Lentil Soup with Bulgur
Even though I’ve posted numerous lentil soup recipes, my feeling is that one can never have too many. So when Christine sent me her version of Armenian Lentil Soup with Bulgur, not only was she was eager for me to post it, I was anxious to try it myself. (I wanted to compare it with my own recipe.) The soup is loaded with healthy ingredients, and offers a ‘kick’ from the cayenne pepper, Tabasco, and red pepper flakes. (Warning: If you don’t like your foods spicy, ease up on – or eliminate – the spicy ingredients.)

Christine included the following recipe pointers:
“The secret is to cook this lentil soup on low to medium low for at least two hours, no less, and to use a hand blender at the very end, when the soup is done; take it off the stove, blend it for about one minute or more, return to the stove, add the spinach and parsley (optional), and cook for five minutes longer. "This soup really is best served the next day.", John (Christine’s husband) says.
I always use beef broth (lamb broth if you have it). My mother said she adds some lamb chops or lamb shoulder meat to the soup when she has time. First, she would boil the lamb meat to get the fat out of it, rinse, then add to the soup. I add the diced baking potato (or a few small diced red potatoes) along with the bulgur for flavor and thickening.”

Robyn’s suggestion: Don’t be intimidated by a recipe with a long ingredient list. In order to prepare such a recipe successfully, always gather the necessary ingredients and tools in advance. The culinary term is ‘mise en place’.

We hope you’ll enjoy it!


While you’re at it, why not check out some of Christine’s other recipes that have appeared on this site: ‘Bulgur Pilaf with Onions and TomatoJuice’, ‘Red Lentil Soup’, ‘Lamb and Eggplant Meatball Pita Sandwiches’, ‘Prosciutto and Asparagus Pasta’, ‘Spicy Southwestern Tabbouleh’, ‘Potato and Lamb Moussaka’.

Christine Datian’s Armenian Lentil Soup with Bulgur

1 pound dried lentil beans, picked through and rinsed
6 cups water
4 cups beef broth
3-4 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
1 large onion, diced or chopped
3-4 medium carrots, diced or chopped
3-4 stalks celery, diced or chopped (including top greens)
1 medium baking potato, diced
1/2 cup medium or fine bulgur (for thickening)
1 cup tomato sauce
1 cup crushed or stewed tomatoes
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt (more to taste)
1 teaspoon each dried basil and cumin
½ teaspoon black pepper (more to taste)
½ teaspoon fresh or dried mint
Dash of Tabasco, onion salt, and cayenne pepper
Paprika and red pepper flakes to taste
Chopped fresh parsley, about 1/3 cup (use at the end)
Chopped fresh spinach, about 1/2 bunch, washed (use at end, optional)


In a large soup pot, bring all ingredients to a full boil, stir, cover, and reduce to medium low and cook for 2 hours; check and stir occasionally so soup does not stick; before serving, use a hand blender to blend soup for a minute, so it thickens more, if desired; check seasonings and add more salt and pepper, if desired. 
Use an immersion blender to slightly puree the soup. Stir in fresh parsley and/or spinach and cook for a few minutes longer before serving.  Serves 6-8.

What I did differently when making Christine’s recipe:
1. Used 2 cups of green lentils and 1/3 cup of #1 (fine) bulgur.
2. Increased the amount of stewed tomatoes to 1 – 14.5 oz. can, then added 2 Tbsp. of red pepper paste instead of using the tomato paste and tomato sauce.
3. Omitted potato and parsley because I didn’t have any on hand.
4. Toned down the heat by only using 1/4 tsp. each of cayenne pepper, and Aleppo red pepper.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Bokon, an Armenian Bread Recipe

Way back in June, 2010, I posted a recipe for Matnakash, a ‘symbolic Armenian bread’ in response to a request for Bokon, a bread quite similar to – or the same as - Matnakash.
Not long ago, I received, without any prompting, a recipe for Bokon (aka Bukone) from Avak Melikian who remembered this bread from his childhood – one of his mother’s specialties. 

Matnakash - or - Bokon
Avak’s mother, Arakse Melikian, (1908-1990) was from Alexandropol, Armenian, present-day Gyumri.  Avak’s wife, Mary, has had the family’s treasured recipe in safe-keeping, and shared it with The Armenian Kitchen to pass on to you.

We hope you'll enjoy it!

Momma Melikian’s  Armenian Bukone        
2 cups warm milk add 1 yeast
Add 1 Tbsp. Butter
1 tsp. salt
5 ¼ cups flour

Knead 1 cup at a time – knead awhile longer – let raise till doubles.
Make 3 individual balls – raise ½ hour.
Brush top with whipped egg whites
Bake 375 – 400 for 30 – 35 minutes.

Instructions for (bokon with a hole) in the middle:
Knead 1 cup at a time – knead awhile longer – let raise till double.
Make 3 individual balls - make a hole in the middle - Stretch sides – raise ½ hour.
Brush top with whipped egg whites.
Bake 375 – 400 for 15 min.

Monday, January 13, 2014

‘Armenian Vegan’, a perfect cookbook for the New Year!

If you’ve been following The Armenian Kitchen for a while, you already know how much I love a good cookbook – old or new.

My nephew informed me of a cookbook new to the market, that he felt would be of interest to me. The cookbook, ‘Armenian Vegan’ was written by Dikranouhi Hovsepian Kirazian - a six-year project which has now become a reality. 

Two things struck me about this cookbook:
1. Its recent release is perfect timing for those who have resolved to eat a healthier diet in the new year.
2. The cookbook’s author happens to be Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian’s sister, and, my cousin Vivian Hovsepian’s sister-in-law! It’s a very small world in the Armenian circle.

Wishing to add ‘Armenian Vegan’ to my already overflowing cookbook collection, my husband dutifully ordered me a copy.

After spending much time perusing each chapter, it became clear that the recipes are not only for those following a vegan lifestyle, but for anyone attempting to eat healthfully, while wishing to enjoy their favorite Armenian recipes.

If this sounds intriguing, then this cookbook is for you. Click here for information on how to purchase a copy.  
Healthy Eating!!