Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Sts. Vartanantz Day

St. Vartan Mamigonian
Tomorrow is Sts. Vartanantz Day when Armenians around the world commemorate the Battle of Avarayr which took place in 451 A.D. 

Vartan Mamigonian victoriously led Christian Armenians into battle against the Persian Empire to preserve Christianity.  Each year this victory is celebrated on the Thursday preceding Great Lent – which, this year, starts on Monday, March 3rd .

Click here for more information regarding St. Vartan and the Battle of Avarayr.

The Vartanesian Family, June,1950 Vartan (aka Uncle Walter), far left; Arpie, his bride of one month; Mary,  center (my mother); Yeranuhe and Oskan (my maternal grandparents)

There was another important ‘Vartan’ – this Vartan was part of our family, my uncle Vartan Vartanesian, a very Armenian name! We knew him as ‘Walter’ - a name that was given to him when he was enrolled in school as a child. (To this day, we have no idea why the name Walter was chosen, but the name stuck.)

Uncle Walt, a kind, easy-going man, married Aunt Arpie, one of my favorite people in the whole-wide world. They were happily married for over 50 years before he passed away in 2002. 

As we celebrate St. Vartan, the warrior, I celebrate the memory of my sweet Uncle 'Vartan'. Click on the recipe names to see two of his favorite dishes – Tabbouleh (Sarma Gurgood) and Dolma.

Here’s to our Vartans!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Chickpea Lentil Burgers with Yogurt-Tahini sauce

Homemade Chickpea-Lentil Burgers
We’re eating a lot less meat these days - yes, that even includes lamb. We haven’t become vegetarians, but we’re certainly including more veggies, legumes, and grains in our diet than ever before.
That in mind, I’ve been on a ‘burger’ kick. Black bean burgers, mushroom-grain burgers, chickpea burgers – all store-bought, until now.

 I finally came to the realization that these must be simple and relatively inexpensive to prepare at home, so why was I buying them ready-made? Except for the convenience factor, I couldn’t think of another reasonable answer, so off to my kitchen I went.
I already had the ingredients on hand to make chickpea lentil burgers and yogurt-tahini sauce, so all I had to do was roll up my sleeves and get busy.
All you need are a few readily available ingredients, and a food processor - or an appropriate mashing tool, cutting board and sharp knife.

Chickpea Lentil Burgers with Yogurt-Tahini Sauce
Yield: 6 patties

1 (19-ounce can) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
(NOTE: I also removed and discarded the skins from the chickpeas)
1/2 cup cooked brown lentils  (Canned lentils can be substituted, but rinse and drain them first.)
1/4 cup chopped onion
¼ cup chopped flat -leaf parsley
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. tahini  - OR - 1 egg
2 tablespoons (or more) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 tsp. Aleppo pepper, optional
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil – for cooking

1. Place chickpeas, lentils, onions, parsley, garlic, tahini (OR 1 egg), flour, cumin, ground coriander, Aleppo pepper (if using) and salt in a food processor fitted with a metal "S" blade. Pulse, stopping  to scrape down the sides, until a coarse mixture forms. (NOTE: If the mixture feels too moist to shape, add a bit more flour.)
2. Using a 1/3 cup measure, shape the chickpea mixture into 6 patties.
3. Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add patties and cook until golden, about 4 to 5 minutes, on the first side. (Reduce heat if patties start to burn.) Carefully turn patties over and cook until golden brown, about 2 to 4 minutes more.
Serve with Yogurt-Tahini Sauce (recipe follows).

Yogurt -Tahini Sauce
(NOTE: This is best made in advance and refrigerated until ready to serve.)

1/2 cup low-fat plain yogurt
2 to 3 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine yogurt, tahini, lemon juice, parsley and salt in a medium bowl.

Serve chickpea burgers topped with Yogurt-Tahini Sauce in pita pockets or wrapped in lavash.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

How to Make Homemade Tahini (Sesame Seed Paste)

Image from

It’s rare that I ever run out of tahini (sesame seed paste), especially since it’s been mainstreamed into the product line at most grocery stores. But did you know that - if you were so inclined, you could make your own? Well, you can - and - it’s not hard to do.

The ingredient list is short, and the process doesn’t take much of your time. Here’s all you need to know…

Homemade Tahini

8 ounces (about 1 cup) sesame seeds
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, more if needed
Salt, to taste (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread sesame seeds on a parchment-paper-lined shallow baking pan and bake for 6 minutes. Mix, spreading out the sesame seeds, and continue to bake for another 6 to 8 minutes, or until seeds are fragrant and lightly brown.
2.  Immediately spread toasted seeds on a separate baking pan allowing the seeds to cool.
 3. Place cooled sesame seeds in the bowl of a food processor (fitted with a metal “S” blade) and grind for 1 minute, or until seeds break down. While processor is running, drizzle in olive oil through the feed tube, and continue to grind for 2 or 3 minutes more, or until a smooth paste forms. If mixture is too dry, then add more olive oil, 1 teaspoon at a time. Add salt to taste, if desired.
4. Transfer tahini to a container with a tight-fitting lid, and store in the refrigerator for one to two months.