Thursday, June 26, 2014

Manti - A recipe from Chef Justin Aprhamian

My local grocer carries a brand of ground lamb I hadn’t seen before … Strauss American Lamb.  As soon as I got home, I checked online to find out more about the company. Along with their product information, the Strauss company offered recipes using various cuts of lamb, including ground lamb.

I was delightfully surprised to find a recipe for Manti, the tiny, boat-shaped, meat-filled dumpling. This particular version came from Chef Justin Aprahamian, who was recently awarded the James Beard "best chef Midwest". Naturally, I had to find out more about him, too. 

Once I checked him out, I called Chef Justin’s restaurant, Sanford, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to ask for permission to post his recipe on The Armenian Kitchen. They were happy to oblige.

(By the way, I’m still searching for a mantimatic – the cute little rolling pin with blades appropriately spaced to cut dough into manti-sized pieces.)
Chef Justin's Manti, photo credit: Ralph Selensky
by Chef Justin Aprahamian, Sanford Restaurant, Milwaukee. 

Yield: 8-10 servings

Lamb Filling:
1 lb. Strauss ground Lamb
6 oz. onion – diced fine
1 clove garlic (about ¼ oz.) – chopped fine
2 heaping T Chopped Parsley
2 Tsp kosher salt
1 Tsp ground black pepper
1 Tsp ground fennel seed

Dough Ingredients:
3¼ c flour (and a little extra for bench flour)
1 whole egg
1 oz. (2 Tbsp.) melted butter
½ c. warm water
½ c. milk
½ Tsp kosher salt
2 oz. (4 Tbsp.) melted butter set aside for baking

  • Chicken Broth (recipe follows)
  • Yogurt for serving
  • Fresh Parsley – chopped for serving
Chicken Broth Ingredients:
2qt. (8 cups) chicken stock
2 oz. shallot – sliced
3 cloves garlic – sliced
4 fresh bay leaves
6 sprigs thyme
¾ oz. parsley stem – chopped coarse
1 Tbsp. whole black peppercorns
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
½ c. white wine
Salt and pepper to taste


Lamb Filling:
Mix all together and refrigerate until needed.

Combine in mixing bowl (except for the 2 oz. melted butter). Knead until smooth. Divide into two balls and cover with a towel to rest, 30-45 minutes. With a rolling pin, roll dough out to an even thickness of about 1/8”. Cut the rolled dough into squares of about 1-1/2”. Place a marble size portion of meat in the center of each square and pinch the ends together (around the meat leaving the top exposed) to resemble a boat shape. Continue until dough/meat mixture is gone.

Chicken Broth:
Gently warm oil in sauce pot, add all aromatics and sweat lightly about 1 minute. Add wine to deglaze and reduce until about dry. Add chicken stock and reduce by about a quarter (down to 6 c.). Strain and adjust seasoning to taste

To bake put the 2 oz. melted butter on baking pan and fill with Manti. Bake at 375°F for 20 - 30 minutes, until Manti are lightly browned. Remove and allow to cool slightly. Serve in chicken broth with yogurt and chopped parsley.


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Heritage Hen Farm - a hidden gem in Boynton Beach, FL

In our recent quest for more wholesome – and locally produced - ingredients, Doug and I were excited to discover a hidden gem less than 15 minutes from our home.

Heritage Hen Farm sits on 15 acres, surrounded by businesses and housing developments. Driving down the street, you’d never realize it existed, except for the line of customers parked on the side of the road, waiting patiently for their turn to shop.

Farm-fresh Eggs
Apparently, this place has been around for a while and has quite a following. The ‘store’ hours are limited, and the few items they sell are sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

As we found out, new customers have a limit on how many eggs they may purchase on their first visit. We were fortunate to have secured 6 beautiful eggs. By the way, the eggs are not dyed. What you see are the natural colors of the eggs, straight from the hens. Pretty, aren't they?

(When I mentioned ‘store’, it’s really a trailer so tiny, only the young woman selling the items could fit inside. The only other large object inside is the refrigerator which holds the   perishables.)

Raw yogurt in a lovely, recyclable jar
Regular customers knew to bring a shopping bag and recycled jars and egg cartons from their previous purchases. Heritage Hen Farm is serious about recycling; we paid a $5.00 jar deposit with our purchase of 20 oz. of raw yogurt! When was the last time you paid a deposit for a bottle or jar of anything?
We give Heritage Hen Farm a TON of credit for their hard work and dedication in preserving the original method of farming, especially in the heart of Boynton Beach, Florida.

Why not check out what your neighborhood has to offer? You might be surprised by what you find!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Media Pore - an original recipe from the Hye Hotel, Asbury Park, NJ

Do you remember Asbury Park back in its hey-day? No? Well, I sure do.
Van Hotel, Asbury Park

My family on the front porch of the Van Hotel, late 1950's (L to R: my brother Drew, sister Dawn, Mom, and me having a bad hair day!)
My family stayed at the Van Hotel on 6th Ave owned by the Eretzians. It was our summertime home-away-from-home.

Sixth Avenue was “Armenian Central” with the Hye Hotel, owned by the Kulhanjian family, diagonally across the street, and the Roosevelt-Hye up the block.
Grace Haronian's family photo taken on the steps of the Hye Hotel

No matter which hotel you stayed in, all of the Armenian families inter-mingled, whether it was on one of the hotel front porches, or on a beach blanket on the sand a few blocks away.

Ara Kulhanjian
I still bump into Ara Kulhanjian from time to time here in Florida, and we reminisce about the good-old days.
Ara was kind enough to share one of the Hye Hotel’s recipes with me along with a little anecdote about the sumptuous buffet they served every weekend.

Here’s what Ara said:

“Pore” is stomach in Armenian. The original recipe is for stuffed mussels in the actual mussel shell.  We had to just make the pore (stuffing) at the Hye hotel since we went thru about 80 lbs. for our buffet every weekend and obviously stuffing 1500 to 2000 mussels for the buffet became too labor intensive. I think about how we did an extravagant buffet each weekend accompanied with Prime Rib on Saturday night and Shish Kebab on Sunday night which included dessert and champagne for $4.75 per person - this was in the 60's.”

 Media Pore - original recipe from Hye Hotel


3 lb. Onions chopped
1 cup Olive Oil
3 cups Uncle Ben's Rice
1/2 cup Pignolia Nuts (Pine Nuts)
2/3 cup Currants
8 cans minced Clams (drained) ========
together it will make 6 cups Clam Juice
2 bottles Clam Juice =================
3 Tbsp. Allspice
3 Tbsp. Cinnamon
3 Tbsp. Sugar
1 tsp. Black Pepper
3 tsp. Salt
2 Ibs. Mussels - fresh (Make sure they are closed when buying!)

1. Chop onions fine and let simmer in olive oil for at least 15 min.
2. Drain minced clams. Save juice and 2 bottles make 6 cups. Add all to onions.
3. Let it come to a boil. Add rice. Cook 10 min.
4. Add spices & nuts & currants & fresh mussels and let it simmer till all liquid is absorbed (approx. 1 hr.)
NOTE: Stir a lot!!!!!!!!!!!!! Burns very easily!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Paklavash - Paklava made with whole wheat lavash instead of phyllo dough

When a food dilemma arises, I can count on Ara Kassabian to come to my rescue. 

When I lamented about having to forego some of my favorite recipes which contain white flour and white sugar – such as paklava, I asked readers if anyone knew if there’s such a thing as whole wheat phyllo dough. I even contacted the Athens company, but unfortunately they don't make a whole wheat version of it.

Ara responded quickly by sharing a link for a recipe called baklavash which uses lavash in place of phyllo dough for traditional ‘baklava’ (aka 'paklava' to Armenians).

With so many brands of whole wheat lavash on the market, this would be a cinch to make! I purchased the Turlock Bakery lavash locally, and  just learned that our brand new Trader Joe's carries whole wheat lavash, too. What a discovery!!

Finding a suitable substitute for the white sugar, however, will be quite another story. 
NOTE: The 'paklavash' recipe has not yet been tested in The Armenian Kitchen, but once that’s done, I’ll share our evaluation and photo.

Adapted from the baklavash recipe from
Yields: 12 pieces

Basic Ingredients:
4 sheets whole wheat lavash
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, melted

Nut filling Ingredients:
2-1/2 to 3 cups ground walnuts or pecans
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Simple syrup:
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
juice of half a lemon
Garnish: 2 tablespoons pistachios, crushed

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. In a bowl, combine the ground nuts and ground cinnamon. Set aside. 
3. Measure the pan you plan to use for baking and cut the sheets of lavash to fit the inside dimensions of the pan.
 NOTE: Using a fork, prick each lavash sheet. This will allow the butter and syrup to seep through to prevent the paklavash from becoming dry.
4. Brush melted butter on the bottom of a 9”x13”pan. Place one sheet of lavash which has been cut to fit the pan on the bottom of the pan. Brush generously with melted butter. Sprinkle a layer of the nut mixture.
NOTE: Make sure you generously butter each layer of lavash.
5. Brush the next sheet of lavash with butter, placing the buttered-side down on top of the nut layer. Brush more butter on the top of that sheet, and sprinkle more of the nut mixture on top. Continue the process until all of the nut filling and lavash pieces are used. You should end up with a sheet of buttered lavash as the top layer.
6. Using a sharp, serrated knife, carefully cut through the layers of lavash creating a diamond pattern. (Cut 3 evenly-spaced strips lengthwise, then 3 diagonal cuts. Or, if you prefer, cut into 12 squares.)
7. Bake the paklavash for 30-35 minutes at 350°F until lightly golden.

8. Prepare the simple syrup while the paklavash is in the oven:
In a saucepan, bring 2 cups water and 1 cup granulated sugar to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

9. Remove the paklavash from the oven; drizzle with the cooled syrup. Allow to sit for at least 2 hours before serving.