Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Watermelon and Peaches with Vanilla Yogurt Topping

Summer is a time when food preparation should be simple and flexible.

This warm-weather, fruity dessert can be served at a picnic or at a fancy, sit-down dinner. With the season’s bounty of melons, berries and stone fruit, this can be ready in a jiffy!

Feel free to mix-and-match your favorite combination of summer fruit. Don’t want to spend time toasting nuts, that’s OK, too. Just chop - and -sprinkle, or skip using nuts altogether. 
Watermelon and Peaches
(Photo credit: National Watermelon Promotion Board) 

Watermelon and Peaches with Vanilla Yogurt Topping
(adapted from a recipe from the National Watermelon Promotion Board)
Serves 6 to 8

For Garnish: ½ to ¾ cup pistachios, toasted and coarsely chopped
2 ripe peaches
Juice from 1 large lemon
4 cups seedless watermelon cut into 1-inch cubes
For Yogurt Sauce:
2 Tbsp. honey
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups yogurt (Note: vanilla favored yogurt may be used, but then omit the 1 tsp. of vanilla)
1 tsp. vanilla

1. In a non-stick skillet, over medium heat, add the pistachios. Stir until they are lightly toasted. Remove the nuts from the pan to a heat-proof plate to cool.  Coarsely chop nuts and set aside.
2. Thinly slice the peaches without removing the skin. Discard the pit. Place peach slices in a large mixing bowl and toss with lemon juice. Add the watermelon cubes to the bowl with the peaches and gently toss together.
3. In a separate bowl, mix together the honey, cinnamon, yogurt and vanilla.
4. Evenly distribute the fruit mixture into individual serving bowls. Spoon some topping over each serving.  Garnish with chopped pistachios.  

Serve immediately.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Cherries- Sweet or Sour, the flavors are delicious!

I love cherries- sweet or sour. When I was growing up in NJ, my grandparents had a cherry tree in their back yard, along with a peach tree, grape arbor, and vegetable patch. It wasn’t quite the Garden of Eden, but to me, it came close. The only problem I can recall eating fruit just picked from the tree, was the occasional worm that slithered out with that first bite. It’s no wonder I continue to cut my fruit with a knife before eating!

Fresh, plump, sweet cherries
Regardless, cherries are delicious, nutritious, but have a fairly short growing season. In North America, early summertime is the best time to get fresh cherries, so enjoy them while you can. Just so you know - sour cherries, also known as ‘pie’ cherries, are more perishable than the sweet variety, so use them quickly.

Chart image from

In addition to tasting great, cherries are an excellent source of antioxidants, and may help relieve insomnia, joint pain, and help reduce belly fat. Can’t beat that!!

Click here for some of our favorite cherry recipes.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Now We're The 'Blessed' Armenian Kitchen

The 'Blessed' Armenian Kitchen
We’ve always thought of our kitchen that way, but now it’s official.

We were joined recently by a small group of family and friends as our home was blessed by our Der Hayr, the Rev. Father Paren Galstyan of St. David Armenian Church in Boca Raton, Florida.

Father Paren Galstyan
The house isn’t new to us but Father Paren is. Originally from Armenia, he recently moved to South Florida from Illinois. He is young, energetic, earnest and has a keen sense of humor that he’s eager to share.

He’s even more eager to share his faith and knowledge, which he demonstrated by doing something I’d never experienced through countless home blessings since childhood: He offered to conduct the entire ceremony in English.

I eagerly accepted the offer. He then conducted a question-and-answer session on the meaning of the traditional Armenian house blessing and stressed the significance of each of the three dishes arrayed before him: bread representing the body of Christ, and to sustain life; salt to preserve; and water to cleanse.

Of course he was much more eloquent and offered both practical and spiritual meanings behind each symbol. Then he sprinkled the blessed water in each corner of the house.

He cautioned us not to discard anything in the now blessed dishes, so we made good use of the water by making a pot of coffee that we all shared. The bread served quite well in a sandwich a bit later that evening.

Father Paren said the church allows such blessings twice a year if the occupants feel it’s necessary. I think he did such a fine job that we’ll be safe from unholy intrusions at least until the blessed salt runs out. 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Cool off this summer with some of our favorite Madzoon (yogurt) recipes!

With the summer season heating things up, it’s time to step out of the kitchen and revisit some of our favorite hot-weather recipes, starting with Homemade Madzoon (yogurt).

Just click on any of the recipes on this list, and get ready to feel refreshed!  

Cold Yogurt Soup
Spiced Labne Balls

Yogurt-Lemon 'Pudding'
To wash all of these down, sip on a tall glass of Armenian-style Iced Tea!


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

In Loving Memory of Aunt Arpie Vartanesian

Our Aunt Arpie passed away at age 89 on June 29th, and we miss her terribly.

The phrase "our aunt" probably sounds a little odd coming from a husband and wife, but she truly was ours without distinction.

Arpie became Robyn's aunt many years ago when she married Uncle Walt, and she became my aunt when I married Robyn. She welcomed me to the family with open arms and an open kitchen, in the best Armenian tradition.

We christened this blog with a photo from a family dinner at Arpie's home. She wasn't in the photo, of course, because she was still at the stove preparing yet-another course.

Arpie approached meal time with real enthusiasm, regardless of whether she was serving or being served. She loved the company of family and always took the opportunity to share memories evoked by the familiar tastes of her favorite dishes.

To my delight, I quickly discovered that many of her favorite dishes were also mine because Arpie was Dikranagerdtsi. I took particular delight in her Sud Keeba. 

Robyn and I were thrilled when Arpie and Walt retired to Florida, close enough to enjoy Christmas and other holidays together. Even after Uncle Walt died 12 years ago, Arpie remained a beacon of strength and optimism—and she kept on cooking.

Aunt Arpie finally put away her rolling pin and pans a few years ago, but she never lost interest in eating a good meal or even just talking about it. Often she'd call and ask, "Do you remember ever eating . . . ?"

This would be followed by a description of an old family recipe and an even more vivid description of the relatives and surroundings she associated with those long-ago meals. 

Not long before Arpie quit cooking, we persuaded her to participate in one of our first YouTube videos. More than 15,000 people have since watched her make boorma. 

That's a great tribute to our Aunt Arpie. And thanks to the wonder of the Internet, she can go on sharing her love of food with the world for years to come.