Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Homemade Apricot Leather

Apricot leather is one of my daughter's favorite treats, so whenever I'm in a Middle Eastern store, I always pick up a package for her. 

When my cousin Judy from California contacted me in search of an Apricot Fruit Leather recipe for our mutual cousin Wayne, I thought it 'HYE' time to make some from scratch. There are very few ingredients, and it's really easy to do - it just takes a bit of time.

For the record, two sources tell me that the official name for the fruit leather is 'pestil' or 'basteil' (spellings can vary greatly within Armenian circles!) - general meaning - 'fruit pulp'. 

Judy said Wayne's friend  had some apricot leather made by someone in Fresno a long time ago and now he wants to know how to make it.
Well, Judy and Wayne, here’s a pretty simple recipe using dried apricots. Hope you'll like it.
After all, there's nothing better than homemade!

Homemade Apricot Leather
Apricot Leather 
Approximate yield: 40 rolled pieces.

    8 ounces dried apricots
    2 tablespoons granulated sugar
    1 tsp. lemon juice
    Confectioners' sugar


 1.  Place apricots in a medium saucepan; add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, about 30 minutes or until soft. Drain and cool slightly.
Cooked apricots
 2. Place drained apricots in a blender or a food processor fitted with a metal “S” blade; add granulated sugar. Cover and process until smooth. Add lemon juice and process until blended.
Processed apricots.
3.  Preheat oven to 175°F (or up to 200°F since oven temps. vary).

4. Line two rimmed baking pans with silicone baking mats or parchment paper. Spoon half of the apricot mixture onto each baking mat or parchment-lined pan. Thinly and evenly spread apricot mixture into a 12 x 8-in. rectangle; repeat with remaining fruit.
Apricot mixture spread thinly and evenly on parchment paper.
5.  Bake 2 to 2-1/2 hours or until almost dry to the touch. Leaving the fruit leather on the mats or parchment paper, cool completely on a wire rack.

6. Carefully remove the leather from the silicone mat – or – cautiously tear away the parchment paper. Transfer each apricot leather rectangle to a cutting board, which has been lightly sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar.  Lightly dust the top of the leather with confectioner’s sugar, too.

7. Cut into ½ x 8-in. strips using a pastry wheel, pizza wheel or knife. If the fruit leather sticks to the cutting tool, air dry for about 15 more minutes then slice and roll.
Slicing and rolling
 8. Store in an airtight container in a cool dry place. If stored properly, fruit leather should keep for about 1 month.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Jerusalem Garden Cafe, Asheville, NC - a real find for foodies

In case you've been wondering where we've been, here's the scoop. Since late July, we've been visiting family and friends in NJ, NY, CT, RI, ME, and now NC. While here in North Carolina, we've taken up residence (briefly) in a cabin overlooking lush greenery set in a resort community offering loads of recreational opportunities.

Spinach Pie and Fattoush Salad at the Jerusalem Garden Cafe, Asheville, NC
On our exploration of surrounding communities, we found comfort in the dining opportunities offered in Asheville, a hip, artsy town on the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains in western NC.

One stand-out restaurant is Jerusalem Garden Cafe. I guess we were drawn to it because of the menu which offers some usual fare, such as stuffed grape leaves, spinach pie (the dough is infused with rosemary!), tabbuleh, hummus, and mutabal (baba ghanoush). Remember, this is western NC I'm talking about!

The menu also offers some culinary surprises too ...

Mujaddara (rice and lentils topped with caramelized onions).
Pistachio encrusted lamb chops, topped with pomegranate molasses.
Jerusalem burger with lamb made with local, grass-fed beef topped with shaved, slow-cooked lamb, lettuce, tomato, onion, and a choice of Tzatziki or cilantro-parsley harra sauce.
NOTE: harra sauce is described as a mixture of cilantro, garlic, walnuts, red chili pepper flakes, lemon juice, tahini, salt, water and olive oil.
Then there's thinly shaved roasted leg of lamb cooked in red wine, lamb demi glaze, baharat seasoning - topped with feta and caramelized onions. (They serve this as a sandwich as well, and it is divine!)
NOTE: baharat seasoning blend may include allspice, black pepper, cardamom, ground coriander, cloves, cumin, nutmeg, dried chili peppers, or paprika.
Awesome lamb sandwich and Bastilla of the day stuffed with couscous, raisins, and other goodies, served with hummus, pita, and organic yogurt.
The Jerusalem Garden Cafe also serves brunch on weekends. Get this, their 'standard' breakfast includes 2 eggs (fried or scrambled), local Hickory Nut Gap bacon or grass-fed kafta meatballs, harra-fried potatoes or biscuits (after all, this IS the south!). The last item I'll mention, which is certainly not the least, is lamb and eggs with grilled onions, hummus, and pita.

We 're amazed that this menu is available in western North Carolina!

Can anyone explain why there isn't a restaurant like this where we live?

Monday, August 4, 2014

Faloodeh – or- Paludeh ye Shirazi: A frozen angel hair rice noodles and cream dessert

As I was organizing my pantry, I saw a partial bag of thin rice noodles that I’d used for a Thai recipe a long time ago. Apparently, these noodles can last a life-time, if stored in an air-tight container.  Since I had no intention of discarding the dried noodles, I wanted to find a use for them that would be more in keeping with Armenian cuisine. 
Faloodeh Shirazi (photo from
Since I’d never heard of an Armenian-style recipe calling for rice noodles, I was surprised to find one for a frozen dessert called ‘Faloodeh’, in an article from the ianyan online magazine written by Liana Aghajanian. 

Then it hit me… I had heard of a recipe with a similar-sounding name called ‘Paludeh ye Shirazi’, from the cookbook, “Persian Cuisine” by M.R. Ghanoonparvar.

I came up with a variation of the Persian cookbook's recipe.

Faloodeh – or- Paludeh ye Shirazi: A frozen angel hair rice noodles and cream dessert
Adapted from the cookbook, “Persian Cuisine”

About ¼ lb. thin rice noodles or rice sticks, the size of angel hair pasta
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp. lime zest, optional
2 tsp. rosewater extract, optional
For serving: 1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

1. Separate and break noodles into pieces about 1-2” long.
2. Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil; add noodles and cook for 10 minutes, or until soft, but not mushy. Drain and rinse in cold water. Set aside in a colander to drain completely.
3. In a mixing bowl, combine the cream, powdered sugar, lime zest and rose water extract, if using. Stir in the noodles, tossing to coat.
4. Place mixture in a freezer-safe container and freeze for 1 hour. Remove from freezer and loosen. Place back in the freezer for one more hour, until noodles are frozen and crisp. 

To Serve: Place in individual bowls. Drizzle one or two Tbsp. (or to taste) lime juice over each serving.