Friday, November 28, 2014

Armenian Meat ‘Burritos’ - or - Whole Wheat Fillo Dough Stuffed with Spiced Meat (Kufteh) Filling

When I discovered that our local Whole Foods market carries The Fillo Factory brand of organic whole wheat fillo (phyllo) dough, I promised to post the recipe I made using this fantastic product. (No, I wasn’t paid to say that!)

Instead of preparing a sweet recipe, I chose the savory route. The fillo sheets were very easy to handle, but be reminded that you must keep the sheets properly covered while working with them so they don’t become brittle.
(The photos will you help visualize the process.)

It’s not very complicated to make, but it does take some time - and - is definitely worth the effort!

Whole Wheat Fillo Dough Stuffed with Spiced Meat (Kufteh) Filling
Armenian Meat ‘Burritos’ - or - Whole Wheat Fillo Dough Stuffed with Spiced Meat (Kufteh) Filling
Yields about 16 pieces

Main Ingredients
1 Lb. pkg. Fillo Factory organic whole wheat fillo dough, defrosted and set at room temp for 20 minutes before using 

One stick of melted unsalted butter and/or a can of vegetable oil spray (for assembling)

NOTE: The Fillo Factory brand is available in many Whole Foods and some specialty stores. Check their website for a store near you.

NOTE: I used our kufteh filling recipe. The filling should be made one day in advance and refrigerated until ready to use.

Filling Ingredients:
2 large onions, finely chopped
3 to 4 Tbsp. olive oil
1 bunch flat-leaf Italian parsley, washed, stems removed, finely chopped
Ground coriander, allspice, black pepper, salt, paprika - season to taste
1 lb. ground lamb, beef, or turkey (97% lean)
¼ cup pine nuts, optional

Filling Directions:
1. In a skillet, sauté onions in olive oil over medium heat until soft about 10-12 minutes. Do not allow onions to burn.
2. Stir in the chopped parsley, and seasonings. Cook another 5 minutes. Set aside.
3. In a separate skillet, coat the bottom with vegetable spray. Brown the ground meat until it is no longer pink, breaking it into small pieces as it cooks. Drain off any excess fat which collects in the skillet.
4. Combine the cooked ground meat with the onion mixture. Adjust seasonings, if necessary. Stir in pine nuts, if using.
5. Place filling mixture in bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use.

Preparing to work with fillo (phyllo) dough:
1. Remove fillo dough from refrigerator. Bring the packaged dough to room temperature before opening and using.
Preparation Photo Step #2: Fillo dough completely covered with plastic wrap
2. Remove the thawed dough from the package and unroll the sheets. Cover the unrolled dough completely with plastic wrap to keep it pliable, as it dries out very quickly. As you remove one sheet at a time, keep the remaining sheets covered.

Before assembling, have the following ready:
A. One stick unsalted butter, melted, and a pastry brush –AND/OR- a can of vegetable oil spray
B. Meat filling
C. Baking sheet, lightly greased

To Assemble:

 1. Using one sheet of dough at a time, lightly butter the entire sheet – or spray with vegetable spray.
Assembly Photo Step #1
2. Fold the sheet in half length-wise, buttering or spraying the surface of the sheet.
Assembly Photo Step #2
 3. Placing the narrower end of the dough close to you, put about one hefty tablespoonful of filling one-inch from the edge of the narrow end. Leave about ½ an inch of space on each side of the dough as well.

Assembly Photo Step #3
4. Begin rolling the dough over the filling away from you, then fold in each side of the dough over the filling, as though you were making a burrito.
Assembly Photo Step #4
5. Continue rolling the dough, buttering or spraying as you roll down to the opposite end of the dough.
Assembly Photo Step #5
Assembly Photo Step #5

6. Place filled –rolled dough on a lightly greased baking sheet. Brush top with melted butter. Continue this process until all fillo sheets and filling are used up. 
Assembly Photo Step #6
To Bake:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the dough is lightly browned.

To Serve:
1. Cut in half on the diagonal, if desired, or leave whole. Arrange on individual plates.
2. Serve with yogurt sauce or plain yogurt. Add a chopped salad or cup of your favorite soup for a satisfying meal.

NOTE: If you're not serving these right away, these can be frozen before baking. Freeze in a proper freezer container, and be sure to place plastic wrap or waxed paper between layers so they don't stick together. 

To Bake from Frozen: Place frozen fillo packets on a lightly greased baking sheet; brush tops with melted butter. (Refer to assembly photo step #6.)  Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 30 minutes or until tops are golden brown and the filling is heated through.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Quinoa with Pomegranate and Pistachios - A Gluten-free Thanksgiving recipe from Stanley Tucci

Did you ever see the movie, “Big Night” with Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub? It was released in 1996, and to this day is one of my favorite foodie movies.

In a nutshell, “Big Night” is about a failing Italian restaurant (in NJ) run by two brothers (from Italy) who gamble on one special night to try to save their business. Without going into great detail, or spoiling the ending, the two brothers prepare an amazing Italian feast fit for royalty.

Tucci, an actor, director, and passionate cook, was recently diagnosed with a gluten intolerance – meaning that this pasta-loving Italian would have to give up some of his favorite dishes. Luckily, he found quinoa to be a suitable substitute.

With his wife Felicity Blunt, the two have created a cookbook, “The Tucci Table: Cooking with Family and Friends”.

In the October-November issue of AARP magazine, Tucci shared a recipe, 'Quinoa with Pomegranate and Pistachio', a gluten-free Thanksgiving recipe, which I  now happily share with you.
Quinoa with Pomegranate and Pistachio (Photo from AARP magazine)
Quinoa with Pomegranate and Pistachio
(A gluten-free recipe from Stanley Tucci)
Serves 6

2 cups quinoa
Salt and pepper
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 Tbsp. pomegranate seeds plus 2 Tbsp. for serving
3 Tbsp. salted pistachio nuts, shelled
3 scallions, chopped
1 orange, peeled and sliced into rounds, optional
Extra virgin olive oil for the orange

1. Rinse quinoa in cold water to remove its bitterness
2. Bring 4 cups salted water to a boil. Add quinoa, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
3. Prepare a dressing with the 2 Tbsp. EVOO, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Place quinoa in a serving bowl. Toss with the dressing; set aside to cool.
4. Gently mix in the pomegranate seeds, pistachios and scallions. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary.
Serve with sliced oranges drizzled with olive oil, if desired.  

Monday, November 17, 2014

Roasted Root Vegetables with Pomegranate Glaze

Now that you know how to make homemade Pomegranate Molasses, here's a roasted root vegetable recipe to try. It’s perfect for Thanksgiving which is approaching quickly!
Roasted Root Vegetables with Pomegranate Glaze
Roasted Root Vegetables with Pomegranate Glaze
Serves 4 to 6
Main Ingredients: Rutabaga, parsnips, carrots and pomegranate molasses glaze

Ingredients:  (NOTE: Mix or match your favorite root vegetables for this dish.)

    1 pound carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch thick pieces
    1 pound parsnips, peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch thick pieces
    1 lb. rutabaga, peeled and sliced into1/2 inch thick pieces
Glaze Ingredients:
    1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    **2 Tbsp. good-quality honey, or to taste
    2 Tbsp. pomegranate molasses, or to taste
    1 Tbsp. water
    5 sprigs of fresh thyme leaves, or 1 tsp. dried thyme leaves
    Salt and freshly ground pepper
    Lemon wedges, optional


1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Cover a large rimmed baking dish with heavy-duty aluminum foil. (Makes clean-up a breeze!)

2. Prepare the glaze mixture by combining the oil, honey, pomegranate molasses, water, and thyme in a small bowl. Stir until blended. 
**NOTE: If using pomegranate molasses containing sugar, you may reduce - or omit - the honey. 
3. In a large mixing bowl, toss the root vegetables with the glaze mixture; season with salt and pepper, and toss again. 
4. Spread the coated vegetables evenly in the baking pan. 
NOTE: If you don’t have a large enough pan, divide the vegetables evenly between 2 foil-lined rimmed baking pans. 
5. Roast, uncovered, for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender, stirring the vegetables after about 15 minutes. If desired, roast for 10 additional minutes to enhance the glaze. 
6. Place vegetables in a serving bowl. Sprinkle with additional salt and pepper, if desired. 

Serve with lemon wedges, if desired.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Holiday Gift Ideas from the Collections of Michael Aram

Michael Aram is on the road again promoting his wildly popular collections of serving and decorative pieces, plus kitchen, bar, dinnerware, and more. His creations are featured in upscale department stores such as Neiman-Marcus and Bloomingdale's around the country, and online.

Michael Aram and me! (November 7, 2014)
When Doug and I learned that Michael was coming to our area once again, we took the opportunity to greet him a second time at Bloomingdale’s in Boca Raton, FL. The first time we met was 4 ½ years earlier at the same location. 

I was honored and delighted that Michael remembered me without having to be re-introduced. As I stood before him, he looked into my eyes and said, “I remember you … The Armenian Kitchen!” 
I’m sure I blushed.

The Butterfly Gingko Collection
As is the custom, shoppers purchase their favorite Aram pieces, then line up to have him ‘autograph’ the items using an engraving tool. I recognized a number of enthusiastic shoppers - women from our nearby Armenian church! 
The Olive Branch Collection
Michael is passionate about his artful creations which are inspired by natural objects – leaves, shells, fruit, butterflies, etc. - and range from playful to sophisticated in design. His collections are as beautiful as they are practical, too. I overheard him tell a shopper that he is thrilled when customer’s say they actually use his pieces on a regular basis. 

Michael Aram's  Box Collection
For ease in shopping this holiday season, visit Michael Aram’s official website, or if you happen to be in the New York City area, stop by his flagship store to select a special gift.  If you’re lucky, he might even be there to greet you!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Homemade Pomegranate Molasses - 2 recipes!

If you’ve never tasted pomegranate molasses, you’re really missing something.

Pomegranate molasses is a thick, syrupy reduction of pomegranate juice that offers a rich, tart flavor – with a hint of sweet. Its intense flavor is somewhat reminiscent of good-quality balsamic vinegar that, in most cases, should be used sparingly. It adds a piquant (a pleasantly sharp or appetizing) flavor to the recipes which use it.
Homemade Pomegranate Molasses, ready to use!
Pomegranate molasses can be purchased in most Middle Eastern stores and even some specialty shops, but if you’re ambitious, it can be made at home with excellent results. Just be sure to use 100% pomegranate juice.
Take a look at some of our recipes which use pomegranate molasses: muhammara, pumpkin hummus, kale-pomegranate salad, and spinach pomegranate salad

Besides these, pomegranate molasses adds zest to dips or spreads, salads, vegetables dishes, grilled meat or poultry, and so much more!

Below are two preparations for Homemade Pomegranate Molasses. Prepare the one which suits your taste. 

#1. Pomegranate Molasses (a slightly sweeter version)

Yields about 1 cup

Ingredients for pomegranate molasses recipe #1.
4 cups 100% pomegranate juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice

Pomegranate molasses coats spoon
1. Put the pomegranate juice, sugar and lemon juice in a medium nonreactive saucepan over medium heat.  Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce heat and simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has reduced to about 1 cup. The result should be a syrupy consistency which coats the back of a spoon.
2. Cool completely. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator. This should last about 4 months.

#2. Pomegranate Molasses  ( A tart, lip-puckering version)

Yields  about  3/4 cup

4 cups 100% pomegranate juice

1. Simmer 4 cups pomegranate juice, uncovered, in a medium nonreactive saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring from time to time, until it's thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 45 to 50 minutes. (Do not let the syrup reduce too much or it will darken and become too sticky.)
2. Refrigerate in an airtight container. This should last for about 4 months.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Easy 'Baked' Apples

Autumn is apple season!

Wherever you look these days, grocery stores and farmers’ markets are brimming with bushels of apples – sweet, tart, yellow, red, green, pink.

(Photo from
With so many delicious apples and ways to prepare them, one must decide which type of recipe to make– pie, tart, strudel, cake, muffin, sauce, chutney - and - which type of apple best-suits that particular recipe.

I’m a woman who enjoys eating a good, crisp apple - almost any variety will do. I eat it one slice at a time – no frills. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy a good mile-high apple pie (ala mode), and strudel (with whipped cream). Mmmm!!

One of the easiest cooked apple recipes I like to make is the old-fashioned baked apple, without using the oven. I’m too impatient to wait 45 minutes for the apples to become soft enough to eat. Instead, I ‘bake’ apples in the microwave. This is not a revolutionary idea; it’s just one that makes sense. The apples cook in record time and come out great!
The final product!
Easy ‘Baked’ Apples 
Serves 4

4 medium-sized apples (I prefer Fuji apples.)

Filling Ingredients:
3 to 4 Tbsp. brown sugar (amount will depend on the sweetness of the apple)
1 tsp. cinnamon
4 Tbsp. raisins or currants (I use currants)
4 Tbsp. walnuts or pecans, finely chopped, optional
4 small pats of butter
Apple Directions:

1. Wash and core the apples. Do not cut completely through the bottom. With a sharp paring knife, cut off a ring of the apple’s skin at the very top.

2. Prepare the filling by mixing together the brown sugar, cinnamon, currants or raisins and nuts, if using. Set aside.
Step #3

3. Place the cored apples in a glass pie plate or other suitable microwave-safe dish. Fill each cavity of the apple with some of the filling mixture until all filling is used. Add a little water to the bottom of the pie plate. This will create a nice juice. 

4. Place a pat of butter on the top center of each apple.
Step #4
5. Microwave, uncovered, on high for 4 minutes. 

6. Cover lightly with plastic wrap, and microwave for another 4 to 8 minutes, checking after every four minutes. Apples will be ready to serve when a knife can easily be inserted into it. Allow apples to rest for about 5 minutes before serving.

NOTE: The amount of cooking time will depend on the size of the apples. Larger apples might need to cook for 12 minutes.

To Serve: Place each apple in a bowl. Drizzle a little of the juice that collects in the bottom of the pie dish. Serve just as it is, or with whipped cream or a good-quality vanilla ice cream.