Sunday, April 26, 2015

My parents are currently in Yerevan, Armenia so I am guest blogging to tell you about a segment that Doug was the subject of on Huffington Post Live's World Brief. It aired, live, Friday, April 24th, 2015 – the centennial of the Armenian Genocide. 

(Update: unfortunately, the segment is no longer available.)

In the roughly nine minute segment – featuring archival family photos, historic genocide photos, and video from this week's historic events in Armenia – Doug is interviewed, live, from Yerevan via Skype. He explains his father's narrow escape from the Genocide as a small boy, his grandmother's murder, and his memories growing up as a second-generation Armenian American in the silent shadow of the Genocide. 
He also discussed Turkey's continued denial that the massacres of 1915 were just that: genocide. He describes the more-than three decade process that resulted in his memoir Stories My Father Never Finished Telling Me, which is available on Amazon. This, his latest work, is the result of recollections and, mostly, years of research to fill in the painful voids in our family's oral history.

In addition to the visibility on Huffington Post Live, he has received critical praise from Kirkus, which had this to say: "His polished, sometimes even poetic prose evokes a sense of curiosity and lament. In response to his family’s silence—and to the silence of a whole people still shellshocked by their grim treatment—Kalajian has become a professional storyteller and an excellent one at that.Kirkus Reviews

This is a great literary work by a talented Armenian-American author at a critical time in our history. I hope you’ll buy it today!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Armenia, here we come!

That's right, The Armenian Kitchen is traveling to … Yerevan!
By the time you read this, Doug and I will be on the first leg of a 3-country journey.

Our first stop takes us to England, where we will attend the London Book Fair.  Doug has been invited to serve as the American-Armenian Writer’s Guild representative at the Armenian Pavilion. The highlight of this 3-day event will be Doug’s presentation of his book, “Stories My Father Never Finished Telling Me”. Truly a great honor!

From there we visit relatives in France. Ah, springtime in Paris!  Then on to Yerevan, in time to participate in the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide! We’ll be meeting up with a life-long friend, hope meet a cousin I’ve only heard about, and, at long-last, will meet Sonia Tashjian, one of my Armenian Kitchen contributors! 

We’ll do as much exploring as our creaky bones will allow before heading home.

I’m sure we’ll have plenty of food-stories to share, so please stay tuned!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Grilled Halloumi Cheese and Tomato Salad

I'm a Jersey girl –  born and raised in The Garden State.

As a child, I remember going to the Paterson Farmers' Market with my mother and grandmother. Our end-of-the-summer visits meant that Mom and Nanny were on the hunt for ripe, ready to use Jersey tomatoes. Their sweet, juiciness couldn’t be beat.

Grilled Halloumi Cheese and Tomato Salad
Mom and Nan would scrutinize the vendors’ wares, making their selection based on quality and price. The trunk of our car sagged with bushels of tomatoes and red peppers – two important ingredients for Nanny’s recipes. The red peppers were ear-marked for Nan’s red pepper paste. The tomatoes served numerous purposes – some for tomato paste, some for specific recipes such as dolma, and the firm, ripe, sweet tomatoes were assigned to any dish that Nan would conjure up.

Having lived in Florida for over 35 years, I can safely say I'm a Floridian (with Jersey overtones).
We Floridians don’t have to wait until summer’s end to feast on delicious tomatoes, ours are in season when most of the country’s landscape is still covered in snow.
Here’s a recipe that features red and yellow tomatoes (or heirloom tomatoes when available) that would even have met Nanny’s approval!

Grilled Halloumi Cheese and Tomato Salad 
Yield: 4 servings  
Tomato Salad Ingredients:

6 medium red vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into wedges
6 medium yellow vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into wedges
NOTE: 1- 12 oz. pkg. of red grape or cherry tomatoes, and 1-12 oz. pkg. of yellow grape or cherry tomatoes may be substituted. If using the smaller tomatoes, cut each in half.
2 Tbsp. fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips
2 to 3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 tsp. Kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Grilled Halloumi Ingredients:

8 ounces halloumi cheese, sliced 1/4-inch thick (8 slices total)
NOTE: Halloumi cheese, sold in most Middle Eastern and Whole Foods markets, is made from a combination of sheep’s and goat’s milk. Since it’s not a melting cheese, it holds up well on the grill. Be warned: Halloumi cheese is rather salty!
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper, or to taste
1/2 tsp. za'atar, or to taste
2 Tbsp. olive oil

Garnish: Slivered basil leaves, or toasted pine nuts or pistachio nuts,    optional

Directions for Tomato Salad:
1. Place all tomato wedges (or halves, if using smaller tomatoes) in a mixing bowl. Add basil strips. 
2. Combine olive oil with lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper; toss gently with tomatoes and basil.
3. Evenly divide tomato salad among 4 serving plates; set aside.

Directions for Grilled Halloumi Cheese:
1. Pat cheese slices dry between sheets of paper towel.
2. Season both sides of cheese slices with za'atar and black pepper.
3. Heat oil in a large grill pan set over medium-high heat. Cook cheese for 3 minutes per side or until golden brown. (NOTE: If you don’t have a grill pan, a large non-stick skillet will do the trick. You just won’t get grill marks.)
 4. Top each salad with two slices of grilled cheese. Garnish with toasted pine nuts or pistachio nuts if desired. Serve immediately.  

Monday, April 6, 2015

Ground Chicken Lule Kebab

Tired of eating leftover Easter eggs, lamb and ham? I turn your attention to … Ground Chicken Lule Kebab!

A reader, who wishes to remain anonymous, wrote to The Armenian Kitchen with a specific request:
“When I traveled to Gyumri, Armenia, I had ground chicken kebobs, kind of like lule kebobs but with chicken instead of beef or lamb.  I have looked around but haven't found any recipes for ground chicken kebobs.  Do you have one you could share?”

My response:
The Armenian Kitchen's version of Father Vartan's lule kebab
I sent the reader Father Vartan Joulfayan’s recipe with the following suggestions:
Lule kebab can be made with any type of ground meat or poultry. Just know that ground chicken or turkey will need some type of fat in the recipe to keep it from becoming too dry - such as adding an egg or 2 (depending on how much ground meat you'll be using) – or - by adding a little oil (a few Tbsp. of olive or vegetable oil) to the meat mixture to prevent drying out.
The ground meat mixture can be shaped onto a shish and grilled or baked in an oven.
I was pleased to have received an update with photos from the reader’s experiment.
Baked, then grilled chicken lule kebab
The reader's update:
“I made the kebobs using ground turkey.  I only made a half batch but used a whole egg, so I figured that would give the extra moisture needed.  I also just used tomato sauce and no tomato paste.  The mixture was very wet so I had to add a lot more bread crumbs to soak it up.  I let it sit in the refrigerator a while to try and soak up more of the moisture. 

Even with nearly doubling the bread crumbs it was still too wet to make into a kebob, so I formed them into the kebob shape on a baking sheet and smushed the wooden kebob into them, then baked them until they firmed up enough to transfer them to the grill.  

They were quite good!  It wasn't the same as what I had in Gyumri, but it's been so long now, I think I need to go back and have them again! 

Upon hearing the difficulty the reader encountered, I offered another chicken lule kebab recipe that a FB buddy of mine posted on her page, Salpy’s International Kitchen. The reader is excited to try this next recipe, hoping it will emulate the lule kebab from Gyumri.
Salpy's Chicken Lule Kebab
Chicken Lule Kebab
(Original recipe by Salpy's International Kitchen)

3 Lbs. Ground Chicken Leg meat
1 Brown Onion, chopped
3 Cloves fresh Garlic, minced
1 Bunch flat leaf Italian Parsley, cleaned and chopped
1/2 Bunch Fresh Cilantro leaves
1 Tsp Aleppo Pepper
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/2 Cup Panko bread crumbs

In a bowl of the food processor, mix together the onions, parsley, panko, garlic, cilantro, Aleppo pepper, salt and pepper, process until finely minced; mix the onion mixture with the ground chicken thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour to marinate. Form into cylinders on metal skewers and grill to perfection. Serve with Pita Bread and Onion Salad

Friday, April 3, 2015

Chef Lindsay Autry’s Tickled - Pink Easter Eggs

Have you dyed your Easter eggs yet? If you haven’t, please read this innovative technique before you do anything else. 
Palm Beach Post Food Editor, Liz Balmaseda, wrote a timely article featuring Chef Lindsay Autry who shared her jazzed-up version of colorful Easter-time deviled eggs. 
Chef Lindsay Autry's Tickled-Pink Easter Eggs (Photo by Thomas Cordy, Palm Beach Post)
Chef Autry comes from a family that loves to serve deviled eggs as part of their Easter tradition. Unlike most folks who dye the egg shell, Chef Autry uses an easy process which dyes the egg white, once the egg has been properly hard-cooked and peeled, that is.
It's a most-intriguing Easter egg presentation.

Sorry, no eggshell - cracking contests with this recipe!

Chef Lindsay Autry’s Tickled - Pink Easter Eggs     
Yield: 24 deviled egg halves

12 whole eggs, boiled and peeled

For the pink “dye”
1 small beet, washed, peeled and sliced
3 bay leaves
3 cups water
½ cup apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions for making the natural dye:

   1. In a small pot, combine the sliced beet, bay leaves, water, vinegar, sugar and salt.
   2. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 20 minutes. Let mixture cool completely.
   3. Divide mixture between two 1-quart mason jars or any large nonmetal container. Add the whole boiled and peeled eggs to the liquid, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. The longer the eggs stay in the liquid, the more color they will take on.
   4. Carefully, remove the eggs from the jars, discarding the liquid and beets. Cut eggs in half, remove the yolks, and make your favorite deviled egg filling.
   5. Pipe the filling mixture into the Tickled Pink egg halves.