Friday, June 26, 2015

Return to Asbury Park 2015 - Make your plans to attend NOW !

Asbury Park, NJ had been my family’s go-to vacation destination ever since the early 1950’s. Some landmarks of that era included the Van Hotel, Hye Hotel, Berkeley-Carteret Hotel, Monte Carlo swimming pool, Convention Hall, Sunset Lounge, the boardwalk, and, of course, the beach!

Armenians crowded the sandy shore mostly between 6th Ave. - 8th Ave. Beach blankets covered the sand; kef-time music filled the air. It was an awesome, innocent, coming-of-age location.
The late 1960’s -1970’s presented hard times for Asbury. Thankfully, the area has come into its own again. Tourism is once again flourishing, and Armenians are returning! In fact, 2015 marks the fourth consecutive year where Armenians will appear en masse in Asbury!

This year’s ‘Return to Asbury’ kef weekend on the beach is taking place from August 7th through August 9th. By attending, you’ll not only have the time of your life, the event proceeds will benefit Camp Haiastan, Camp Nubar & St. Vartan Camp.
Arsine Kaloustian and Taniel Koushakjian at 'Return to Asbury Park 2014'
Arsine Kaloustian and Taniel Koushakjian, founders of the state-wide organization Florida Armenians (FLArmenians) and rising community leaders, are working hard to make this year’s gathering super-spectacular. I’ve known these two fine, young professionals since they were children. I met Taniel when he was five, but have known his mother, Arlys, since she and I were in our early teens – in fact, we met at the Van Hotel in Asbury Park! I met Arsine and her family when she was about 12.  Arsine, Taniel, and my daughter, Mandy are all about the same age, and grew up in South Florida. They formed a close-knit friendship from the very start - but I digress.
Return to Asbury 2015 will feature the Artsakh Band and......for the first time in Asbury in almost 50 years.....the Fabulous Vosbikian Band!

Need a place to stay? Check out the Berkeley Oceanfront Hotel or the Hotel Tides.  There are also some B&Bs in the area.

Get your tickets online now:
Don’t delay; prices go up on July 1st !


Friday, June 19, 2015

Caramelized Onion, Cheese and Za’atar Spread - a new recipe from Christine Datian

Just in time for summer gatherings, here’s the latest recipe from Christine Datian. This, along with some of Christine’s special notes, were featured in the May 30th issue of the ArmenianMirror-Spectator, pg. 12.

Add this to your summer-entertaining menu; it’s sure to please!
Caramelized Onions, Cheese and Za'atar Spread for Middle Eastern Bread Salad

Caramelized Onion, Cheese and Za’atar Spread for Middle Eastern Bread Salad

1 medium yellow or white onion, thinly sliced
1 cup fresh Mozzarella or Jack cheese, shredded
½ cup ricotta cheese
2-3 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp. za’atar (Middle Eastern spice mixture)
1 Tbsp. lemon juice plus 1 tsp. lemon or orange zest
1 tsp. sesame seeds, optional
2-3 Tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley
Sea or Kosher salt, coarse black pepper, and dried oregano, to taste

Unsalted butter or Olive oil (for cooking the onions)

     1.    Preheat oven to 400°F.

Caramelized onions

     2.    Add 2 Tbsp. butter or olive oil in a medium pan; add onions and cook until caramelized to a golden brown. (Be careful not to burn the onions.) Remove from heat and cool slightly.

     3.    In a medium bowl, combine caramelized onions, cheeses, and remaining ingredients, mixing until smooth.

     4.    Spread or spoon mixture onto sliced bread, such as pita, flat bread, baguettes, ciabatta, Italian or French bread that’s been halved. Lay bread on a baking sheet and bake until cheese melts and becomes bubbly. (May also be used on corn or flour tortillas and baked.)

Onion, Cheese and Za'atar Topping

     5.    Remove bread from oven and cut into wedges. Top bread with your choice of thinly sliced cucumbers, radishes, green onion, chopped tomato, Greek or black olives, and/or your choice of mixed greens or chopped spinach, if desired. Sprinkle with fresh mint, drizzle with olive oil; top with additional za’atar or paprika, if desired.

Robyn's Notes: I used Toufayan's Wholesome Wheat Flatbread as the base. There was enough onion-cheese topping to cover 3 - 7-inch flatbreads. The flatbreads were placed on parchment-lined baking sheets and baked at 375°F for about 8 minutes. A pizza wheel was used to cut them into wedges as they were served as an appetizer. These can also be served for lunch with a tossed salad. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Cold-Brewed Iced Tea

The outside temperature is rising, so it’s time to think COOL and stay hydrated. Here’s an oh- so-easy way to make iced tea that doesn’t even require the use of the stove. Different from sun-brewed teas, this variation relies on the use of a refrigerator, so it’s chilled and ready to sip in a matter of a few hours! 
Ready-to-serve, cold-brewed iced tea!
Cold-Brewed Iced Tea
Serves 8
Select your favorite tea

10 tea bags of your choice (I used black tea with a hint of pomegranate.)
8 cups cold water
lemon wedges


Getting ready to cold-brew the tea
1. Place 10 teabags and 8 cups of cold water in a large pitcher. Cover; refrigerate at least 4 hours.
2. Discard tea bags before serving. Sweeten, if desired.
3. Pour brewed tea over ice; garnish with lemon wedges. 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Mango Season is Here (in Florida, that is!)

Mangoes from Bonnie's garden (Courtesy of
I know mangoes are not an Armenian fruit, but here in Florida, they are in season, abundant, and very inexpensive. In order to celebrate mango season, I have a story to share.

About 20 years ago, my friend Bonnie Gross, former food editor of the Sun Sentinel newspaper in Fort Lauderdale, asked me to participate in a recipe-testing project.

Bonnie provided the mangoes from her garden and an expense account from the newspaper so I could adapt and test about a dozen recipes for a fund-raising project which unfortunately never materialized. What did come from this effort was a bunch of really wonderful recipes that she and I have been using ever since.

I must say though, Bonnie is the queen of mango recipes! It also helps that she has mango trees that produce more fruit than any family could possibly consume.

Some of the tested mango recipes appeared in a recent post on FloridaRambler website, an extremely popular site created by Bonnie and a colleague of hers. If you’re interested in traveling in Florida, this site is one you must visit!

Lamb and Mango Stew
The only other mango recipe posted on The Armenian Kitchen is Lamb and Mango Stew, a Flormenian (Florida Armenian) recipe. (See photo on right.)

Today’s feature: Robyn’s Mango Barbecue Sauce as mentioned in

Fire up your grills and enjoy!