Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Cherry - Yogurt Parfait

One style of a cherry pitting tool
Have you ever tried to remove pits from cherries without using a cherry pitting tool? Well, it’s easier than you think. There are a couple of methods that do the trick, but be warned- the process is messy. You might want to wear latex (non-powdered) gloves to protect your manicure, and you’ll want to keep paper towels handy!

To Begin: Wash the cherries and pat away the excess moisture. Remove the stems.

Method 1: This method works best on cherries that are a bit soft, but not mushy. If you happen to have one sturdy chop stick, it’s a snap. Poke the chopstick through the stem-end of the cherry, and push without hurting yourself! The pit will –eventually- pop through the other end.

Method 2: Using a small paring knife, cut the cherry in half. Twist to separate the cherry into 2 pieces. Using the tip of the knife, carefully loosen the pit until it pops out. (Personally, I prefer this method.)

Now that you have the knack, and a bowlful of pitted cherries, here’s a simple, dessert to enjoy before cherry-season is over.

Cherry-Yogurt Parfait
Cherry - Yogurt Parfait

Yield: 4 servings
2 cups cherries (that’s about 3 dozen plump cherries) pitted and coarsely chopped (Cherries from the Pacific Northwest and/or Rainier cherries in season work well.)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (1/2 tsp. rosewater may be substituted)
2 cups plain yogurt, low-fat Greek-style
¼ cup lightly toasted pistachios, finely chopped


1.    Do Ahead: Combine the cherries and sugar in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

2.    Place a strainer over a bowl and drain the cherries. Do NOT discard the cherry syrup! Set the cherries aside.

3.    Place yogurt into a mixing bowl. Blend the cherry syrup into the yogurt. Stir in the honey and vanilla extract (or rosewater, if preferred).

4.    Set out 4 - 8 ounce tall glasses or parfait glasses. Spoon 1/4 cup yogurt into the bottom of each glass. Distribute an equal portion of cherries among the glasses. Sprinkle pistachios over the cherries. Repeat the layers (yogurt-cherries-pistachios) but do not sprinkle the top layer of pistachios until you’re ready to serve. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour. Just before serving, sprinkle the remaining chopped pistachios on the tops.

Note: The parfaits may be assembled and refrigerated one day before serving. BUT, do not sprinkle the top layer of pistachios until just before serving, as mentioned above.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Our Shish Kebab video is a big hit on YouTube, as Armenian food comes into focus around the world

Shish Kebab ala The Armenian Kitchen
I got a jolt the other day when I turned on my computer. Luckily, it was good jolt: YouTube sent us a message that our “How To Make Shish Kebab” video had just passed 100,000 views.
That’s quite a milestone, considering how many other recipe videos are on the Web – and, really, considering that there are a zillion other ways for people to spend precious time.
One of the interesting features of YouTube is that each video displays the number of views. The totals for any music video from Beyoncé or the latest hijinks from Jimmy Kimmel can be mind-boggling. But there are plenty of cooking demonstrations by celebrity chefs that don’t approach our audience size.
How can this be?
Much as it disappoints me, I’ll concede it’s probably not because of my on-camera charm or my dazzling skills as a videographer.
It’s really just further evidence of the English-speaking world’s growing taste for what was considered exotic food not very long ago. Armenians in America have been long been ahead of that curve.
I remember going to picnics in the park as a kid and watching my father fire up the kebab while people all around us grilled hamburgers. I felt sorry for them then, but it feels good at last to know I’ve done something to help.
And it’s not just Americans we’re educating: Our shish kebab video has been seen in 190 countries. The United States, the UK, Canada and Australia top the list but Sweden, believe it or not, completes the top five. The long list includes viewers in India, Malaysia, the Ukraine and Jamaica.
I’m particularly pleased that it’s even been watched 331 times in Armenia, where people already know quite a bit about making khorovatz.
The kebab video is our channel’s most popular, but there’s plenty of interest in our other recipes and techniques. Consider that we’ve had more than 40,000 views for Armenian coffee, 30,000 for pilaf and almost 20,000 for douzma.
In all, we’ve logged an amazing 330,000 views total. (It’s a good thing we’re hosting this virtual dinner party on the Internet because we don’t have nearly enough parking at the house.)
If you’ve watched any of these videos, you’ve noticed—and maybe you’ve been annoyed by—the short commercials at the beginning. That’s what’s called monetizing in Internet-speak. You’ve probably heard stories about people whose videos are so popular that they get rich from these ads.
We’ve heard those stories, too. I wish they were true.
Our reward for the extraordinary success of the shish kebab video so far: $102.09. After subtracting the cost of the lamb and other ingredients, the profit would just about pay for a couple of kebab platters at the church food festival.
That’s OK, really. As it has been from the start, this Kitchen remains a labor of love—our best effort at preserving the recipes and memories we hold dear while spreading the word about the glories of Armenian cuisine.

If you have an idea for another video that would help, just let us know. Meanwhile, thanks again for your enthusiastic support!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Chilled Chickpea and Tahini Soup

Since the temperature has been on the rise, I’ve been focusing on using the oven and stovetop less often by preparing recipes which keep the kitchen (and me) cool.

Because I was looking for a change from chilled madzoon(yogurt) soup, I decided to switch gears and make one with chickpeas and tahini. This dish is basically a pourable version of hummus. It’s easy to prepare, and with the vegetable topping, it’s like having soup and salad all in one bowl!

Chilled Chickpea and Tahini Soup
Chilled Chickpea and Tahini Soup
Yields about 4 to 4 ½ cups

Soup Ingredients:
2-15oz. cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 to 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
Dash of ground cumin
Dash of cayenne pepper, optional
½ tsp. Kosher salt
1 small garlic clove
2 to 3 tablespoons tahini

Vegetable Topping Ingredients:
½ cup roasted red pepper, diced (chopped tomatoes may be substituted)
½ European cucumber, chopped –or- 2 Persian cucumbers
¼ cup chopped sweet - or - red onion
¼ cup chopped pitted Kalamata olives
2 Tbsp. chopped flat leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Crumbled feta cheese- or - toasted pine nuts, optional


Step #1
1.    In a food processor fitted with a metal “S” blade – or a blender, combine the chickpeas, lemon juice, olive oil, cumin, cayenne pepper (if using), salt, garlic, and tahini. Starting with 1 cup of water, gradually add to the food processor, blending until smooth and pourable. (NOTE: I used about 1 ½ cups water in all.) Taste; adjust seasoning, if necessary. Cover and chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

2.    While the soup is chilling, prepare the vegetable topping: In a small bowl, combine the roasted red peppers (or tomatoes), cucumber, onion, olives, parsley and salt and pepper to taste; cover and chill until ready to serve.
Vegetable Topping

3.    Just before serving, stir chickpea mixture. If it has thickened, add a little more water. Pour into individual serving bowls; top each with a spoonful of vegetable mixture and some crumbled Feta cheese or toasted pine nuts, if desired. Drizzle with additional olive oil.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Christine Datian’s Grilled Eggplant and Chopped Salad with Lemon - Mint Dressing

Christine Datian must have been reading my mind. As I was doing my eggplant experiment in Florida, she was creating an eggplant recipe of her own in Nevada. Her recipe for ‘Grilled Eggplant and Chopped Salad with Lemon - Mint Dressing’ recently appeared in The Armenian Mirror-Spectator newspaper. I offered to post it to present another way one can serve eggplant. She was happy for me to do just that.

So fire-up your grill and get ready to entice your family with this delightful summertime recipe!  

Christine Datian’s Grilled Eggplant and Chopped Salad with Lemon - Mint Dressing
Serves 4

1 large eggplant or 2-3 Japanese eggplant, sliced in ½-inch pieces or chunks
6-7 cups romaine lettuce, red leaf lettuce, radicchio, escarole, endive, kale and/or spinach (or any choice of lettuce or salad greens)
2-3 medium tomatoes, any variety, cut into chunks
1 large ripe avocado, diced or sliced
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 medium red or green bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 English cucumber, halved and sliced or diced (or 4 Persian cucumbers, sliced or diced)
 3-4 green onions or spring onions, sliced or chopped
About 1 cup fresh chopped mint, dill, and Italian flat leaf parsley
Sliced black or Kalamata olives

2 to 3 pita bread rounds, cut into pieces
8 ounces feta or blue cheese, crumbled

Garnish options: Chopped dried (or fresh) apricots, pomegranate seeds, and toasted, chopped walnuts and pine nuts
Olive oil, salt and pepper (for eggplant on grill)

 Lemon - Mint Dressing Ingredients:
About 1/3 cup olive oil
Juice of 1 or 2 large lemons and the zest of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses
2 cloves garlic, mashed
1 teaspoon crushed dried mint
1/2 teaspoon each coarse black pepper, paprika, cayenne pepper, and ground
Pinch of kosher salt (to taste)
Pinch of sugar (optional)


1.    In a medium bowl or container, combine the salad dressing ingredients; check seasonings, cover and chill before serving.

2.    Pre-heat grill for 10-15 minutes and grill eggplant on both sides until tender, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Brush eggplant with a little olive oil, salt and pepper as it grills.  Remove eggplant from the grill and set aside on a tray or plate.

3.    In a large bowl, toss the salad ingredients together, including the pita bread pieces; add some dressing to taste, and toss again. Plate salad on four serving plates; top with eggplant, additional salad dressing, cheese, and the chopped apricots, pomegranate seeds, walnuts, and pine nuts as garnish.

Variations: Top this salad with choice of sliced grilled chicken, lamb, pork or steak, if desired.
To see more of Christine’s recipes, go to:
http://search.myrecipes.com/search.html?Ntt=datian or

Christine Vartanian Datian is a native of Fresno, California and lives in Las Vegas.  She is a graduate of Fresno High School and California State University, Fresno (CSUF), and holds a Master of Arts Degree (MA) in Mass Communications.  She has been published in Sunset and Cooking Light Magazines for over a decade and is regularly featured in the Armenian Mirror-Spectator Newspaper.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Our Eggplant Experiment

Eggplant allergy? The doctor emphatically said, “No!”

What a relief! After years of avoiding eggplant, my husband was informed by his doctor that he is not allergic to this particular nightshade.
Doug and I have been married for almost 38 years, and in that time I have avoided preparing any dish which required eggplant or walnuts on his behalf. These two very Armenian ingredients caused undesirable reactions when he ate either of them.

Before we went to Armenia last April, Doug was determined to try eating eggplant. He'd discussed his eggplant concern with his doctor and after a thorough examination, Doug got an ‘all-clear’ report. The doctor confidently stated, “Eat some eggplant; it won’t kill you. I’ll stake my reputation on it!”

I asked Doug why, after all these years, was he so anxious to check on this alleged food allergy. He said he was afraid that eggplant might be ‘hidden’ in some recipe in Armenia, and if he ate it and suffered an allergic reaction, he couldn’t be sure of receiving proper medical attention so far from home.
I couldn’t argue with that. So, off to the market we went to begin our eggplant experiment.
Mutabbal with Lavash
We bought a variety of eggplants - different shapes, colors, and sizes. We grilled slices coated with a little olive oil, salt and pepper; dipped some slices in egg and pan-fried them; and made mutabbal (eggplant -tahini purée, or to some, baba ganoush). See recipe below.

Doug valiantly sampled bite-after-bite, recipe-after-recipe. The result: no reaction to eggplant at all! Would he continue to eat eggplant? Possibly, but he won’t go out of his way to ask for it or order it in a restaurant. The important thing is he won’t have to worry that eggplant might be lurking in a recipe, or fear for his life.

Now, if he could get a medical ‘all-clear’ for walnuts – but - that’s another story.

Mutabbal (Eggplant -Tahini Purée)
1 large eggplant
2 medium cloves garlic, mashed
3/4 tsp. salt
Juice of 1 medium lemon, or to taste
¼ cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
¾ tsp. cumin, optional
3 to 4 Tbsp. water

Garnish Options: Chopped parsley, chopped Kalamata olives, a drizzle of olive oil

 1. Wash the eggplant and pat dry. Using a sharp knife or fork, pierce the skin in several   places on all sides of the eggplant.

Washed and pierced eggplant
2. Preheat oven to 450-500°F. Line a baking sheet with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, turning the eggplant halfway through. The eggplant skin should turn black and the flesh should be soft but not mushy.

3. Allow eggplant to cool. Remove the stem and skin, scraping off any flesh that might adhere to skin. Discard as many seeds as possible.
Roasted eggplant

Eggplant with skin removed
Scooped-out eggplant seeds
4.    Place eggplant flesh in bowl and mash thoroughly with a fork.  Add the mashed garlic, salt, lemon juice, tahini, cumin (if using), and water, mixing until well-blended. (An immersion blender, food processor or regular blender may be used for this step.)

Garlic mashed with salt
5.    Spread eggplant mixture on a serving plate; smooth it out with the back of a spoon. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil, chopped parsley or chopped olives, if desired. Serve as an appetizer with pita bread or lavash.

My Observation: I used only half the amount of the tahini-garlic mixture. It would have been enough for 2 roasted eggplants. By the time the eggplant was cooked and the seeds were removed, the amount of flesh was less than I anticipated. I have enough leftover tahini mixture for another roasted eggplant - or - to use in a hummus recipe!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

White Apricots – or - Angelcots®

Angelcots® from Trader Joe's
As Doug and I strolled through our local Trader Joe’s last week, we noticed a display of luscious apricots. Upon closer examination, we realized that these cuties were actually white apricots, also known as Angelcots®. We made our purchase, took our first sweet, juicy bite, and immediately became hooked!

Angelcots® are grown in northern California by a single grower, their season is short – from mid-June through July, and are sold mainly at Trader Joe’s, some Whole Foods stores, and select Kroger stores. Suggestion: Check with the store before you go.

These are best eaten as-is, but feel free to use them as you would an apricot in recipes. Since their season is so short, you might try your hand at drying some for later use, or turning them into a jam or preserve.
Watch this video from www.Frieda’s.com to get some Angelcot® ideas – and – enjoy!

If you're looking for a really simple recipe using Angelcots®, try my creation featured below.
Honey-Yogurt with Grilled Angelcots®  ready to serve!
Honey-Yogurt with Grilled Angelcots® 
Serves 4

11/2 to 2 cups Greek-style plain yogurt mixed with 2 to 3 Tbsp. honey
2 to 4 Angelcots®, pitted and cut in half (The amount of fruit you use  will depend on their size.)
Ground cinnamon
Vegetable oil
Extra honey to drizzle on top, optional

Grilled Angelcots®
1.  Lightly coat a grill pan with cooking spray and preheat on a medium setting. Alternately, use a Panini-style grill but be careful not to squash the fruit with the weight of the lid. I used my good-old George Forman countertop grill.

2.  Brush  or spray Angelcot® halves with a little vegetable oil. Sprinkle cinnamon on the flat side of each half. Place fruit cut-side down on grill pan. Cook Angelcots® for 2 minutes on one side; flip, then heat for one more minute, or until slightly softened (but not mushy!) and lightly grilled. Remove from pan and cool. (No need to flip if using a press.)

3. In a mixing bowl, combine the yogurt and honey.
4. Divide sweetened yogurt among four serving bowls. Top each with one grilled Angelcot® half. Place a tiny dollop of yogurt in the center of each Angelcot® half and garnish with a berry of your choice. Drizzle with additional honey, if desired.

5. Serve immediately.