Thursday, August 27, 2015

Grilled Eggplant and Tomato Stacks

You might have noticed an increased number of eggplant recipes on The Armenian Kitchen recently. Well, that's due to the thrilling news that my husband is not allergic to it! Here's a recipe similar to one I sampled recently that just tickled my taste buds. I hope you'll like it, too! 
Grilled Eggplant and Tomato Stacks
Grilled Eggplant and Tomato Stacks

Yields 12 stacks

These stacks make a delightful appetizer, side dish, or even a main dish!

 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice  
 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil  
 1 tsp. za’atar (plus more for garnish)  
 1 clove garlic, finely minced
 1/4 tsp. kosher salt (or to taste)  
 1/8 tsp black pepper, freshly ground (or to taste)  
 **1 medium eggplant, trimmed, sliced into 12 - 1/2-inch rounds  
  **2 medium to large fresh tomatoes, ends trimmed, cut into 4 slices each  
 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese  
**Note: The eggplant and tomato diameters should be similar in size for an attractive appearance.

1. Preheat grill or grill pan to medium-high. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine lemon juice, olive oil, za’atar, garlic, salt and pepper; set aside for flavors to blend. Note: If using a grill pan, be sure not to crowd the pan. Cook the eggplant in batches.
2. Lightly brush both sides of the eggplant slices with seasoned lemon-olive oil mixture; sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Grilling eggplant slices in batches
3. Grill eggplant until lightly charred and tender, turning as needed, about 4 minutes on each side.
4. After the second sides of the eggplant slices are cooked, top each with 1 tomato slice. Brush the top of each tomato slice with the remaining lemon juice mixture and top with 1 tablespoon of crumbled feta. Cover grill or grill pan and cook until tomato and feta soften slightly, about 1 or 2 minutes.
5. Arrange on a serving platter and garnish with addition za’atar, if desired.

Serve immediately.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Grapes with Yogurt and Honey

It’s official … the grape harvest has been blessed in traditional form in Armenian churches around the globe. So it’s time to appreciate this sweet fruit of the vine.
Grape Blessing at St. David Armenian Church, Boca Raton, FL (Photos by Anna-Lusi Simonyan)
In addition to eating grapes as they come naturally, there are numerous ways to use grapes in recipes - cakes, compotes, candies, jams, salads - you name it!

Click here for another grape recipe previously posted on The Armenian Kitchen.

Or you can skip the fuss and make this really easy grape dessert for family, guests, or just for yourself!

Grapes with Yogurt and Honey
Grapes with Yogurt and Honey
Makes about 4 servings

1 large bunch seedless red or green grapes (or a combination of the two)
1 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons honey (light-brown sugar may be substituted)
Cinnamon for garnish, optional

1. Remove from stems from grapes and discard. (Only use firm, unblemished grapes.) Wash grapes and pat dry. Grapes can be left whole if they're on the smaller side. However, if using large grapes, you may want to slice them in half first. Place in a bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve. 
2. In a small bowl, whisk together yogurt and honey.
3. Place grapes in individual serving bowls. Place a dollop of yogurt-honey mixture over grapes. Garnish with a sprinkle of cinnamon, if you wish – and enjoy!

Monday, August 17, 2015

How to Roast a Head (or more) of Garlic

Mutabbal with Lavash
I made mutabbal (baba ghanoush) again, but this time, I used roasted garlic instead of fresh garlic cloves in the recipe. Since I was already using the oven to roast the eggplant, I figured why not roast a head of garlic at the same time? 

It’s really easy to do, and the garlic turns out soft, sweet, and spreadable.
Roasted Garlic
Directions for Roasting a Head of Garlic:

1. Preheat oven - or toaster oven - to 425 degrees F.
Garlic ready for roasting
2. Slice off the top of the garlic head to expose the tops of the cloves. Do not remove the outer skin, but do leave the head intact. Place the head of garlic on a piece of foil and drizzle olive oil over the cut surface the garlic. Gently rub in the oil.

3. Wrap garlic tightly with foil and place on a cookie sheet (or use the cups of a muffin tin, if you are roasting multiple heads of garlic) and bake until tender and fragrant, about 30-35 minutes.
Roasted garlic ready to use
4. Remove from the oven and let cool in the foil. Peel any loose papery skins off of the garlic, then gently squeeze each clove to extract the softened garlic.

Use in any recipe you wish, or simply spread on crusty bread!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Homemade Stovetop Lavash

Question: What do you do when you’re out of lavash, you’re not near a store that sells it, and you don't feel like making it the traditional way?

Answer: Make a stovetop version!

I've been baking my mother-in-law's wonderful recipe for lavash for over 35 years. It's very different from the thin, wrap-able lavash most are familiar with. Because it's time-consuming and requires a fair amount of oven time, summertime is not the best time for me to make it. So, I decided not to make it.

Cook #2 next to tonir
Lavash cook #1 in Armenia

To make authentic, old-world lavash, one would need a tonir (an in-ground clay oven), a hot fire, a cooking partner, and a lot of patience. Nope, not going to happen!

Luckily, I have a another recipe - handwritten, slightly-tattered, and from an unknown source  - for ‘Stovetop Lavash’  that I’d never before made.

After having seen authentic lavash being made from scratch in Armenia, I knew this preparation would be better handled with another pair of hands, so my plan was to make this when my daughter came to visit, but time did not permit.
Preparing this alone, I knew I had to work quickly and keep distractions to a minimum.

Homemade Stovetop Lavash
Homemade Stovetop Lavash
Yields 8 sheets

1 cup each of all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour (2 cups all-purpose flour can be used instead)
1 tsp. salt
½ to ¾ cup lukewarm water (105° to 110°F)

Step #1

1.    In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour(s) and salt, until well-combined.          
     Slowly add ½ cup of the water, while mixing with a wooden spoon, until
     a dough is formed. If dough is too dry, continue to slowly add some of the remaining ¼ cup water until a non-sticky dough is formed.

Step #2
2.    On a lightly floured work surface, knead the dough until it is smooth.
     Divide the dough into 8 equal-sized pieces; roll each piece into a ball.

Step #3
3.    Continuing to work on a lightly floured work surface, roll each ball, 
     one at a time, into a very thin circle measuring about 8 – 9 inches 
     in diameter. (As you may have noticed, mine turned out more 'rustic' 
     in shape than circular!)

Step #4
4.    Place an ungreased, 12-inch, non-stick skillet on a large burner set to 
     high heat. Carefully transfer one rolled dough sheet at a time in the 
     heated pan.
     NOTE: To transfer the rolled piece of dough to the skillet, carefully drape 
     it over the rolling pin and lay it into the hot pan.

Step #5
5.    Cook for about 1 minute while gently shaking the pan to prevent the 
      lavash from burning. Flip it onto the other side and cook, shaking the 
      pan, for one more minute. Place on a cooling rack. (This is where having 
      a second pair of hands really helps!)

6.    Continue the process until all pieces have been rolled out, cooked and completely cooled. 

My Evaluation: While striving to thinly roll the dough, be very careful, as it can easily tear. The final product looked and tasted like lavash, but the texture seemed a bit chewy. Perhaps, if I’d used only all-purpose flour, that might have made a difference.

Storing and Serving Lavash:

1.    The cooked, cooled lavash should be lightly spritzed or sprinkled with water on both sides. (Using a bottle with a spray nozzle works nicely as long as you don’t get the lavash too wet.) Stack the pieces with either parchment or paper towel placed in between. Lightly cover the stack in plastic wrap for about an hour.

2.    Remove the parchment or paper towel pieces. If the lavash pieces are large, fold each  in half or into quarters; individually wrap the folded pieces in plastic, and place in freezer bags. Freeze until needed.

3.    Getting ready to serve: Remove as many pieces as you need from the freezer. Thaw at room temperature for about 30 minutes while still  wrapped.

4.    Serving suggestions: Cut into smaller pieces as part of a mezza platter, or use as a wrap for kebabs, cheese etc.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Doug's Easy 'Kebab' Recipe

Mandy and Charlie
Doug and I just enjoyed a rare and treasured week-long visit with our daughter, Mandy (and her dog, Charlie). Whenever she travels the distance from NYC to our humble abode in south Florida, we like to spoil her. She travels a lot for work and has the opportunity to dine in 5-star restaurants in exotic places.

In advance of her visits, we always ask what she’d like us to cook for her, (as if we didn’t already know!). She never hesitates to name some of her favorites – shish kebab, tass kebab, fassoulia with lamb, bulgur pilaf – you know, the usual. We accommodate her wishes as best we can depending on the length of her stay.

Fassoulia with Lamb over Bulgur Pilaf

For this visit, we bought the necessary ingredients and rolled up our sleeves. For the shish kebab, Doug diligently trimmed, cubed, marinated and grilled lamb shish kebab, while I did the stovetop preparations. She admitted that none of the 5-star restaurants she’s encountered could match the food we prepared for her. That’s our daughter – providing a totally “unbiased” commentary on our cooking ability!
Shish Kebab

(Click here to read Doug’s blog item regarding shish kebab.)

Mandy and I planned to practice making stovetop lavash together, but just couldn’t squeeze in that project. I made it myself the other day, but that’ll be another post.

Once she left, we had to re-stock our refrigerator. While walking through the meat section of our grocer’s Doug spotted several unusually eye-appealing packages of lamb loin chops. When I saw the glimmer in his eyes, I knew it could only mean one thing – kebab, the easy way. What that means is, no trimming, cubing or skewering are involved – and because we (sometimes) use our electric grill, no charcoal would be necessary.

Here’s Doug’s Easy ‘Kebab’ procedure:
Doug's Easy 'Kebab'

Technically, this recipe is not truly kebab since the meat is still attached to the bone and no skewer is needed, but the taste is certainly there!

Note: Amounts aren’t included here because they will vary depending on how many people you plan to serve. 
Click here to view a previously posted kebab recipe to help you out. To give you an idea, we bought a total of 8 small loin chops, and between the two of us, 3 chops remained. Our side dishes included bulgur pilaf, grilled tomatoes and onions, and a chopped salad.

In a large bowl, place the lamb loin chops. Create a marinade using red wine, olive oil, onion slices, chopped garlic, salt, pepper, freshly ground coriander seed. Toss marinade over the meat until all pieces are coated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. (Overnight marinating is much better!)

Heat the electric grill to high. Once heated place the loin chops on the grill, spacing them apart. Cover the grilling surface with the grill cover, and allow meat to cook for about 5 minutes on each side, depending on the degree of doneness you prefer.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Spicy Middle Eastern Meat Pies

Way back, in the early days of The Armenian Kitchen’s existence, we’d posted a story about the ARAM sandwich and how it got its name. Many comments later, the facts were revealed. In a recent comment on this story, a reader expressed a love for a dough-encased spicy meat pie that was served at Caravansary, the establishment where the ARAM sandwich was created.

Here’s the request:
“I grew up in the Bay Area and remember Caravansary fondly. We often ate there when we went into the City to shop. They served a wonderful spiced minced meat pie with pine nuts that was round and encased in dough. It was fabulous! I would love to know how to make it!”
I promised the reader I'd post a recipe, but having never been to the Caravansary myself, I am posting one that I hope will qualify and satisfy.

Spicy Meat Turnovers with Madzoon (Yogurt) and Lentil Soup
Spicy Middle Eastern Meat Pies
Yield: about 2 dozen
Spicy Middle Eastern Meat Pies
Dough Ingredients:
1 pkg. fast-acting dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon warm water
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2-3 tablespoons olive oil, to brush on the meat pies before baking
Directions for Dough:
1. Dissolve yeast and sugar in ¼ cup lukewarm water (105-110°F). Allow mixture to proof for about 15 minutes.
2. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour and salt. Make a well in the center and add the oil and proofed yeast mixture.
3. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, slowly add the wet ingredients into the dry, adding the 1 cup and 1 tablespoon of water a little at a time.
4. Replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook, and mix until the dough is soft, smooth. (NOTE: Dough should NOT stick to your fingers.)
5. Transfer dough to a large bowl, lightly coating the dough’s surface with olive oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot until doubled, about 1 hour.
While dough rises, prepare the meat filling.

NOTE: If you’re not comfortable making dough from scratch, feel free to use prepared pizza dough, available in most grocery stores.
Ingredients for Meat Filling:
3/4 lb. ground beef, lamb, or turkey 
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
¼ cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
Juice of one small lemon
salt and black pepper to taste
½ tsp. red Aleppo pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
½ tsp. ground allspice
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts 
Meat Filling Directions:

 Heat a non-stick skillet on medium-high heat; add oil. Add onions and cook until slightly softened. Add ground meat to the skillet and cook until it is crumbly and no longer pink. Drain any excess fat. Stir in parsley, lemon juice, seasonings and pine nuts; cook another 2 minutes. Taste; adjust seasonings, if necessary. Transfer meat mixture to a bowl; cover and refrigerate until ready to assemble.
 Assembling the Meat Pies:
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line two heavy baking sheets with parchment paper.
Cutting the dough into circles

2. Divide the dough into 2 equal parts. Roll half of the dough out on a lightly floured work surface to 1/8-inch thickness. Gently lift the dough from the edges to keep it from sticking to the work surface. Cut the dough using a 4-inch round biscuit cutter. (I used a plastic lid to create circles since I do not have a 4" biscuit cutter!) Continue this process until all of the dough has been cut. Gather and knead together any scraps of dough. Wrap in plastic.
3. Fill each circle of dough by placing a tablespoon of uncooked meat filling on one side of each. Filling should not touch the edges of the circles. NOTE: The meat filling will cook during the baking process.
4. Fold the empty side of the dough over the meat-filled side to create a half circle. Pinch the edge of the dough firmly to keep them closed.
5. Place the meat pies on the parchment-lined baking sheets and generously brush the surface with olive oil. Bake on the center rack of the oven for 18-20 minutes, or until golden brown.
Serve as an appetizer or as a meal with soup and/or salad.
NOTE: The meat pies can be frozen after they are baked and cooled by placing them side-by-side in freezer bags. If you stack them for freezing, be sure to have a layer of plastic wrap in between each layer first. They can be heated from the frozen state.