Saturday, November 28, 2015

Pakla-ov Beurag or Payleh Bereg (A Fava Bean, Potato and Onion Turnover)

Pam Moroukian wrote in asking for a recipe for payleh bereg (spelling varies). She referred to a story she’d read on The Armenian Kitchen written back in 2011 about Nina Yousefian where this recipe was briefly mentioned.

Pam searched through her aunt’s recipe box, but found no recipe for payleh bereg, and hoped I could help find one.

Since I didn’t have this recipe, I contacted Nina directly. She was happy to oblige and sent me the following recipe and photos.

Nina consulted with her priest and others fluent in Armenian, and learned that ‘fava’ translates to "Pakla or Bakla", so the correct term is "Pakla-ov Beurag".  
This recipe was handed down by is Nina’s grandmother, Arousiag Setian Shelengian, who would make it every year during Lent. Armenians who lived in West Philadelphia, PA for about 40 years until the late 50's-early 60's came from different villages in Turkey. They all shared cooking skills with each other and passed down family recipes to their children or grandchildren.  This dish was more prevalent in the village of Sepastia.    

Nina Yousefian's Payleh Beregs
Pakla-ov Beurag (Fava bean, potato, and onion turnover) from Nina Yousefian
Yield: about 45 pieces

Filling Ingredients:
2 lbs. fava beans, shelled and cooked (NOTE: 2 cans fava beans, drained and rinsed may be substituted. However, Nina says that canned fava beans tend to give a dark appearance, and suggests that white beans are a good substitute.)
5 lbs. potatoes, cooked and peeled
3 lbs. onions, thinly sliced, and sautéed until golden in approx. ½ cup olive oil and ¾ cup vegetable oil

 Filling Directions:

   In a large bowl, mash together the beans, potatoes, and onions.
     Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add a dash of red pepper, if desired.

        Dough Ingredients:
2 envelopes of yeast
3 1/2 cups warm water
2 eggs beaten
1 cup shortening, melted, including some butter
1 1/2 Tbsp. salt
5-6 cups of flour

Egg Wash: 2 eggs, beaten
Garnish: Sesame seeds, optional

Dough Directions:
Dissolve yeast in about 1/4 cup (from the (31/2 cups) warm water. Mix liquid ingredients together, add salt, add flour, 1 cup at a time until you have a soft dough. Knead dough until it is smooth and elastic. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours; punch dough down once, and let rise again, about 1 hour.  Shape dough into balls the size of walnuts. Let stand and rise, about 30 minutes. 

Dough and Filling:

Working on a floured surface, roll out balls, one at a time, into 6-inch circles.  Place a spoonful of filling on one half, fold dough over filling and pinch edges together to form a seal.  Prick tops of each with fork. Brush with beaten egg on top.  Sesame seeds may be sprinkled on top, if desired.

Bake in a preheated 425° F oven for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Preparing for Thanksgiving

As Thanksgiving rapidly approaches, it’s time to dust-off some tried and true recipes, and add a few new ones to the dinner menu. Being American-Armenian, we often mix-and-match our menu items to express our gratitude to our birth country and our ancestral home.

Here’s a list of recipes to use as a guide in planning this year’s mix-and-match Thanksgiving feast. My recipe for Cranberry-Orange-Pomegranate Relish follows.

Basic American Menu:    
Roasted Turkey with Stuffing                                                      
Potatoes -white and/or sweet                                     
Green Bean Casserole, Brussels Sprouts                   
Cranberry Sauce                                                         
Pumpkin or Apple Pie    
Apple Pie for Thanksgiving
Basic Armenian Menu:

Cranberry-Orange-Pomegranate Relish
Boorma, another Thanksgiving dessert option!

Cranberry-Orange-Pomegranate Relish
Cranberry-Orange-Pomegranate Relish
Yield: about 3 cups

1-12 oz. bag fresh cranberries
1 cup granulated sugar
Zest and juice from 1 orange
½ cup water
½ cup 100% pomegranate juice
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
Garnish: 1/2 cup pomegranate arils, optional


Sort through cranberries; discard any that are soft. Rinse and drain.

Preparing the relish
In a non-reactive saucepan, stir together the cranberries, sugar, zest, orange juice, water, pomegranate juice and cinnamon stick. Turn heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, partially cover, and simmer gently and stir occasionally, about 10-15 minutes or until cranberries begin to burst. Discard cinnamon stick. 

Transfer to a bowl and allow mixture to cool for about 15 minutes. Mixture thickens as it cools. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. 
Garnish with pomegranate arils, if desired.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Making Dolma using Dried Eggplant Skins

At times, it’s not easy to find dried eggplant skins. In October, I happened to be in the heart of the Middle Eastern community in Paterson, NJ, surrounded by more ME stores and restaurants than you could possibly imagine.
Packaged dried eggplant skins

I was pretty confident I'd be able to find the skins even though some ME stores don't carry them. The fact that dried eggplant skins are available this time of year made my search a little easier. After spotting a huge display at Nouri's, I bought two bags - one for me; one for my daughter.

All tied together on a string like a necklace

Their sizes varied and the skin in the center has a large hole in it.
I was especially pleased to find there were 28 dried skins in the bag I bought. Sizes vary, and some were torn or had gaping holes, but that's not a problem.

My bag of dried skins had to endure a flight from NY to FL, so a few got a wee-bit crumbly, but most of them survived.

It's time to share the recipe for dolma I promised a few months back. 
Haiganoush  Nanny's recipe for Dried Eggplant Skin Dolma  made in 'The Armenian Kitchen'
This is the Dried Eggplant Skin Dolma recipe my paternal grandmother, Haiganoush Dabbakian, used to make. My aunt Zabelle Dabbakian Keil (we call her Zippi) sent it to me.

Aunt Zippi’s Directions:

“First of all, purchase the dried eggplant at the Armenian shops, they usually come in one dozen packets.  Sometimes they're very small and other times they're good size.”

Prepare the filling (meechoog):

Mix together the following ingredients in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Dolma filling ingredients
Ingredients for filling:
3/4 cup white rice, uncooked (such as Uncle Ben’s parboiled, long-grain rice)
1 pound ground meat – uncooked (lamb, beef or turkey)
1 medium onion, minced
½ of a small bunch flat-leaf parsley, washed and finely chopped                                             
2 (14.5-ounce) cans stewed tomatoes (Note: Cut tomatoes into smaller pieces, then use about 1/2 cup for the filling, and reserve the rest to create the sauce for the dolma.)
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
Juice of one lemon, divided (use about 1 Tbsp. in the filling; mix the rest with reserved stewed tomatoes for cooking)
olive oil
1 tsp. ground coriander, or to taste
½ tsp. allspice, or to taste
salt and pepper, to taste

Aunt Zippi’s directions, continued:

Skins cooking gently
“Put a large pot of salted, boiling water on the stove. Place the dried eggplants in the boiling water, stir a few times to separate them, then allow them to simmer (for about 15 to 20 minutes).  Don't stir too much, as they are fragile and you won't want them to break up. The simmering will soften them up. When you see that they have opened up and softened, turn the heat off and just allow them to stay in the water for just a little while (about another 10 minutes).   When you feel they're soft enough to work with, drain them and allow the eggplants to cool. 
Cooked skins cooling on a rack
Once they have cooled, you can begin working with them by filling them with the prepared "meechoog". (See above) NOTE: Don't pack in too much filling as the rice needs room to expand. 
Filled skins placed in a circle in a large pot

Line the dolmas in a circle in a large pot and when they're all placed, cover all with additional stewed tomatoes which have been diluted with water and also laced with lemon juice. This should cover all the contents. (Place a plate on top of the dolma to weigh them down.) Cover and cook for about one hour.”
Stewed tomatoes placed on top of eggplant
Serve in a bowl with some of the sauce, and/or with plain yogurt, if desired.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Christine Datian's Eggplant Walnut Ricotta Rolls with Fresh Greens and Basil Salad

If you've been following The Armenian Kitchen, you’ll recognize the name, Christine Datian. I’ve posted a good number of her creative recipes in the past.
Christine Datian's ‘Eggplant Walnut Ricotta Rolls with Fresh Greens and Basil Salad’ (Photo credit: Andrew Scrivani, New York Times)
Christine’s latest culinary achievement, ‘Eggplant Walnut Ricotta Rolls with Fresh Greens and Basil Salad’ was recently featured in The New York Times ‘Vegetarian Thanksgiving’ recipe collection. She asked if I would share it with you.

So, for my eggplant-loving and vegetarian readers, this dish is for you, just in time for Thanksgiving - with Christine’s complements!

Please click here for the complete recipe.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

HAJIMOM’S DZEDZADZS – A Meat and Wheat Casserole

I had the pleasure of chatting with family friend Ruth Bedevian while on our visit to NJ in October. She asked if I’d ever heard of a recipe called ‘Dzedzadzs’. I knew that dzedzadz (spelling varies) was a grain used in preparing 'herisseh' aka keshkeg, the national dish of Armenia, but I'd never heard of it as a specific recipe.
Dzedzadz- Shelled Wheat

Ruth had her family’s recipe and offered to share it with The Armenian Kitchen. This was handed down from her great-grandmother, Anna Bakalian-Najimian, who was  born in Dikranagerd in 1839, and died in 1939 at age 100 in Cliffside Park, NJ. Ruth didn’t know her great-grandmother but had heard stories about her from family members.

Mrs. Najimian was called ‘Hajimom’ which Ruth said was “derived from being a ‘haji’(having made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem evidenced by the blue tattoo on her right arm) and from being the ‘mom’ or surrogate mother.”

Ruth stated:
“’DZEDZADZS’ means “something beaten” in Armenian. Hajimom taught my mother, Alice, to make this dish when she was a new bride. I am sure that she used lamb, but I have always used beef. The beef has to be less lean to give the right taste.

I have searched in over a dozen Armenian cookbooks and have not found this recipe. I suspect this was Hajimom’s own special creation or some Dickranagertsi specialty. Our family has always included Dzedzadzs on the Thanksgiving table."
Dzedzadzs Casserole
Once you've tried this recipe, you'll want to make this part of your Thanksgiving (or any holiday) menu, and start your own family tradition!

Please see my reduced-amount version below.

HAJIMOM’S DZEDZADZS – Meat and Wheat Casserole
Serves 10-12
Dzedzadzs rinsed and draining


3 c. gorgort (shelled whole grain wheat), rinsed and set to drain
3 lbs. ground beef (75- 80 % lean)
3 Tbsp. salt
3 Tbsp. ground coriander (“KEENZ”)
4 Tbsp. allspice
1 tsp. pepper
1 bunch Italian parsley, chopped
 8 large onions, chopped

Cook the  gorgort for  1 hour in  2 Quarts water. Let stay in the pot, covered, for an additional hour.  {Nowdays I cook it in the crockpot for 2‐3 hours.}

Meanwhile, brown the meat with the seasonings until well-cooked. 

Mix  the cooked gorgort with the browned meat mixture.  You may freeze at this point or otherwise continue:  Add the chopped parsley and onions, and mix well. 

Pour into a shallow roasting pan or Corning Ware (12” x 15.”)  Bake, uncovered at 350°F for 30 minutes.
Since I was cooking for 2 instead of 12, I cut Hajimom's recipe down considerably. Here are the proportions and techniques I used to serve 4:

Hajimom’s Dzedzadzs, ala The Armenian Kitchen
Serves 4
The Armenian Kitchen's Dzedadz topped with Yogurt

1 cup gorgort (shelled whole grain), rinsed and drained
1 lb. ground beef (85% lean; 15% fat)
1 ½ tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. freshly ground coriander seed (keenz)
2 tsp. allspice
¼ tsp. black pepper
½ bunch Italian parsley, chopped
1 large onion, chopped

Cook the gorgort in 3 cups of boiling water; reduce heat to medium and cook, partially covered, for 45 minutes, or until water is absorbed. Stir occasionally. Remove from heat, cover the pot, and allow gorgort to sit for 30 minutes so it continues to soften.

In a large skillet, add 1-2 Tbsp. butter or olive oil. Sauté onions until slightly softened. Add ground meat and seasonings; cook until meat is crumbly and browned. Drain most of the excess fat. Stir in the chopped parsley. Adjust seasonings, if necessary.

Lightly coat a shallow baking pan with vegetable spray. Preheat oven to 350°F.
Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
Serve with a dollop of thick, plain yogurt.

Our evaluation: Delicious! Its taste reminded us of kufteh. Ruth didn't mention anything about draining the fat after the meat was cooked, but I did in my version. It came out a bit on the dry side which is why I served it with yogurt - a nice touch, if I do say so myself. Or, maybe next time, I'll bake it covered. 
We’ll definitely make this again. Many thanks to Hajimom and Ruth!

Update: I contacted Ruth in regard to draining the fat after the meat has cooked. She explained that Hajimom, her own mother, and she never drained the fat; that's what keeps the dish moist and somewhat juicy!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Homemade Yogurt in a Slow-Cooker? Why not!

I’ve never owned a slow-cooker, and I still don’t, but that might have to change. After 45 years of marriage, my sister just got her first one, so I’m looking up recipes she might like to prepare.
This is the Crock-Pot ® model my sister has.
A friend of mine (who asked to remain anonymous) really loves her slow-cooker and offered me her recipe for homemade slow-cooker yogurt. She said the prep time takes only a few minutes, and the machine (mostly) does the rest. You can’t beat that!

Homemade Yogurt: Slow-Cooker Style

½ gallon (8 cups) milk – 1%, 2 % or whole milk (not ultra-pasteurized)
½ cup plain yogurt (low-fat or regular) with live, active culture – OR - ½ cup starter from a previous batch of yogurt

1. Turn slow cooker to low setting. Add the half gallon of milk. Cover and cook on low for 2 1/2 hours.

2. With the cover still on, turn off the cooker and unplug it. Allow to sit for 3 hours.

Special Notes: Preheat the oven to 200°F (or the lowest setting) just to warm it up - then turn the oven off. Turn the slow-cooker on to the ‘high’ setting just until the outside feels warm to the touch - then turn it off and unplug it. Turn off the oven. These extra steps will help produce a very desirable yogurt.

3. After 3 hours (see step #2), remove 2 cups of the warm milk and put it in a bowl. Whisk in 1/2 cup of commercially prepared (or starter) yogurt. Then add the mixture back into the slow cooker, stirring to combine.

4. Place the lid back on your cooker. Wrap the cooker in a thick towel for insulation. Place it in the warm oven.

5. Allow this to sit for at least 8 hours, or overnight. The yogurt should thicken nicely.

To achieve Greek-style yogurt, line a colander with cheesecloth or coffee filters and place the colander over a bowl. Place the freshly made yogurt (you might have to do this in smaller batches) in the lined colander, place it in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. The whey (milky liquid) will separate leaving a thicker, creamier yogurt.

Don’t discard the whey; save it for smoothies!