Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Whipped Ricotta and Pomegranate Parfaits

New Year’s resolutions abound this time of year. Folks promise to live healthier lifestyles after the over- indulgences of the holidays. I am one of them.

If you’re looking for a nutritious way to start – or continue - your day, here’s a recipe that incorporates some of my favorite Armenian ingredients – yogurt, pistachios, and pomegranate seeds (arils). I cannot take credit for the recipe, but am glad I found it on The recipe and photo come from Allison Young.
Whipped Ricotta and Pomegranate Parfaits by Allison Young,
As Allison states, “Parfaits are perfect for breakfast or snack time, and this layered treat packs in protein, fiber, and antioxidants, plus plenty of creamy goodness and crunch to satisfy cravings.”

Whipped Ricotta and Pomegranate Parfaits
Servings: 4

1 cup nonfat ricotta cheese
1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
2 oz. cream cheese
2 Tbsp. honey
Zest of 1 orange
¾ cup pomegranate seeds 
½ cup pistachio pieces

1. COMBINE ricotta, Greek yogurt, cream cheese, honey and orange zest in a medium bowl. With a hand mixer, beat on high until whipped together.
2. LINE up 4 parfait cups. Place 1 Tbsp. pomegranate seeds in the bottom of each. Top each with 4 Tbsp. whipped ricotta mixture, 1 Tbsp. pistachio pieces and 1 Tbsp. pomegranate seeds.

3. SPOON on another 4 Tbsp. whipped ricotta mixture into each, finish with 1 Tbsp. pistachio pieces and 1 Tbsp. pomegranate seeds, and serve.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Need a little help feeling that warm holiday glow? Here are a couple of suggestions with an Armenian twist

Do you celebrate Christmas indoors or out?
That may seem like a silly question to those of you sipping hot cocoa as you hang your stockings from the fireplace mantel in anticipation of Santa’s arrival.
But here in Florida, we hang our stockings from the air conditioning vents. Santa might as well quit looking for a chimney and ring the doorbell instead.
I just hope we hear him ring because we’ll most likely be on the back patio. We’ve finally hit the sweet time of year when we can enjoy a little fresh air and sunshine without risk of roasting like a Christmas goose.
As a result, our idea of a holiday toddy is more icy than spicy. So when we invited friends for a pre-Christmas dinner the other night, we thought some chilly home-made sangria would add a festive touch.
Of course, it had to be Armenian sangria. (See recipe below.)
The idea came to us while we wandered down an aisle in the fruit section of our local farm market and came upon a display of pomegranate wine from Armenia.
Fresh fruit+wine=Duh! Even I could put that together. 
In addition to fruit slices, I added a splash of orange juice and a double splash of pomegranate juice. Then we let it blend and chill overnight before serving it to our great friends and favorite odar taste-testers, Bonnie Gross and her husband David Blasco.
“I love this recipe,” David said.  “It’s better than regular sangria. The pomegranate really adds pizzazz.”
There’s a word you don’t hear every day!
You can trust David, but you may not be able to trust the weather. So we have an alternative suggestion to generate a bit more heat for those of you in colder climates: coffee with Armenian brandy. (See complete recipe below.)
Sure, you could use garden variety brandy but I find that the right holiday spirits make an important contribution to my holiday spirit. 
I considered using traditional Armenian coffee but I wanted to sip a while on a lazy Sunday afternoon, and I can only sip so much Armenian coffee before my hands would be shaking too much to pour more brandy.
So I poured an ounce of Armenian brandy into an eight-ounce mug and filled the rest with American-style coffee. I added half-and-half and a little sugar to lend the richness and sweetness I’m used to in Armenian coffee. Then I poured in the brandy and topped it with whipped cream because—what the heck? It’s Christmas.
Final touch: I dusted the cream with freshly ground cardamom, which to me is what always gives Armenian coffee its special flavor. An additional dash of the cardamom in the coffee works even better.
And as if that weren’t enough fun, we munched on some nazook while we drank our coffee—a perfect pairing.  
What an Armenian Christmas this is turning out to be, and it’s not even Armenian Christmas yet. I need to sip slowly to make sure I’m still standing when it finally comes around.  
Recipe for Armenian sangria
1 750 ml. bottle of Armenian pomegranate wine
1 small apple, cored and sliced thin
1 medium orange, pitted and sliced thin
Four ounces of orange juice
Eight ounces of pomegranate juice
Pour the wine into a glass pitcher and add the fruit slices. We chose a tart-sweet apple because it complements the pomegranate (a pear would also work well), and the orange adds traditional citrus tang.  
Then add the orange juice and pomegranate juice, more or less of each to your liking. Or none at all if you’re OK with a stronger sangria.  Cover and chill over night before serving.
Recipe for coffee with Armenian brandy
Freshly brewed American-style coffee
1 ounce Ararat brandy (more or less to preference)
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons ½ and ½ or milk
cardamom (freshly ground if possible)
whipped cream

Pour the brandy into an 8-ounce coffee mug. Add the sugar and milk and stir. Then pour in the coffee, leaving a bit of room at the top. Add a dash of cardamom if you like, then top with whipped cream. Dust the cream with a bit of cardamom and serve while the coffee’s hot and the whipped cream is firm. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Douzma, A Very Special Meat and Vegetable Casserole

With Christmas only a week away, I felt it appropriate to make douzma again, that wonderful, wintery, Armenian (Dikranagerdtsi) comfort food. ‘Douzma”, you might recall from a previous post, means “lined up” or “alternating”, which indicates how the ingredients are assembled in the baking pan.

Feel free to view our douzma video for some helpful tips! 

Douzma, a Dikranagerdtsi Comfort Food 
Serves 5 to 6

Select vegetables that are similar in size. Cut the vegetables to the same thickness to ensure even baking.

1 lb. ground lamb, beef or turkey - not too fatty
Salt, pepper, and allspice, to taste
2 Japanese eggplants, cut into 1/4 inch circles (any eggplant will do, but my preference is Japanese)
1 zucchini, sliced into 1/4 in. slices
2 medium (starchy variety) potatoes, peeled and sliced into about 1/4 in. slices
Sliced tomatoes - as many as will fit in between above ingredients (about 2 medium)
6 oz. can tomato paste, diluted in about 1 to 1-1/2 cups water; seasoned with additional salt, pepper and allspice to taste

1.    Preheat oven to 350°F.
Douzma Ingredients

2.    Mix meat with salt, pepper, allspice to taste, and one or two tablespoons of the tomato paste, until well-combined. Form meat into patties, about ¼ to ½ inch thick. (Make sure you end up with enough meat patties to alternately arrange between the vegetable slices.)

3.  Dilute remaining tomato paste with 1 to 1/2 cups water, season with additional salt, pepper, and allspice, if desired. Pour a little sauce onto the bottom of the baking pan and spread to cover.

4.     Arrange all of the above vegetables, and meat patties alternately, in a standing position in a large roasting pan (approx. 9“x13“), until all of the ingredients are used.
Step #5

Step #4

5. Pour the remaining sauce over the meat and vegetables.

6. Bake, uncovered, for 1 to 1 ½ hours, or until vegetables are tender and top is lightly browned.

Serve with a chopped salad and bread for dipping for an extra-hearty meal!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Roasted Root Vegetables with Pomegranate Glaze

As I sat in the waiting room of my doctor’s office, I noticed a stack of free recipe booklets called ‘Wishing You Happy Holidays in Good Health’. I helped myself to a copy.

Because the holiday season is a time notorious for weight gain (believe me, I know what I’m talking about!), it was great to find some recipes that not only sound good, but provide taste and good nutrition - without the guilt.

Since I had the necessary ingredients on hand, I tweaked their recipe for ‘Glazed Root Vegetables with Pomegranates’ to serve with dinner.
I slightly changed the name, added some onion, and recalculated the glaze ingredients.

I present to you …
Roasted Root Vegetables with Pomegranate Glaze
Roasted Root Vegetables with Pomegranate Glaze
Yield: 4 servings


3 medium – or - 2 large sweet potatoes, scrubbed, peeled, and cut into bite-size pieces
1 lb. carrots, washed, pared, and cut into bite-size pieces
1 medium onion, cut into large pieces
1 to 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
3 to 4 Tbsp. 100% pomegranate juice
Kosher salt and pepper to taste

NOTE: If you want to add another dimension of flavor to this recipe, you may add  1 to 2 Tbsp. of pomegranate molasses in place of the pomegranate juice in the glaze mixture.

Garnish Options: ½ cup pomegranate seeds, chopped parsley


Preheat oven to 400°F.

Coat a roasting pan with cooking spray.
Vegetables ready to roast

In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, pomegranate juice, salt and pepper. Add the sweet potatoes, carrots, and onions; toss to coat.

Spread the vegetables onto the prepared roasting pan in a single layer; roast for about 35 to 40 minutes, stirring once or twice, or until softened and golden brown.

Before serving, garnish with pomegranate seeds or chopped parsley, if desired.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Apricot Logs for Christmas or anytime!

A reader named Lisa recently inquired about where to mail-order Armenian-style holiday treats.
Apricot Logs ready to serve in my engraved Michael Aram Block double compartment dish!
She asked:
“I was wondering if you know of sources for mail ordering Armenian food?
My mother used to order rahat locum, fruit leathers, chocolate covered nuts and apricot roll every Christmas. Now she is gone and I wish I could remember the name of the company she would order from. I believe it was in California. I have found a couple of Armenian bakeries online but I can't find any place online that sells apricot roll! If you know of any, please let me know.”

I wasn’t sure if she meant apricot leather (also called ‘paste’) that’s sold in large sheets. So I asked her. Lisa replied, “The apricot rolls I am thinking of are called "apricot logs" by some. They are about the size of baby carrots (and look about the same) and are rolled in coconut.”

I sent her 3 sources which I’ve used over the years: Nory Locum (in California), Liberty Orchards (in Washington state), and Macar and Sons (in south Florida). None of them, however, seemed to have the apricot rolls or logs she was seeking.

But … After researching a bit more, I did find an on-line source, Cal Yee Farm in Suisun Valley, CA, that carries apricot rolls.

As it happened, I was preparing to post an apricot candy recipe to kick-off the coming ‘season of sweets’.

If ever Lisa can't find ready-made apricot rolls or logs, I hope this homemade recipe will satisfy her request - and - give you and your loved ones a sweet Christmas memory of your own.

Homemade Apricot Leather
Looking for more apricot treats? Check out these previously posted recipes: Apricot LeatherApricot Pie, and Apricot Crescent Cookies.

Apricot Crescent Cookies
Apricot Logs
Yields about 60 pieces

NOTE: The recipe can easily be doubled.

1 lb. dried apricots
1/3 cup powdered (Confectioner’s) sugar (Note: Add up to ½ cup powdered sugar, if you prefer it sweeter.)
4 tsp. orange juice, optional

Coating options: Finely ground pistachio nuts, finely shredded coconut, or powdered sugar


Place apricots in a bowl with enough warm water to cover; soak for 10 minutes or until apricots become plump. Drain; pat dry with paper towels.
Apricots soaking in warm water
In a food processor fitted with a metal “S” blade, pulse half of the apricots a few times. Remove from the processor, and pulse the rest of the apricots.
Pulsed apricots
Place all of the pulsed apricots to the in the processor, along with powdered sugar and orange juice (if using); process until a paste is formed. Make sure all of the sugar is blended in with the apricots.
Apricot paste
Place the apricot paste in a bowl; refrigerate about 30 minutes.
Divide the apricot mixture into fourths. Working with ¼ mixture at a time, place it on a piece on parchment paper on a work surface. Shape and roll it into a rope about ½-inch in diameter. Cut the rope into one inch pieces.
Apricot paste rolled into a rope; coconut and pistachios standing by!
Coat each piece in either ground pistachios, shredded coconut, or powdered sugar. Place coated pieces on a parchment-lined plate and refrigerate for about 30 minutes so they can firm-up.

Store in a container with a tight-fitting lid. (Note: If you store the candies in layers, place parchment paper or waxed paper in between the layers to prevent the candies from sticking together.)

To serve: Place each in a mini paper or foil liner.

Special Note: This recipe was adapted from a recipe submitted to the ‘Hovnanian School Cookbook’ by Maral Medzadourian