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. 

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