Friday, April 29, 2016

Beef and Bean Enchiladas - A recipe from Alice Vartanian

Christine Datian has been a long-time recipe contributor to The Armenian Kitchen, the Armenian Mirror-Spectator, and numerous on-line publications. This time Christine’s mother, Alice Vartanian’s recipe which recently appeared in the Armenian Mirror-Spectator (page 14) is featured. Although it's not an Armenian dish, her recipe would be perfect to prepare for Cinco de Mayo, which is right around the corner.

Cinco de Mayo, or the 5th of May, is a celebration among Mexican communities in Mexico and North America marking the Mexican defeat of French troops at the Battle of Puebla in 1862.

Alice Vartanian
The following is a brief bio of Alice Vartanian, as it appears in the Armenian Mirror- Spectator:

'Alice Vartanian is a long-time resident of Fresno, CA, and the mother of three children, Steven Vartanian and Philip Vartanian both of Fresno, Christine Vartanian Datian of Las Vegas, and grandmother to two grandsons, Brian and Justin Vartanian.  Alice was born in Lowell, MA, and is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Levon Sarkisian.  She was happily married to the late Arthur Vartanian of Fresno, and is a member of the Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church and Trinity Guild.  She is an accomplished pianist who loves music, traveling, gardening, cooking, reading, and spending time with her beloved family and friends.  She has made this delicious enchilada recipe for over 45 years for two generations of Vartanians in Fresno.  She is pictured here in her lovely Fresno, CA kitchen.'

Beef and Bean Enchiladas (Image from

Beef and Bean Enchiladas a recipe from Alice Vartanian

1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 can (1 lb.) vegetarian refried beans
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 cup green chili salsa (or salsa of your choice)
1/3 cup taco sauce
2 cans (10 oz. each) enchilada sauce
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Dash of Tabasco or hot sauce (more to taste)
Canola oil
12 corn tortillas
2-3 cups shredded Cheddar cheese or cheese of your choice
Serve with sour cream, chopped black olives, chopped green onions

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large pan, sauté the beef and onions together until the meat is browned and onions are soft; drain well.

Stir in the refried beans, garlic, green chili salsa, and taco sauce, and heat until bubbly.  Add remaining spices and Tabasco or hot sauce to taste and mix until all ingredients are combined.

Pour half the enchilada sauce into an ungreased, shallow 3-quart baking dish.   Pour some oil (about a 1/2 inch) into a small frying pan and heat; dip tortillas one at a time in the hot oil for a minute to soften and drain quickly on paper towels.

When ready to assemble, place about 1/3 cup meat and bean mixture on each tortilla; roll to enclose filling and place seam-side down in the sauce in the baking dish. Pour remaining enchilada sauce over all tortillas and top with the cheese.  Bake uncovered for 25 minutes or until heated through and the cheese is melted. 

Serve sour cream, black olives, and chopped green onions on the side or as garnish.

Note: You may cover and refrigerate enchiladas for up to one day before baking; if taken directly from refrigerator, increase baking time up to 45 minutes.  Serves 6-8.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Remembering our martyrs

Each April 24, Armenians around the world mourn the 1.5 million victims of the Armenian Genocide.

During last year's centennial, we were privileged to offer our prayers in Armenia as those martyrs were canonized as saints by the Armenian Church. 

This year, as Armenians face new challenges, we pray for peace in their memory.

(For further thoughts on the Genocide and the challenges facing Armenia, please see Doug's blog.)

Monday, April 18, 2016

Crustless Zucchini Pie - Armenian Style! (aka Tutumov Boreg)

When my local farmer’s market advertised home-grown zucchini for $.19 a lb. this past week, I thought it was a misprint. Lo-and-behold, it was FACT! I sent my husband down to snatch-up a bunch. While he shopped, I thumbed through my recipe file.

With so many zucchini favorites, I couldn’t decide where to start, so I chose a dish some Armenians I know call ‘Tutumov Boreg’.

When I think of boreg, I envision a filling wrapped in Phyllo dough. So, I’m calling this Crustless Zucchini Pie - Armenian Style!

This can be served for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or supper – just add a fruit salad or tossed salad, and some crusty bread and you're good to go!

Crustless Zucchini Pie  aka Tutumov Boreg
Crustless Zucchini Pie - Armenian Style
Serves about 6 to 8


4 medium zucchini
4 eggs, beaten
½ c. Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (any mild cheese that melts well can be used)
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ tsp dried oregano
1 tsp. Kosher salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
¼ tsp. Aleppo pepper, optional


Rinse and peel the zucchini zebra-style. 

Using a box grater or food processor, shred the zucchini. 

Place a colander in the sink and add the shredded zucchini; sprinkle a little salt over the zucchini and allow to sit for about 10 minutes to help draw moisture out. Using your hands, squeeze out as much of the zucchini’s liquid as possible. If necessary, place the zucchini in towels to squeeze out excess liquid.

In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients until well-mixed.
Crustless Zucchini Pie

Preheat oven to 375°F. Place the mixture in a lightly greased 8”x 8” baking pan or 9-inch pie pan. Bake for about 40 - 45 minutes if using the 8-inch pan, or 30 -35 minutes if using the 9-inch pan. The top should be lightly golden brown and a knife inserted in the center should come out clean.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Armenia's cultural profile is rising along with its bread thanks to a new international partnership

Watching village women bake lavash in a sunken tonir oven is a highlight of everyone’s visit to Armenia—everyone except me, of course.

I was held hostage by a nasty head cold during part of last year’s trip to the homeland, so Robyn trekked up a mountainside without me to observe the ancient bread-making ritual

I was sad to have missed it but I would have been a lot sadder if she hadn’t trekked back down with an armload of Armenia’s wonderful bread.

And it really is Armenia’s bread—our bread—recognized “as an integral part of Armenian cuisine” when it was added to UNESCO’s 
Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2014.

Now lavash is getting even more attention, along with other aspects of Armenian cuisine and culture, thanks to a recently launched project by the Smithsonian Institution in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The project called My Armenia aims to boost tourism outside the capital by accenting different facets of Armenia’s cultural heritage, including food traditions and recipes that vary from village to village.

The effort will reach out to rural communities that are now far off most tour-guide maps in an effort to document and celebrate their most cherished cultural traditions. 

“People can have wonderful experiences all over the country, not just in Yerevan,” said Dr. Rebecca Wall of the Smithsonian’s’ office of international relations.
A historian specializing in food and cultural identity, she’s been to Armenia twice to  help get the project in motion. The next step is “to share stories of Armenian cultural heritage with international audiences so as to increase awareness of the great complexity and diversity of Armenian culture.”

Among her first steps was writing about lavash for the Smithsonian, and she was kind enough to ask us to share our thoughts about what lavash means to Armenians.
You can read it all right here.

This is an exciting project with real benefits for the diaspora as well as for Armenia. 

We’ve all experienced the frustration of searching for lost recipes that our grandmothers never wrote down because Armenian grandmothers never wrote anything down. 

This is a particularly painful experience for Armenians because it reflects the loss of our grandparents’ homeland and the distinctive culture of Western Armenia.

But it’s important to remember that many villages in present-day Armenia were settled by Genocide survivors who carried their traditions and recipes with them. As we learn more, we may gain a new appreciation for what Armenia has preserved.

We may even discover that some of those recipes weren’t lost after all.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Cheese Beureks from 'Salpy's International Kitchen'

In my last post, a reader named Steph inquired about a recipe her mother and grandmother used to make – a type of choreg, she thinks, with a cheese topping. I asked for assistance in locating a recipe, but, sadly, no suggestions were offered.

As I scrolled through Face Book, I noticed that my friend Salpy, who posts recipes regularly as ‘Salpy’s International Kitchen’ featured her Cheese Beurek recipe with accompanying photos of its preparation.
Cheese Beurek photos courtesy of Salpy's International Kitchen

I immediately thought of Steph’s request and asked Salpy for permission to submit her recipe as a possible suggestion for Steph. Salpy was happy to oblige, and I thanked her deeply for allowing me to post this!

Steph, if you’re reading this, please let me know if Salpy’s recipe hits the mark. Even if it doesn’t, this is one delicious recipe that shouldn’t be missed!

Cheese Beureks 
(Original Recipe by Salpy's International Kitchen)

My Basic dough recipe for Beureks:
 5 Cups all-purpose Flour
 1 Tbsp. fast acting yeast (proofed with 1 tsp of sugar and ¼ cup of lukewarm water)
 1 tsp. Salt
 3 Tbsp. powdered milk (optional)
 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
 1 Egg
 Enough water to make a soft pliable dough
 1 tsp. Sugar

Mix dry ingredients with the exception of the yeast in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, while mixing add the proofed yeast, egg, oil and water until ingredients come together and form a lump, change the attachment to the dough hook and continue mixing until you have s soft dough. 

Rub the dough with some oil lightly. Place in a large bowl, cover and let it proof in a draft free area, until double in size, punch down the dough, cover and place in a draft free place until doubled again.

Recipe for the cheese filling:
 2 Lbs. White Cheese, such as Panela or Queso Fresco or 1 Lb. of each mixed together
 1/2 Lb. Feta Cheese (optional)
 3 or 4 green Onions, chopped
 2 Shallots, finely chopped
 2 Tbsp. Italian Parsley leaves, chopped
 1/2 tsp. Aleppo pepper or smoked Paprika
 1/2 tsp. Black pepper

Egg Wash:
 2 Egg Yolks beaten with 1 Tsp of Sour cream to give the Beureks a nice golden color.


Break off a piece of dough depending on how big you want your beureks to be. 
Roll out on a floured surface, Place a good amount of the filling in the center of the dough, following the Illustrations in the photo if you wish to make a braided Beurek, or you can just close the edges to form a Triangle shape. 
Brush the surface with egg wash mixture. 
Bake in 375°F preheated oven until golden in color.