Wednesday, September 28, 2016

‘Tis the season for Icelandic Lamb!

This past summer Doug and I had the opportunity to savor grass-fed local (to upstate NY) lamb from Heather Ridge Farm that was clean, mild in flavor, and just – oh, so good! Doug turned the cubes of meat into probably the best-tasting shish kebab we’d had in a very long time. It reminded us of the American lamb we used to find more readily in years past, but have trouble locating in our markets today.
Icelandic Lamb display at Whole Foods, Wellington, FL
While strolling through our neighborhood Whole Foods, I spotted a display of really nice looking lamb from …. Iceland! The young butcher told me that the lamb is mild in flavor, but that it was ‘in-season’ for only a short time, and that I shouldn’t wait to try it. 
He promised I wouldn’t be disappointed.

Since I was looking for a quick meal, I opted to purchase 1 ½ lbs. of the the Icelandic ground lamb, figuring lule kebab would be a good way to test this product.

Sous chef, Doug, prepared the lule kebab using our traditional recipe, but noted that the mixture seemed slippery (fatty) as he shaped the kebabs. Undeterred, he continued on.
The lule kebabs emitted a fair amount of fat as it cooked, but did not have a heavy, greasy taste – and that is a good thing! 
Our dinner: 'Icelandic' Lule Kebab with Grilled Vegetables
Doug was a bit put-off by the somewhat dense texture; I wasn’t. I popped my lule kebab in a bun and topped it with fresh parsley leaves and slices of sweet onion, and enjoyed every bite. (The bulgur pilaf and grilled vegetables helped to round-out the meal!)

Would we try another cut of the Icelandic lamb? Sure, why not? Perhaps the leg of lamb next time.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

What do family visits and aluminum foil have to do with each other? Read on...

After being in the Catskill Mountains of New York for the past 3 months, we’re finally back in Florida. What a journey it was! Our daughter and son-in-law’s wedding was the highlight, of course, but we managed to squeeze in some visits to family. First, we spent a few days with my sister Dawn and brother-in-law Ara, whose gracious hospitality was much appreciated. Then we popped in on two of Doug’s family members we hadn’t seen in years.
Doug and his cousin Charlotte Ermoian
One such visit was to Doug’s cousin Charlotte Ermoian, who manages—and lives in—one of those tall condo buildings in Fort Lee, NJ where Palisades Amusement Park once stood. She’s really awesome—keeps fit, works hard, and lives life to the fullest. Charlotte treated us to lunch at a trendy place on the Hudson River, overlooking NYC while we caught up on family news.
Aerial view of the former Palisades Amusement Park, Fort Lee, NJ which overlooked the Hudson River and New York City
As we were parting, Charlotte said she was going to call her aunt Alice Bakalian to tell her about our visit, which meant Alice would be expecting us to visit her too.

Personal Aside:

After we said our good-byes to Charlotte, Doug and I drove through his old stomping grounds, Ridgefield, his hometown and Cliffside Park. While driving down Cliffside Park’s Anderson Avenue, we spotted an Armenian/Middle Eastern grocery store, ‘Arenie.’ We stopped in to check it out.

Dining Out - summer-fall issue 2016

The store was chock-full of delicious-looking items. Before we knew it, our arms were loaded down with lots of goodies—lahmajoun, manti, string cheese, etc., and a magazine called ‘Dining Out’ which features restaurants in New Jersey’s Hudson and Bergen counties. We snatched-up two copies, mainly for these reasons: #1- Doug’s cousin, Paul Turpanjian is the publisher, and #2- Doug had an article featured in that particular issue, ‘Food Culture:Armenia – An introduction to Armenia, plate by plate.
If we hadn’t stopped at Arenie, we would never have seen his printed article – oh, and the food we bought there was really good, too! Dawn and Ara agreed.
Doug with Alice and Azie Bakalian

The day we departed my sister’s in North Jersey, we detoured to South Jersey to have lunch with Alice and her husband Azie, who live outside of Atlantic City. Both are in their 90's, but you'd never know it. They’re in great shape – physically and mentally, and could, literally, run circles around the two of us.

While having lunch at their clubhouse sports restaurant, Azie gave us a clue to his longevity - he ordered a BBQ pork sandwich, with French fries and beer. No kidding!

They insisted we return to their house for coffee and dessert before heading south, but we were eager to get back on the road to Florida. We compromised, however. Before leaving, Alice insisted on giving us dessert–to-go (her homemade brownies), plus bottled water, a roll of paper towels, and a roll of aluminum foil.

She tucked it all into a fancy gift bag she'd brought home from one of the local casinos. It was decorated with the words “Thank You” in numerous languages including—you guessed it—Armenian.
Notice the Armenian 'thank you' near the bottom!
I thought the addition of the foil was a bit odd until Alice told us the story behind it: She'd bought her usual brand (Handi-Foil) at a local grocers and didn’t think anything of it until her granddaughter pointed out these words on the label: "Packaged in U.S.A. from foil made in Armenia."

What were the odds of coming across that? You'd probably have a better chance of winning big at the casino, but that wouldn't be nearly as much fun!

Friday, September 2, 2016

The Debut of the Refurbished Shish Kebab Machine

Our saga began when Doug and I decided to present our family’s shish kebab machine to our daughter and her husband.

The wedding is behind us; the newlyweds are on their honeymoon, and we’re still recovering from the 3-day wedding-weekend event.

The main celebration was preceded by our Armenian-themed dinner party for those family members who were in town prior to the Big Day. Doug and I were in charge of planning the menu, shopping, and cooking.
Our son-in-law Ron's sister Nancy (L), with her sons Keegan (L), and Ian (R), enjoying their first Armenian dinner. Did you notice the table decor? Ron and Keegan were in charge of that.
Kebab rotating in perfect rhythm on the refurbished machine.
This was also the debut of the refurbished shish kebab machine at its new home in upstate NY.  We’re happy to report that our families hit it off in an instant and the machine worked as good as new!

Kebab ready to serve! 
Our menu:

Kufteh – served with Madzoon
Grilled Vegetables