Saturday, December 31, 2016

TSAL – TSUL (Paklava): A New Year Recipe from Sonia Tashjian

First, The Armenian Kitchen wishes everyone a truly Happy, Peace-filled 2017!

Second, To help ring-in the New Year, my dear friend, Sonia Tashjian, has sent in a very special Armenian treat to help you and your loved-ones celebrate the coming year.
Sonia Tashjian's 'Tsal-Tsul' New Year Dessert!
Sonia stated: “One of the most subtle recipes of Armenian New Year is TSAL – TSUL, which is the old Armenian name for pakhlava. Tsal-tsul is easier to make than traditional pakhlava making it a pleasure to serve during the holidays.” Sonia explained that ‘Armenian cuisine has a ritual cake, gata or kata, and then, of course, there is pakhlava, two very unique sweets. Because both the classic gata and pakhlava are harder to prepare, people invented an easier version – TSAL-TSUL.'

So, I understand this to mean that tsal-tsul is a cross between the gata and pakhlava.

Here is Sonia’s recipe …

Ingredients for the dough:
3 yolks
1 cup sour cream
14 (yes, fourteen!) Tbsp. of butter
2 teaspoons of Baking Powder
Flour (as Sonia puts it: ‘There is an Armenian expression, enough flour that is needed to make a dough.’)

Ingredients for the filling:
5 egg whites
1 cup of sugar
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
2 cups of chopped walnuts

Egg wash: 2 beaten yolks for brushing

Syrup: 1 cup of honey mixed with 1/2 cup of water to pour on it after baking


1. To prepare the dough: In a small bowl, mix together the egg yolks and sour cream; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, add 2 cups of flour and the baking powder. Cut-in the butter until it is resembles small peas. Mix in the yolk-sour cream mixture. Add enough flour, a little at a time, to create a workable dough. Knead the dough; divide it into 3 equal parts, let it stand for 15 minutes. Roll each section, one at a time, with a rolling pin into a rectangular shape to fit into a 9”x13” pan.

2. Prepare the filling: whisk together the egg whites and sugar until light and fluffy, then gently add the cinnamon and chopped walnuts.
3. Place the first rectangular layer of dough in the tray; spread half of the filling mixture, then place the second layer of dough & the rest of the filling, then top it with the 3rd layer of dough. Carefully flatten the surface with fingers.

4. Glaze: Whisk the 2 yolks, brush the surface, cut into squares or diamond shapes and bake in a preheated 350 to 375°F oven until golden.

 5. After taking the pan out of the oven, pour the honey syrup over the top, let it cool & absorb the liquid.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Lamb-Stuffed Baked Eggplant

My parents served eggplant and lamb dishes often. Some recipes featured only eggplant; in others, lamb was the star. On occasion, both ingredients ended up in the same pot.
Lamb-stuffed eggplant with Bulgur Pilaf
When I spoke with my sister the other night, we discussed our first introductions to ‘Beyli Baghli’ or ‘Imam Bayildi’, stuffed eggplant dishes. My sister recalled the first time she tasted this concoction was when her Armenian mother-in-law, originally from Bursa, Turkey, prepared it. My first sampling was prepared by my mother-in-law, whose Armenian roots came from both Kharpert and Dikranagerd.

I found Beyli Baghli included in the index of Charles Kasbarian’s work-in-progress, ‘The Dikranagerd Mystique Armenian Cookbook’. This recipe also appears in ‘The Assyrian Cookbook’, a compilation of recipes very similar to foods of Dikranagerd. So, is this a Dikrangerdtzi dish?

Our family has Dikranagerdtzi roots, so why were we only introduced to this through our mothers-in-law? We don’t know for sure. Perhaps because the Armenian dishes we grew up eating were mainly influenced from our maternal grandmother’s Musa (Ler) Daghtzi repertoire. But we know for sure that our mom’s mother made her own version of this wonderful meal.

No matter. This dish, by any name and from any region, is delicious, and deserves a permanent place on everyone’s table.

NOTE to VEGETARIANS: This dish can easily be converted to please vegetarians. First omit the meat (obviously). Once the eggplants have baked, carefully scoop out the pulp and chop it. Saute your favorite vegetables – peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, etc. and cook them along with the onions and seasonings. Add the chopped eggplant and cook a little longer. Spoon this mixture into the eggplant shells, and follow the rest of the recipe.  

Lamb - Stuffed Baked Eggplant
Recipe adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi, Sami Tamimi, and our Mothers-in-law!
Serves 4

2 large eggplants (4 smaller eggplants can be substituted), cut in half lengthwise, stem trimmed
Olive oil

Meat Stuffing Ingredients:
1 1/2 tsp. ground allspice
2 tsp. paprika
1 Tbsp. ground coriander
1 large sweet onion, chopped finely
1 LB. ground lamb or beef
1/3 to ½ cup pine nuts
1 cup Italian flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

1-15 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
1 Tbsp. red pepper paste (or tomato paste)
1 Tbsp. lemon juice, optional
1 Tbsp. sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Garnish: chopped Italian parsley, optional


Preheat oven to 425°F.

Generously sprinkle cut surface of eggplants with salt; allow to rest for about 30 minutes to help draw out any bitter juices. Rinse eggplants and pat dry.
Baked eggplant
Place eggplant halves, skin-side down in a baking pan so they fit snuggly. Brush cut-sides of eggplant with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until soft and golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Prepare the meat filling while eggplant is baking:

Sauteed onions with spices
In a small bowl, stir together the allspice, paprika and coriander. Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onions and half of the spice mix. Cook over medium-high heat for about 8 minutes, stirring often.
Meat filling
Add the ground lamb (or beef), and cook until meat is crumbled and no longer pink; drain any excess grease. Add pine nuts, parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Cook another 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat.

For the sauce, place the remaining spice blend in a mixing bowl with the diced tomatoes and their juices, red pepper paste (or tomato paste), lemon juice (if using), sugar, and salt to taste. Mix well.
Baked lamb-stuffed eggplant
Reduce the oven temperature to 375°F. Pour the sauce mixture into the baking pan to surround the eggplants. Spoon the lamb mixture to cover the top of each eggplant. Cover the pan with foil and bake for about 1 hour. Carefully lift foil and baste the eggplants halfway through baking.
Garnish with freshly chopped parsley, if desired.

Can be served warm or at room temperature.

Suggestions: serve with bulgur pilaf, plain yogurt, and crusty bread.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Quince - Apple Compote

Quinces are a rare commodity in my area, so I bought 3 as soon as a small crop was put on display at my local grocery store. Then they sat in my refrigerator for a while until Doug asked if I was ever going to make anything with them. Once prodded, I decided to whip-up a quince-apple compote because I had both, and these work so well together in recipes.

This is what I did:

Quince - Apple Compote
Quince-Apple Compote

Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 pound quince
1 pound apples (I used sweet Fuji apples which hold their shape when cooked.)
¼ cup to 1/3 cup honey (amount will depend on the sweetness of the apples used.)
½ cup water
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon


Fill a large bowl with water; add the lemon juice.
Quince and apple sections in lemon water waiting to be peeled and cored.
Cut the quinces and apples into quarters; place the pieces you’re not working with in the water to prevent them from browning.

Peel, core and cut each quince and apple section into 1/2 inch pieces. Return cut pieces to the water until all quince and apples are ready.
Quince and apple pieces ready to be cooked.
In the meantime, combine the honey and water in a large saucepan, bringing it to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer.
Quince and apple cooking in honey-water.
Drain the quinces and apples; add them and the 1/2 tsp. cinnamon to the pot of honey and water. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat. Simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring often.
When done, the quince should be soft and turn a pinkish color and the apples should be tender. (Depending on the type of apples you use, they might become more like apple sauce – or- retain their shape.)
Quince-apple compote served over thick, plain yogurt!
Serving: The compote may be served alone - either hot or cold, or better yet, over vanilla ice cream or plain or vanilla yogurt!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

With a Kalajian family wedding right around the corner, it’s time for us to serve Harsness Abour (Bride’s Soup)!

Lucine Kasbarian was scrolling through the recipe lists on The Armenian Kitchen website to see if there was a recipe for Harsness Abour (Bride’s Soup). When she didn’t find one, she was kind enough to offer me her family’s recipe.
Harsness Abour (Bride's Soup) - a recipe from Armaveni Ghazarian-Hamparian
The recipe (seen above) is from her maternal grandmother, Armaveni Ghazarian-Hamparian. The measurements provided in her recipe were in the traditional format, atchkee-chop, meaning ingredients were measured by eye (or by memory), since formally written recipes were unheard of.

Before I get into the recipe, I’d like to share Lucine’s grandmother’s story with you. Like so many stories from the Armenian genocide, hers is a story of survival.

As told to me by Lucine Kasbarian:

Ghazarian-Hamparian wedding photo, 1922
“My maternal grandmother, Armaveni Ghazarian (married name Hamparian), was originally from the city of Sepastia in the province of Sepastia. Like so many of our ancestors, she and her family members were driven from their Armenian homeland within the Ottoman Empire into the Syrian Desert of Der Zor during the 1915 Genocide.  Without making light of the ordeals that she and her compatriots went through by cutting things short, I will just say that  Armaveni, at age 15, witnessed her cousin driven insane by what he observed on the death marches, and that Armaveni watched her own mother starve to death, burying her mother’s body in the desert with her own hands.

Armaveni was taken into a Protestant orphanage where she was taught the domestic arts. Eventually, relatives would raise boat fare for her to come to America. A parish priest at St. Illuminator’s Armenian Cathedral in New York introduced her to a compatriot from Sepastia, Hampartsoom Hampartsoomian (later shortened to Hamparian). He had been made a widower as a result of the Genocide. Armaveni and Hampartsoom soon married and produced three children: Nishan, Ardashes and Aghavni…my mother.

 Armaveni would contribute to the family’s welfare by working as a washerwoman, seamstress, cook and caregiver to children. One of her many recipes, carried in her memory from Sepastia, was Harsness Abour or Bride’s Soup.  I learned to make this soup from Armaveni's daughter, my mother, Aghavni Hamparian-Kasbarian. My guess is that, back in the Old Country, it was the type of dish a bride would make for her groom - or - something a mother-in-law would make in honor of the bride.”

Harsness Soup, a recipe from Armaveni Ghazarian - Hamparian
Serves 4 to 5

1-15 oz. can beef broth
2 broth-cans of water – (too much? Let final soup simmer uncovered to evaporate some liquid) –OR- about 3 to 3-1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 "Armenian coffee cup"-size serving of uncooked white rice (NOTE: My Armenian coffee cup measured 1/2 cup rice)
1 large fist-size amount of ground lamb, cooked in its own fat so it breaks up into small clusters and is no longer pink; drain excess fat  (NOTE: I used ½ lb. ground turkey that I had on hand, but ground lamb is the way to go!)
1/2 of a 15 oz. can of tomato sauce -not tomato paste (NOTE: I used 1-8 oz. can tomato sauce.)
½ medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 Tbsp. dried mint, crushed
I tsp. Crisco brand oil (NOTE: I used one Tbsp. olive oil.)
Salt and pepper to taste (NOTE: Since I used ground turkey, I also added beef bouillon to enhance the flavor.)

Serving: a touch of lemon juice


In a 6-quart pot, boil together the beef broth, water and salt.
My Armenian coffee cup measured 1/2 cup rice for this recipe.
Add the rice, cooked ground lamb, and tomato sauce. Reduce heat, cover, and cook about 20 minutes, or until the rice is softened.

While this is cooking, prepare the SOKHURATZ (sautéed onions):
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add the chopped onions and sauté, stirring constantly, until they begin to turn golden, but not burned. Stir in crushed mint.

When the onion mixture is done, add it to the soup and stir until blended.

Before serving, season with salt and pepper to taste.

When serving, add a touch of lemon juice to give the soup a bright note!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Apple-Fillo Boregs - the Armenian Apple Strudel!

I recently participated in an Armenian cooking demonstration at St. David Armenian Church along with three other women. The church’s event planning committee hosts a monthly lecture series on various topics relevant to current events, health, finances, and community concerns. On this particular night, the ‘Art of Armenian Cooking’ was featured.

Each participant chose their own recipe to demonstrate. Nina Stapan showed how to make Armenian string cheese; Deanna Stepanian made eech; our priest’s wife, Anna-Lusi Simonyan, prepared nazook; I made traditional cheese boregs. It was a lot of fun, and, the best part was that the audience got to sample the finished products!

 (NOTE: The highlighted recipes are from The Armenian Kitchen site, and are not the exact recipes prepared by the other ladies who participated.)  

An audience member tries her hand at making a cheese boreg.
After the demonstration I had a few sheets of fillo dough left over which I brought home. Since there were several apples in my refrigerator begging to be used, I made my version of apple strudel, better known as, Apple-Fillo Boregs!

Apple-Fillo Boregs
Apple - Fillo Boregs
Yield: 10 to 12 pieces

Apple Filling Ingredients:
4 large apples (I used both Gala and Honey Crisp), peeled, cored and diced
2 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. cinnamon

Apple Filling Directions:
In a saucepan cook together the apple filling ingredients over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the apples begin to soften and thicken.
Remove pot from heat and allow the apple filling to cool.

Fillo Dough:
10- 12 sheets fillo dough, thawed and brought to room temperature about 15 minutes before using (Note: One fillo sheet is used for each boreg.)
½ stick (4 Tbsp.) butter, melted

Assembling Directions:
Keep the fillo dough covered with plastic wrap and a lightly dampened kitchen towel to prevent it from drying out.

Working with one fillo sheet at a time, lightly brush the fillo with melted butter.
Place apple filling on a buttered sheet of fillo dough.
Place about 2 generous Tbsp. apple filling one the fillo about one inch from the bottom center. Fold the inch of fillo up over the apples. 
Fold the dough from the bottom-up to cover the apples, then fold each side of dough inward. Roll the bundle away from you to create what looks like a burrito. 
Fold the two sides in to cover the apples. Roll from the bottom upwards, buttering any dry fillo surfaces as you roll. This should resemble a burrito.
Ready to bake.
Place each rolled fillo packet on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Butter the tops with melted butter.

To Bake:
Bake in a preheated 375°F oven for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven; cool a few minutes before serving. Dust with powdered sugar, if you wish.