Friday, May 26, 2017

Bulgur, Garbanzo, and Green Bean and Salad

Christine Datian offers us her Bulgur, Garbanzo, and Green Bean Salad for a healthy, fiber-rich dish. It’s a great addition to a pot-luck meal, or as an accompaniment for a barbecue.
With this being Memorial Day weekend, the grand kick-off to summertime, why not include this to your holiday weekend menu?

While you, your families, and friends gather together this weekend for food and fun, please keep in mind the true meaning of Memorial Day, and honor those who have fought – and sacrificed their lives - for our country’s freedom.

Christine Datian's Bulgur, Garbanzo, and Green Bean Salad (This recipe and photo also appear in The Armenian Mirror-Spectator.)

Bulgur, Garbanzo, and Green Bean Salad     
Serves 4-6.

3/4 cup medium bulgur
1 large tomato, seeded and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups canned or cooked garbanzo beans, drained
1 cup canned or cooked green beans, drained
1 medium red or white onion, chopped
1 medium green or red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 English cucumber, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
1 small bunch parsley, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, diced
2 tablespoons fresh mint or 2 tsp. dried mint
Olive oil and fresh lemon juice
Lemon zest (from one lemon)
Seasonings: Kosher or sea salt, black pepper, dried or fresh oregano, crushed red pepper flakes, Aleppo pepper, or paprika to taste

Garnishing options: Chopped parsley, green onions, mint; Armenian or Kalamata olives; or crumbled Feta cheese

Place the bulgur in a bowl and cover with boiling water for 20-30 minutes until all liquid is absorbed.  Drain any excess liquid and set bulgur aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the tomatoes, garlic, garbanzo beans, green beans, onions, bell pepper, cucumber, and jalapeno pepper and toss; add the bulgur, parsley, celery, and mint, and toss together with olive oil, lemon juice and lemon zest to taste.   Add salt, pepper, and seasonings, and toss again, checking to see if salad requires more olive oil or lemon juice.  Cover and chill for one hour or overnight for best results. 

Transfer salad to a large serving bowl and top with choice of garnish.  Drizzle with olive oil or lemon juice, if desired.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

My Armenian cookbook collection and the film 'The Promise'

My first Armenian cookbook!
I have a passion for collecting cookbooks – Armenian cookbooks, that is. The first Armenian cookbook I ever received was given to Doug and me by our Aunt Arpie and Uncle Walter for our first wedding anniversary in 1978. That cookbook, ‘Armenian Cooking Today’ by Alice Antreassian, is one I still refer to after all these years. As of this writing, I have at least 20 Armenian cookbooks on my shelf!

If you have seen the movie, ‘The Promise’ recently, you may recall scenes near the end depicting the survival and escape of thousands of Armenians from Musa Dagh (Musa Ler, in Armenian).

French rescue boat (Photo from the Magzanian's updated cookbook)
Those courageous Armenians scaled down the mountainside to be saved by French Vice-Admiral Fournet and his men on their ship stationed in the Mediterranean Sea. My maternal grandmother was one who was saved – she was 16 years old at the time. I was moved to tears watching this film and counted my blessings for having such brave and determined ancestors who lost so much to start life anew.

What do Armenian cookbooks have to do with ‘The Promise’?

Three of the cookbooks I own were written by dear family friends whose roots also stem from Musa Dagh – ‘Secrets from an Armenian Kitchen’, by the late Jack Hachigian, and 2 editions of ‘The Recipes of Musa Dagh’, written by sisters Alberta, Anna, and Louisa Magzanian. Our relatives all hailed from Musa Dagh, and ended up living near each other in the New Jersey towns of Paterson and Clifton.

'Secrets from and Armenian Kitchen' by the late Jack Hachigian
The Magzanian sisters' cookbooks - 'The Recipes of Musa Dagh' (the original version on the left; the updated version on the right)
My mother gifted me Jack Hachigian’s cookbook and the first edition of the Magzanian sisters’ book. Louisa Magzanian contacted me to let me know a second edition of their cookbook had been published in 2015 is available for purchase. Since Jack’s passing, I don’t know if his cookbook is still available.

Update: The Magzanian sisters' cookbook is also available on

These cookbooks mean the world to me, as the recipes within them remind me of the strength of my maternal ancestors and the sacrifices they made to ensure a bright future for generations to come. 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Remembering Nanny, Mom, and Aunt Arpie - and - a recipe for Slow Roasted Tomatoes with Za'atar

(Left to Right): Uncle Vartan (Walter) Vartanesian, his wife Arpie; my mom, Mary Dabbakian; maternal grandparents, Yeranuhe and Oskan Vartanesian (Photo circa early 1950s)

When we were very young, my sister and I would accompany our mother, grandmother, and aunt to the farmer’s market in Paterson, NJ. When the NJ harvest was at its peak, farmers would exhibit their crops in bushels alongside the railroad track. Mom, Aunt Arpie, and Nanny would walk up and down, examining the produce in every stall until they found just the right vegetables – at the right price. We’d bring home baskets brimming with red peppers and tomatoes. Nanny would begin the process of making pastes out of the tomatoes and red peppers - cutting, cooking, sun-drying, grinding, and finally storing the end result in tightly sealed jars with a pool of olive oil on top of the pastes. She'd store them in the freezer so they would last until the next harvest.

Fast forward to 2017:

Since it’s still tomato growing season in my corner of the world, markets are offering locally grown tomatoes of every shape and size at very affordable prices. 

Unlike my mother, aunt, and grandmother, I don't buy produce by the basket or bushel, but I do tend to buy more than I need– especially grape or cherry tomatoes. They’re just so cute and sweet, I like to pop one (or more) in my mouth as an afternoon treat!

I overdid the grape tomato purchase, as I knew I would, so I decided to roast a tray-full because I know they’ll last longer, and can be used in a variety of recipes. (Oven-roasting is a lot easier and quicker than the exhausting method used by my grandmother back in her day.) 

Salt, pepper and olive oil are all that’s needed to boost the tomato’s flavor – and a sprinkle of za’atar provides that extra-special flair.
Slow Roasted Tomatoes with Za'atar
Slow Roasted Tomatoes with Za’atar


1 (or 2) pint(s) grape tomatoes – or – cherry tomatoes
2 – 4 Tbsp. olive oil (depending on the amount of tomatoes used)
½ to 1 tsp. Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 to 4 Tbsp. za’atar, or to taste

NOTE: Za’atar is sold in Middle Eastern stores, or you can make your own!

Washed tomatoes...
1. Rinse tomatoes; pat dry with paper towels.
Dried on paper towels...
Grape tomatoes cut in half lengthwise...
2. Slice tomatoes in half and place in a medium to large mixing bowl, depending on the amount being made. Add olive oil, salt, pepper, and za’atar; toss gently to coat.
Ready to bake...
3. Line one or two baking pans with 1” sides with parchment paper. Evenly spread tomatoes in the pan(s), cut-side-up, in a single layer.
After 2 hours of baking at 275°F
3. If making one tray, set the oven rack to center position and turn oven to 275°F. (There’s no need to preheat the oven for this recipe.) Roast for 2 to 3 hours. Tomatoes are done when they’re soft, start to shrivel, and begin to caramelize.

NOTE: If roasting 2 pans of tomatoes at once, place the oven racks as close to the center of the oven as possible. Halfway way through baking, switch the top pan to the lower rack and the lower pan to the top rack.

Serving suggestions: Eat them as they are - warm from the oven or at room temperature, or as a topping for toasted bread, or grilled meat, fish or poultry; tossed in salad; added to sandwiches, soups or stews; topped with plain, thick yogurt; mashed into a paste and use as a spread; mixed with pasta – or whatever else you like!

To store: Place tomatoes in an airtight container, drizzled with olive oil. Cover and refrigerate. This should keep for about a week- if it lasts that long!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Christine Datian’s Roasted Eggplant and Lamb Omelet

Every Armenian knows that eggplant and lamb go hand-in-hand. When combined, these two ingredients create countless recipes.
Christine Datian whipped together eggplant and lamb in omelet-form for a non-traditional, unique dish. If you prepare the eggplant in advance, you’ll have the omelet on the table in a jiffy!
Roasted Eggplant and Lamb Omelet
Christine Datian’s Roasted Eggplant and Lamb Omelet
Serves 4.

1 medium eggplant (see preparation below)
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1/2 green or red bell pepper, seed and finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
A few tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil
1/2 pound ground lamb
3 (to 4) eggs, beaten with 2 tablespoons of milk
Kosher or sea salt, black pepper, Aleppo pepper, cayenne pepper

Garnish with your choice of chopped fresh green onions, parsley, mint, or walnuts
Serve with Armenian or Greek yogurt, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers


~Grill or roast** the eggplant until the skin is charred and the flesh has softened. Remove from heat, allow to cool, and then peel off the charred skin. Chop eggplant and set aside in a bowl.

** To roast the eggplant - pierce the eggplant skin in several places on all sides.  Preheat oven to 450-500°F. Line a baking sheet with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, turning the eggplant halfway through. The eggplant skin should turn black and the flesh should be soft but not mushy.  Allow eggplant to cool. Remove the stem and skin, scraping off any flesh that might adhere to skin. Discard as many seeds as possible. (Note: this step may be done a day or two in advance. Cover and refrigerate cooked eggplant until ready to use.)

~In a large pan, sauté the onions and bell pepper with the garlic in a few tablespoons of butter or olive oil until onions are softened; add the lamb, stir, and cook until lamb is browned. Drain any excess grease from the lamb.

~Add a tablespoon or two of unsalted butter at this point, if desired. Add the eggplant to the pan and toss with the meat mixture; add the beaten eggs. Mix, and cook slowly on medium heat until the bottom of the omelet is firm; flip the omelet over. Cover pan for a few minutes so steam can continue to set the omelet.

~Slide the cooked omelet onto a platter and garnish with your of choice of chopped green onions, parsley, mint, and/or walnuts.

~Serve with sliced fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and yogurt on the side.

*Christine's recipes have been published in the Fresno Bee Newspaper, Sunset and
Cooking Light Magazines and at
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